Savoring an Elusive Romantic Getaway in Costa Rica through Art

Even paradise wears you down after a time, especially if you find yourself bogged down by the normal daily routines of life: transporting the kid to and from school, shopping for groceries, yard work, cooking, cleaning, etc. We have found since moving to Costa Rica that we seem to take even fewer vacations or weekend trips than we did in the States in order to break up our domestic monotony.

So, even though our original motivation to stimulate demand for Tamara's well-known mosaics was admittedly pecuniary, this trip turned out to provide us an excellent opportunity for an amorous getaway hours from the finca working together to bring Tamara's art to someone new.

A scintillating and enthusiastic art lover, Judy Fried, responded to my posting on a Costa Rica expatriates Facebook group showing off some of Tamara's past works. She had the perfect spot, a front door gable, where she wanted to display an original mosaic featuring a Quetzal, local plants, butterflies and hummingbirds with a symbolic representation of their gorgeous view over Costa Rica's Pacific mountains down the Gulf of Nicoya.

concept color sketch of mosaic
One of the original mosaic concept sketches

After exchanging information via email about the installation site, mosaic subject matter, colors and level of detail, Tamara decided to use a new-to-her mounting technique to reduce the amount of on-site time at their location nearly a 5-hour drive away. We found the best price for a fiberglass backing mesh in Chicago (including postage) and Tamara's friend acquired it and sent it down Priority Mail.

The mesh and special glue allowed her to create 95% of the mosaic at home over an impromptu layout "table" of fibrolite, which is a common cementitious building sheet used in Costa Rica. She left room at the ends and along the bottom to allow for measurement errors and filled in these parts at installation time.

creating the costa rica mosaic on fiberglass mesh
Building the mosaic at home first

We sliced up the entire finished mosaic into eight sections, wrapped them in stiff cardboard and transported them flat in the back of my truck. We took off with materials and tools at 5 AM Saturdat for our journey up the Pacific Coast, turning inland at Puntarenas to head to the western edge of San Ramón de Alajuela.

When we arrived, we were enthusiastically greeted by Judy who could barely contain her excitement after having waited several weeks since she first expressed interest in the work. She had acquired a perfect-height scaffold and had had installed a new canoa (rain gutter) above the gable, which provides some rain protection to the mosaic.


The installation of the pre-assembled sheets and the edge fill-ins took the entire remainder of the day, which was a few hours longer than we'd anticipated. Since we wanted to finish the project by the following day, we had to keep trudging on, however, as the adhesive needs overnight to set before we grouting the zillion and one seams between each piece of the picture can begin.

holding umbrella to keep the artist dry
Racing the rain and fading light to apply the final touches
Even when it began raining, we kept going with me holding an umbrella over Tamara for the final hour as she polished off the finishing touches.

The long day's work done, we were treated to a fabulous dinner of paella in Judy and Art's enclosed patio where we could soak in the long view and watch an exciting, even nerve-shattering, lightning storm that stretched all the way to the coast.

The next morning found us at it again around 6 AM beginning the application of the grout. Bad luck hit us now as Tamara discovered that her good grouting float was missing and she only had a rather stiff, inefficient one that she'd been meaning to throw away. We made do with it, however, and a half-past ten, the work was complete!

finished gable mosaic in costa rica

Judy had invited several friends to come mid-day so they could see the mosaic and a collection of other types of Tamara's art work including jewelry, mosaic mirrors, paintings and painted beach rocks. So, we quickly showered and packed up for the return trip. Before departing, we absolutely stuffed ourselves on a huge lunch Judy and her husband Art prepared, which included tamales, empanadas, chocolate-chip bread, coffee cake, fresh fruit and fresh fruit punch.

The trip home was long, warm and uneventful although it didn't rain until the final leg. We did load up on some wonderfully creamy avocados they sell up north. Exhausted, we headed to bed about 7 PM.

Probably not the typical idea for a romantic getaway most couples imagine, but we both truly enjoyed getting out, meeting new people, eating new food, not cooking, and creating something of lasting beauty for someone who truly appreciates its value and the work that went into it.

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