Teresa Hollmeyer's first works of art were left on the ground for her family to find.
"When I was a child, I'd make these arrangements with sticks and stones and rusted farm machinery. Whatever I could find," said Hollmeyer, who grew up on Twin Lakes Farm, a 100-acre poultry farm in Concord. "I just arranged them there on the ground. I was really into jigsaw puzzles, too."
The shapes and textures that intrigued the young girl still fascinate the 40-year-old woman, who for nearly a decade has turned heads with her eye-popping glass mosaics.
While Hollmeyer is a regular at Charlotte's annual Festival in the Park, this summer she ventures to the Triangle for an appearance at Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival in Cary on Saturday .
Despite her childhood interest in art, Hollmeyer left it behind in early adulthood, focusing on work in special education and then motherhood.
A mural inspired her return.
"About 15 years ago, I saw a piece of public art, a mosaic mural, being done in Charlotte. I worked nearby and would pass by and see the artist working on it. I was fascinated. And I thought, I can do that."
Using a basic mosaic book from the library, Hollmeyer armed herself with glazed tiles, concrete and adhesive, and made garden mosaics, including pots and steppingstones.
"They were good enough that people kept telling me I should be selling them," she said.
As a newly divorced working mother who needed extra income, she decided to give it a try.
Hollmeyer became a fixture at City Center Green Market in uptown, selling standard-fare flower pots, planters and steppingstones.
The allure of glass
A gift of a box of scrap glass from a stained-glass artist opened the artist's eyes.
"With tile, you're limited to the colors in the pieces," she said. "With the glass, it's translucent and really catches the light and shimmers. I love shiny things.
"When I started to use glass, that's when I say that my hobby turned into my art."
Her works of colored glass affixed to clear glass at first glance look like stained glass. As the viewer gets closer, small shards are visible, blending to make an unusually painterly mosaic.
Most of Hollmeyer's images are from the outdoors - flowers, trees, branches, landscapes - a nod to a childhood spent outside.
"My signature work is a circle tree. I sell so many of those that I do get a little tired of making them, but that's my bread and butter," she said. "I just finished a commissioned piece that had a green tree, purple tree, and yellow trees, with reds and gold for the land."
To make each wall or window hanging, she uses small pieces of glass she has cut from sheets.
In 2004, Hollmeyer remarried. She continued to do her art on the side while working at LifeSpan, a nonprofit organization for developmentally disabled children and adults.
After the birth of their twin boys in 2007, she and her husband, Richmond Hollmeyer, moved to south Charlotte and she turned to motherhood and art full time.
For several years, she rented space at Green Rice Gallery in NoDa, which continues to sell her work. Hollmeyer now works in a corner of the family room.
Professional validation has come with acceptance into juried art shows, including Festival in the Park, which she first entered in 2006, Art in the Park in Blowing Rock, where she'll appear again this year, and Lazy Daze.
Hollmeyer is looking to further refine her work. She has added pieces made of opaque glass and this year took her first mosaic class, a workshop with mosaic portraitist Carol Shelkin from Philadelphia, who was teaching at Charlotte's Ciel Gallery and Mosaic Studio.
"I wanted to learn depth," she said. "It's very hard to get depth with glass. You have to use shading."
She befriended other artists in the class, including Annette Cossentine of Charlotte, with whom she'll be doing yearlong mosaic projects for Goodwill Industries that will culminate in an art show.
Also starting in the fall, she'll work with eighth-graders at Springfield Middle School in Fort Mill, S.C., on a mosaic project that will be permanently installed at the school.
Along the way, Hollmeyer hopes to add a few more festivals to her itinerary.
"I'm really drawn to outdoor festivals," she said. "I get to travel, and I've met so many wonderful artists doing them. It's also nice because you get a lot of feedback on your work. And I like seeing who's taking a piece home."