Carla Stein Wertheimer combines her expertise in landscape architecture with a more recent passion for mosaics, creating patterns by arranging small multicolored shards of stone, glass or tile. Drawing up landscape plans draws on her formal training while her mosaic work is largely self-taught.
“One forces me to be a good listener, sensitive to the surrounding environment and to work with efficiency,” she explained. “The latter allows me to be silly, ignore rules and to also be sensitive to the surrounding environment. Both challenge my senses, emotions and creativity and require sensibility and thoughtfulness.”
Wertheimer attended the University of Georgia, earning a BA in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design. Later, after working in large architecture and engineering firms, she pivoted to a one-person office with more energy for personal interaction and diversity. Raising children, she opted for a flexible schedule, drawing garden designs for individual residences, teaching classes and consulting with plant nurseries.
“Developing and enhancing landscapes, giving the earth new life and appreciating patterns, colors, textures and forms are derived from the same seedling,” Wertheimer explained. “Landscape design is a type of art, combining intellect, experience, knowledge and creativity.”
Her fondest memories growing up in Morningside are of her mother immersing her in art classes, museums, botanical gardens, visiting festivals, flea markets and hidden gardens in Savannah.
“I am fortunate that she saw a special talent and budding passion within me,” Wertheimer recalled. “Pursuing a career that combined the love of nature and art, a desire to create, while making the earth more beautiful seemed like a natural path. The connection between art and nature is uncanny and, in my case, very deliberate.”
Creative work led Wertheimer in many directions, mosaics being her latest passion. Art immersed in gardens has always intrigued her, especially reusing materials and recycling what others cast away. “I am inspired by all things beautiful and magical, sometimes surreal (angels, fairies, mermaids, seahorses) and sometimes more realistic (leaves, flowers, birdhouses, animals and keepsakes).
My themes are usually whimsical, often with a childlike innocence,” she says.
Breaking pottery, recycling glass and vintage china, repurposing beads and jewelry, finding treasures and trinkets at thrift stores are cathartic for her, Wertheimer says. She designs and assembles each original mosaic piece. People hand her their grandmother’s chipped china or discarded jewelry and ask her to create a keepsake.
“A person who loves hummingbirds might hang several in a sunroom to remind them of spring,” she said. “Many want an original piece of art reminiscent of a place or a pet that they love. Others just want a unique mosaic that brings joy. Brightening a room by adding art makes people happy or nostalgic. Many of my mosaic pieces are wall hangings. Some sit on a shelf, give life to a nondescript wall or house a plant.”
Wertheimer also take inspiration from the forests of Georgia, Florida and the wildlife of the Gulf Coast. Many of her pieces are sold in galleries around Atlanta and the Panhandle. She shows her pieces at artist markets, holiday exhibits, farmers markets and festivals, though sporadically. If anything, the quarantines and lockdowns have created new customers for her personalized designs.
“Today, people are much more thoughtful about how they spend their time and money by enhancing their outdoor spaces and staying home more to enjoy their surroundings,” she explained. “Having a landscape plan allows people to have future goals towards a personal place in which they will use and experience pride. Low-maintenance materials are the number one request. Colorful plants, stones, fire pits and water features have all become family favorites.”
“My hopes are that we enjoy what we have, and not take anything for granted,” says Wertheimer, who recently received Ahavath Achim’s Cantor Isaac Goodfriend Award for supplying food and backpacks for needy public elementary school students.
“The COVID years have helped me realize how fortunate I am to have a talent that can improve lives, provide places of calmness or solitude, to smell and experience our senses, or simply to enjoy being with friends and family. Seeing enjoyment in people when they install a landscape of their dreams or hang a piece of my artwork in their home are my most satisfying accomplishments.”
- Arts and Culture
- Marcia Caller Jaffe
- Carla Wertheimer
- University of Georgia
- Environmental Design
- Breaking pottery
- recycling glass and vintage china
- repurposing beads
- Gulf Coast
- Ahavath Achim
- Cantor Isaac Goodfriend