By: Don Ruane, Special to The News-Press
Click here for article source (opens new browser window)
Seven years ago Wilson Lopez found a new career in a pile of construction debris.
The former flooring installer from Honduras was taken aback by how much marble and tiling was discarded at the construction sites where he worked. He took some and used it to create a two-foot-square image of a monarch butterfly that proved popular among the people who saw it.
That experience gave wings to his dream of opening an art studio back in his native country. But the access to materials here and other advantages of living in the United States, including meeting his Brazilian wife while working on Sanibel, convinced him to take the risk here instead.
Lopez and his wife, Lili Desirèe Gequelin, are now the proud parents of a 7-year-old boy and owners of Ultimate Mosaic in Fort Myers. They work with modern technology and materials to apply an art form that dates back thousands of years.
They opened Ultimate Mosaics about two years ago. Their first year they sold 10 pieces.
“This year we doubled our sales. We’re probably going to have to hire more people to work here,” said Gequelin, who leaves Lopez to the artistic effort while she handles the business matters.
But they are not looking just for employees who can do the job and go home at 5 p.m.
“We want someone who has the passion,” Gequelin said.
“Passion will take you farther than a technician,” Lopez added.
The couple also is out to educate people about mosaics.
Some don’t believe a living can be made piecing together small stones and glass to create an image, a logo, a monogram or sculpture, Lopez said. They become convinced once they see what he has done.
Among the pieces on display in his gallery on Metro Parkway is a guitar of 32,000 individually cut and fitted pieces that is reminiscent of Dali’s melting clock, a giant to-scale hummingbird that will be paired with a hibiscus blossom for the Sanibel Chamber of Commerce and a madonna profile that has a three-dimensional impact on the eye.
Assembling the projects, which are sketched and then drawn on a computer after consulting with the client and researching the finer points of the project, is a painstaking process.
“What you need to do is persevere, have patience and know how to put the pieces in,” Lopez said.
“I see mosaics like a life,” Lopez said. “Each day counts. Each experience helps. You’re building yourself as a person. Life is like a mosaic.”
Lopez, who has studied the masters of mosaics in Italy, doesn’t believe an artist needs to spend three years as an apprentice as in Europe. Self-study and practice can lead to mastery of the form. He learned from reading books about mosaics, watching YouTube videos and experimenting with what he learned. He’s studied fine arts and started painting when he was a 6-year-old in Honduras.
He came to the United States to work in a cousin’s landscaping business, but he didn’t want to do that work. His dream was to open a studio in Honduras, but about eight years ago he met Gequelin, who came from Brazil 18 years ago.
The United States is a better place to work, according to Lopez.
“Here you have everything, access to all the materials,” Lopez said.
It’s not like Honduras, where even hot water is hard to find, he said.
The booming housing market attracted them to Fort Myers. They spent the first six months preparing the gallery exhibits, setting up their website and trying to get publicity in Florida design magazines. They joined a chamber of commerce to help get their name and product in front of more people.
Starting the business was a risk, Gequelin admits. Lopez had work in her family’s flooring business.
“In life you have to take risks,” Gequelin said. “In the U.S. if you work hard you can see your future developing. If you work hard it is going to happen.”
“You’re really afraid of what’s going to happen,” added Lopez. “Americans are for art and tradition. That’s something that is being lost. Here you can see the fruits of hope.”
Part of their plan to educate people is to offer basic mosaic classes in January at their studio on Metro Parkway. They want people to try simple projects that can be completed in about two hours, such as decorating the bottom of a serving tray.
“People like to learn stuff. People like to do things. We’re going to make this more than a seminar. We want it to be an experience,” Lopez said.
They also want to do programs for children involved in various organizations and to do a project for a public building or a bridge.
Mosaics can bring people into a place or a business, he said.
Sherry Snyder, owner of SanCap Management on Sanibel, has a mosaic by Wilson spotlighted on the wall of her property management business.
“It’s the first thing people see when they come through the door of my business. It’s just very professional and not like any business sign you see when go to anyone’s business. It’s almost like 3D,” Snyder said. “It’s much more than a sign. It’s a work of art.”
The work has a yellow sun between San and Cap in blue letters and above the teal word “Management.” Grey tiles give the letters shadows and seem to raise them out of the light background.
“I don’t know anyone else in our area who does what they do,” Snyder said.
Lopez was a hit during her grand opening in April. He showed several pieces from his gallery.
“People were so attracted to his art work. He stayed and people talked to him,” Snyder said.
Location: 11400 Metro Parkway Suite 3, Fort Myers