Perhaps her childhood--"living in Detroit where my folks had a junkyard" – gave mosaic artist Elizabeth Raybee her appreciation for things broken. Today, the internationally recognized artist spends her days breaking tile for a living, fashioning bits and pieces of ceramic and glass into ornate, decorative and whimsical works of art.
Raybee attended the Kansas City Art Institute where she majored in painting and printmaking. "I graduated in 1976, came to San Francisco for two weeks and never looked back," Raybee smiles.
Raybee taught at the Fort Mason Art Center and City College of San Francisco, becoming involved in the making, showing and politics of art. She taught batik as well as painting, drawing and business classes for visual artists. She co-curated the first art show at the first SF ecology Center and created banners for the Three Mile Island Memorial Parade.
"In 1978, I worked on a mosaic bathroom in the Haight. I ended up working on that bathroom for a year. It had dancing chickens," she laughs. Her career as a mosaic artist had begun and by 1988 she was creating mosaics full time. Raybee travelled and viewed the world's mosaic masterpieces in Israel, Greece, and Italy. "I had plans to tile my entire studio. I was going to tile my world," she notes.
Raybee received jobs through architects and interior designers, doing tub surrounds, tables, back splashes and public projects.
She taught at Heath Ceramics in Sausalito and in her studio. Raybee continued to live in the Bay Area until 1995 and then relocated to her current home in Potter Valley. She taught painting at Mendocino College and in 1996 created "Grout Camp," where mosaic students and artists learned technique at her rural studio.
She has been a guest lecturer and visiting artist for San Francisco Open Studios, Oregon College of Art and Craft, the Sanchez Art Center, The University of Sarawak (Malaysia), the Society of American Mosaic Artists and the City of Breckinridge, Colorado.
Raybee's work has been exhibited at the San Francisco Crafts Museum, the National Jewish Museum, San Francisco's Yerba Buena Gardens and Museo Italiano, Museum of Man in San Diego, Chicago's Navy Pier and Ukiah's Grace Hudson Museum. Her commissions include the San Francisco Arts Commission, Laguna Honda Hospital, Eden Housing Inc., The San Geronimo Valley Cultural Center, Willits Skate Park and numerous private homes. Her work has appeared in Bay Area newspapers, on the cover of Artweek Magazine, in television spots and in contemporary mosaic books. Raybee continues to create residential works for people locally and out of the area.
Her willingness to share her expertise with others is appreciated by her community and her peers. Her most recent public work is an installation entitled, "Mendocino County – The Good Life." A 10' X 16' mosaic mural wall, made by over 450 community members and featuring everything Mendocino—wildflowers, hawks, alternative energy, Pomo basketry and even chocolate truffles! It can be seen in Ukiah on the corner of North State and Perkins Streets.
There's no "grout" about it—Raybee has certainly found the Good Life.