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Under This Mosaic, I'm Totally Naked

Discovering Reham Jacobson


"This is absolutely terrifying. Nearly every day feels like a high wire circus act with no safety nets!" Reham Aarti Jacobson exclaims. Owning her own business was a scary leap of faith, yet she sports a broad, happy smile. "It didn't matter that I was afraid to try it, I felt I had something I needed to do in this world and I'd be working against that feeling every day if I stayed too scared to give it a shot. At some point, you just take a deep breath, close your eyes, and believe that if you're doing what's right, the universe is going to work to help you accomplish it."

Jacobson was born and raised in Kuwait, and at 18 years old, during the first Gulf War, came to Boise as a refugee. She was a poor college student minoring in art, worked odd jobs for several years and often had an arts and crafts project going in her spare time.

"I always dabbled in art as a hobby, but when I started mosaicking, it was too messy to keep up on my kitchen table." She moved her work to the garage, read books about the craft and spent a weekend studying mosaic artistry with a Russian professional. She says her garage was cold and uninviting, and that's when she realized she was a demographic--a new artist experimenting in a medium without a lot of money or space to work on developing it. "Plenty of people put off pursuing their more creative hobbies for lack of money and space, so I built a business plan around everything I would want in a project shop." When she was approached by a publisher to write a book about her art, and that book, Mosaic for the First Time, was successfully published, Jacobson says she was convinced that opening her own shop was feasible. So she started Mosaic Essential, Boise's only walk-in mosaic workshop, supply outlet and studio. She now provides a bright, playful project shop where someone can learn the trade, tackle projects when it's convenient, and leave the clean up behind. Jacobson buys an array of materials in bulk, so that her customers can purchase just the materials they need to complete their artwork.

Jacobson spends her days at the shop chatting with friends, chipping stained glass into triangular shapes and pounding out patterns on a wooden surface with a hammer and chisel. Her son zooms around the room with his buddy, and the music is always upbeat.

"I've been through four wars. I'm cool, and I like myself." This is the attitude she encourages all women to have through her artwork. Jacobson loves the curves of the female form and incorporates them into her work by covering mannequin torsos with tiles. These wildly patterned busts relax on a tabletop, or stand on display in her shop window. Each is embellished with inspiring advice like: Strive to be Extraordinary and Create Passion. Jacobson points to a message on her favorite and likely self-portrait piece that reads, Under this Mosaic, I'm totally naked. "This woman," she says, "is beautiful, creative, and she's got a sense of humor."

Jacobson believes that her creative pursuits lead to her positive outlook on life and confidence in herself. In response to this self-discovery, she developed a mosaic class for all ages and skill levels that introduces the art form and the basics needed to start a mosaic project. "Anyone can have fun and be successful in this medium. The class is like a sewing circle; it's a fun way to meet new people if you like the mildly artsy and outgoing." Jacobson saw that students could find a new creative side to themselves if they had time and encouragement. "My students aren't forced to choose a project and complete it in one night. They can work on their projects nearly seven days a week and spend as much time as they want to on it with my coaching so they take home something they're proud of."

So what is the future of Mosaic Essential and Reham Jacobson the artist?

"You know, I never had any plans of opening this shop to get rich, I feel bad charging people to make art. I want a shop that's self supporting, and helps develop Boise's diverse artistic talents." Jacobson has invited Boise's premier glass blowing artist, Filip Vogelpohl (look for an article on Vogelpohl in next week's issue) to join her in her building and plans to remodel the huge basement space into affordable, compartmental studio space for local artists. "I have a vision for a community art center, where people can get hands on experience in mosaicking, see Filip work glass and take classes and watch various artists pursue and display their crafts as well. Art becomes much more valuable to people when they can watch or be part of the process."

Mosaic Essential is located at 1021 Main Street, and you can start a project for as little as four bucks. For more information, call 377-5444 or go to