Children's Medical Center of Dallas is one of the nation's largest healthcare facilities serving young people from birth to age 18, and it is known for providing a caring environment that supports the physical and psychological needs of its client groups: patients, parents, and caregivers. I created four 8″ × 17″ curved mosaic walls intended to support the healing process and to contribute to the spiritual uplifting of patients, caregivers, family members, and visitors. Each wall mosaic has a theme: Shapes, Nature, Symbols (pictured), and Balloons. My goal for the mosaic walls was to provide a “child–right” but not “child-like” focal point opposite the nurses' stations on four new patient floors in this 90-year-old institution.

Mosaic tile murals were selected for numerous reasons, including touchability, the inherent attractiveness of the materials, the variation in light-handling quality, and especially for ease of cleaning, durability, and permanence in a healthcare environment. The walls are designed to be visually stimulating and texturally engaging, and were created from a variety of materials. The tile tesserae change shape, size, and patterning, and also handle light in a multiple of ways, varying from shiny, matte, iridescent, glazed, clear, and rounded tile surfaces. The flow of the tiles in the background helps to move the viewer's eye across the wall. The surface texture of the walls is smooth with minor variations in height, encouraging small hands to run across the surface, tracing patterns and discovering differing elements created in tile. Small surprises are hidden in the designs, such as ladybug glass fusions and dichroic tiles on the Nature Wall.

The hand-colored fresco grout was created to add depth and visual stimulation, contributing to the impression of floating, and changing the look as one walks past the tile walls. Permanent pigments were worked into sanded grout while it was still wet, like layers of transparent watercolor. This feature continually reengages the viewer, as the look of the walls changes depending on the vantage point.

The scope of creating four 8″ × 17″ walls required extensive planning for not only the fabrication of the walls, but also for the storage of the huge variety of materials needed. The walls were created on mesh sections in the studio and were never seen all together until the actual installation. Although I stuck tiny tiles on mesh throughout the whole process, seeing the finished walls all in one piece was amazingly exciting.

The mosaic tile walls have been a rousing success. Some children request a visit to the mosaic on their floor to touch their favorite tile butterfly before going to bed at night, while others are calmed by a visit. It has been very gratifying to have a tile project become an integral part of the healing process for children. These mosaic walls also won a 2006 Spectrum Award, the ceramic tile industry's leading recognition of the ultimate in tile craftsmanship and creativity. HD

Sonia King creates one-of-a-kind, contemporary mosaics for gallery, architectural, community, and home settings. Her mosaics are produced using the finest materials gathered from sources around the world: smalti, gold, marble, vitreous glass, ceramic, and more. King's award-winning art is exhibited both nationally and internationally and is represented in private, public, and corporate collections. She is a founding member and past president of the Society of American Mosaic Artists, as well as instructor in mosaics at the Creative Arts Center of Dallas. King has been granted membership in and serves as a director of the Associazione Internazionale Mosaicisti Contemporanei (AIMC) in Ravenna, Italy. She has spoken on mosaic art in England, France, Australia, and Brazil and teaches advanced classes internationally. She is the author Mosaic Techniques & Traditions: Projects & Designs from Around the World (Sterling Publishing).