John Svenson with his in-progress mosaic. (Emily Files)

John Svenson with his in-progress mosaic. (Emily Files)

Haines artist John Svenson has painted watercolors for years. But more recently, he started working on mosaics with his wife and fellow artist, Sharon. Now, he’s working on his first solo mosaic for the Fort Seward Sculpture Garden.


“Mosaic was a given,” Svenson said. “It’s glass, it won’t fade…it shines and it brings people into it.”

The Alaska Arts Confluence’s outdoor art project involves more than a dozen local artists. Many of them are incorporating history into their works. Svenson’s piece is inspired by a historical photograph of a boat that used to tie up at Port Chilkoot.

“I wanted to do it in sepia tones because I wanted it to look like an old photo,” Svenson said. But then his plan changed. “I decided to not stay in sepia tones, it’s sort of boring. And that’s what I didn’t want to happen.”

John Svenson's in-progress boat mosaic. (Emily Files)

John Svenson’s in-progress boat mosaic. (Emily Files)

He’s using green and blue glass to depict the sky and water. Svenson has worked on several huge mosaics in the past couple years, but the beauty of the materials still amazes him.

“It’s magic, really.”

Most of the mosaics Svenson has made with his wife get shipped off to Juneau or places even further. Creating something that will be displayed in Haines is special.

“Well I’ve lived here so long, I was here when the [Fort Seward barracks] burnt down,” Svenson said. “It’s one of those things where we’re part of that system, the community. I couldn’t be left out of that. The whole idea, the concept is a blast — to have something that you made in the town that you live in that’s on display.”

Mosaics involve many little pieces and evolve throughout the process. Svenson says when the glass is all laid down and you can see the whole thing come together, “It’s exciting. It feels great.”

Listen to other artist profiles:

Katie Craney painting on a rusted boiler door on the Fort Seward barracks ruins. (Emily Files)

Katie Craney

Dave Pahl and 'The Tank with the Crank.' (Jillian Rogers)

Dave Pahl

Andrea Nelson is using scrap metal salvaged from the barracks and installing it on the wall to her right. (Emily Files)

Andrea Nelson

Jeff Moskowitz uses Adobe Illustrator to digitally recreate a map from 1905. (Emily Files)

Jeff Moskowitz

Gene Kennedy welds re-bar into the shape of a dog. (Emily Files)

Gene Kennedy

Debi Knight Kennedy holds pieces of her found object sculpture.

Debi Knight Kennedy

Donna Catotti painting Tlingit regalia for the Fort Seward art project.

Donna Catotti