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Broken Dishes Get New Life In Bridgeport Artist's Mosaics

By Casey Cora | September 17, 2014 5:42am
 Coreen Arnold and Stacy Powers, co-founders of Vintage Place Settings, send their damaged plateware to mosaic artist Lisa Tolbert, who works down the street at the Bridgeport Art Center.
Vintage Place Settings
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BRIDGEPORT — Stacy Powers reached into a bin and pulled out chipped, floral-patterned plates.

"They're not destroyed," said her business partner and friend Coreen Arnold. "They're still beautiful."

The pair's boutique party rental business, Vintage Place Settings, ends up with boxes full of broken and chipped dinnerware, which they happily hand over to local mosaic artist Lisa Tolbert.

As the duo laid out some of the damaged goods on a dark wood table, Tolbert's eyes widened.

"I'm telling you, the stuff they give me? Oh my," she said.

Casey Cora says the collaboration between the collectors and the artist make for a mutually symbiotic relationship:

Arnold and Powers are retired bank regulators who launched their vintage-style linen, glassware and dish rental business as their second career.

"We reinvented and we love it," Powers said.

Their showroom, decked out handsomely appointed dining room furniture, is on the fourth floor of the Zhou B Art Center, 1029 W. 35th St.

"We've done a wedding with 273 guests all the way down to a holiday dinner for 12 people," Arnold said.

Powers and Arnold say the "upcycling" of damaged plates is a way to keep busted dishes out of landfills, something they're committed to as members of the Chicago Green Wedding Alliance.

For Tolbert, scoring broken the ceramics and china is a way to sustain her Mosaic Whimsies business, which is headquartered at the nearby Bridgeport Art Center, 1200 W. 35th St.

That's where she works and teaches classes to newbie mosaic artists, so having the material — broken porcelain, ceramics, china, utensils and basically whatever else she can find — really comes in handy.

Tolbert said she's already a regular at places like Goodwill stores and antique stores, where shopkeepers reserve bins of damaged goods just for her.

"Mosaic is a very efficient art form. It's great for me because it's cheap," she said. "Half of the fun for me is the hunt."

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