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Putting the pieces back together





STOCKTON -- Nancy Williams has been putting the pieces back together since she underwent cancer treatments nine years ago. As a mosaic artist and owner of Nancy's Broken Pieces, she has found an artistic niche with seemingly endless possibilities.

Her first project, a mosaic table, which she undertook primarily to keep her mind occupied during cancer treatments, has turned into an ongoing fascination for Williams, as she turns broken bits of glass or tile into decorative household objects and unique works of art.

With a wire spool and left-over floor tiles, Williams went to work on her first outdoor table nine years ago.

"And it came out beautiful," she said. "And I put it outside.

"But I didn't know what I was doing - and after a few rains it started falling apart, and I thought, 'I can't do this.'"

During the days ahead, Williams faced complications from her cancer treatments and didn't attempt to create another mosaic. However, she spent much of that time reading about mosaic art on the Internet, researching what she might have done wrong the first time and preparing to start again.

After about a year she was ready to try the craft again, this time making gifts for friends. Soon, she said, she realized she would need to start selling some of the work in order to pay for the raw materials she used. Displaying and selling at Main Street Gallery in Stockton, and for the last year, at craft shows, Williams has been able to recoup some of her expenses.

Working with stained glass, broken china, glass and tile, Williams has crafted wall hangings, tables, mirrors, candle holders, ornate eggs, bottles, vases, gazing balls and stepping stones, often using materials she finds at garage sales and thrift shops.

Mosaic art appears a perfect fit for Williams, who claims she can seldom sit still unless absorbed in completing a new project.

"I like mosaics because they're forgiving," she said. " If you don't have it cut perfectly it doesn't matter... the grout's going to hide it."

Late into the night, she often can be found in her narrow workshop, a remodeled interior room in her country home, repurposing most any object into mosaic art.

"I'll get to working on (a project) and look at the clock, and it will be one o'clock in the morning," she said. "Because you start putting (mosaic pieces) on and you get in a groove and get going."

She finds many of her ideas for mosaics on Web sites, where she also purchases a majority of her tiles. For the most part, she chooses materials that are low cost, to allow her finished products to remain affordable for her customers.

Williams also works part-time at 183 Lanes in Stockton, traveling to craft shows throughout the area on weekends,

Protecting her mosaics with bubble wrap, Williams loads the items in the topper of an S-10 pickup. Her sister-in-law, Barbara Williams, lends a hand packing, unpacking and setting up displays. Barbara Williams often adds her own creations, crocheted and fabric items, to the craft shows.

She's a big fan of Nancy William's mosaics, decorating her own home with gifts from her sister-in-law. In addition, she helps contribute raw materials.

"I've given her jars and bottles that I've found so that she can use them to make mosaics on them," Barbara Williams said. "Every time I find something I think she can make pretty, I give it to her.

"She does some awesome work."