Kimmy Henderson never considered herself an artistic person, but when a friend offered to make a mosaic for her birthday some years back, she found herself pitching in. She’s now obsessed.

“I want to mosaic the whole world,” Henderson said with a laugh recently.

Henderson was working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2006 when she fell in love with a former church on Clifton’s Park Avenue. Her mother urged her to buy it, knowing Henderson would need something to throw herself into after one of her sons, who had cancer, passed away. Henderson took her advice and immediately began transforming the property. Following her retirement, she opened up the Blue Door Sanctuary bed and breakfast in 2016.

Around that same time, Safford resident Maggie Campbell gifted her the mosaic. The pair worked together on the piece, located around the sanctuary’s kitchen door.

“I kind of apprenticed. I did the easy-peasy work on it and it was like ‘I think I could do this,’ So then I did my next one down my stairwell and another one down at the bottom. By then I just really had the bug,” Henderson said.

Everywhere Henderson goes, she hits thrift stores looking for plates that speak to her. She said she looks for “anything interesting, commemorative, plates that have relief, that are kind of bumpy and have more textural interest.”

“Some people do very regular mosaics, the pieces are almost cut, but I like the scattering of the plates, I like the irregularity,” Henderson said.

Earlier this year the yoga enthusiast created a vertical Chakra mosaic behind the sanctuary using the Chakra’s seven colors. She intends to create another one on its backside, once she completes a retaining wall mosaic for her friends Tony and Rose up the street. It will have an Oakland Raiders, flowers and heart theme.

She’s particularly proud of her most extensive mosaic to date, however.

In 2018, she began to mosaic an outdoor wall to the west of the sanctuary. Every section of the wall means something special to her and each was worked out in advance using colored chalk or markers, although she described the process as “fluid.”

Work on the first panel began shortly before she left for Spain to take part in the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage to the remains of the apostle St. James the Great. The panel includes a Madonna, which she picked up at a thrift store.

There was a definite connection between that trip and the creation of the wall, Henderson said.

“It’s a very spiritual thing for me, that process of creation, thinking about the hands that handled the plates and served meals on the plates. Knowing that my mosaics will be here when I’m long gone,” Henderson said. “This church is over 100 years old. I’m just passing through. I’ve said this before. I feel I have stewardship as much as I have ownership. I’m taking care of this place for the community. It’s always been a community place. It was a Presbyterian Church. It was a Masonic Lodge and now it’s the Blue Door Sanctuary.”

Those who have seen the wall are always drawn to the skull in the middle, Henderson said. It’s eyes were created with plates she found in Portugal, a country known for centuries for its tiles.

Henderson started the last section of the wall last year after the loss of her friend Jose Sigala. The tile setter had started out creating the border for the wall, but over time he began getting more and more involved in the creative process. The panel bears his name and a heart.

“It was a heavy-hearted year, but it is the metaphor of mosaic, that which is broken becomes beautiful again,” Henderson said.

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