Mosaic Adds to the Lure of Fiestaware

I’ve been a Fiestaware enthusiast for many years and enjoy the colorful dishes, both old and new, that are made right here in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia.

Fiesta is produced by Homer Laughlin of Newell, West Virginia, and is considered America’s favorite dinnerware. Introduced by Homer Laughlin China in January 1936, it was an immediate hit.

Today, collectors enjoy searching for early pieces in the original colors, which include: red, yellow, cobalt blue, green and ivory. Turquoise was added early in 1937. With an Art Deco style using concentric circles, Fiesta was a perfect fit for fashion.

Naturally, I was intrigued when I heard there was a public art mosaic made entirely from colorful pieces of Fiestaware being created by a West Liberty University student . I was happy to learn that it was made with dishes that were seconds, so no valuable pieces were used in the mosaic.

Weirton resident Elaine Klar is the student who designed the mosaic and is making the public art project happen. I called her and asked her to tell me more.

“I was looking for something to do in the art field and discovered this project last spring when I went to a planning meeting for the first annual Gate 5 Industrial Art Festival,” Klar began. A junior majoring in Creative Arts Therapy, she plans to go on to earn a master’s in art therapy after graduating from WLU in 2020 and yes — her family uses Fiestaware in their home.

The Gate 5 Festival took place on Oct. 20 and celebrated the skills gained and materials crafted during the peak of manufacturing in Northern West Virginia. It took place at the Weirton Event Center and showcased art created using metal, clay, glass and repurposed scrap. It was chaired by community leader Alecia Ford.

“First I made the design for the mosaic which was to show the history of Holliday’s Cove (Weirton neighborhood). It’s like a visual timeline that goes from the 1700s to today,” she said.

Actually founded in 1793, Holliday’s Cove was the earliest permanent white settlement in what was then Brooke County, Virginia, later becoming Hancock County, West Virginia. Weirton accepted the Holliday Cove area into city limits in 1947.

“I drew the mosaic design on the wall surface (concrete board mounted on the actual wall), used chalk and went back with a giant Sharpie to make it permanent because of the threat of rain.” The mosaic measures 3 feet by 40 feet and is not yet complete.

“Elaine was a delight as a volunteer. No one had done something like this before and she took it on, doing an incredible job with it. She took a lot of initiative and I’m grateful for her work,” said Ford who was relieved the young artist shows determination at getting the job done.

“Our next meeting is Nov. 5 and we’ll find out when we might work on it again,” she added. Right now, the artwork is on display at Cove Commons Park, a small pocket park in downtown Weirton, at the intersection of Main St. and Cove Rd.

As far as how many plates were used to create the colorful Fiestaware mosaic, Klar said Homer Laughlin brought them a dump truck full of dishes that were not able to be sold due to imperfections.

“We held a plate breaking event in Steubenville to get the plate-chips into the right size and shape and people paid a dollar a plate to break the dishes. All of the dishes were headed to the trash heap anyhow,” Klar said.

Fiesta colors such as turquoise, cobalt, gray, brown, red, white and more were collected and mortared by the public during the festival as they created this imaginative public artwork.

“Homer Laughlin was awesome to work with and everyone enjoyed playing a part in this mosaic. I’m anxious to get it done.”

One of the people that worked on the mosaic was her father, Scott, who is retired from the Weirton water plant and now works in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, as a water plant operator. He also introduced her to art and urban sketching.

Collectors of Fiesta are sure to enjoy seeing this public mosaic once it’s complete, knowing that it adds to the lure of this classic American china made right here in the Mountain State.

For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at zambito or by writing in care of this newspaper.