A Sweet Honor

Reflections by mosaic artist Emilie Ledieu

I have been traveling to San Diego since 2004 to be a part of the Hubbell world, and consider it one of my homes. Throughout those years I’ve gained a beautiful community in San Diego County.

My artistic career stems from years of making in many mediums until being taught the basics of mosaic art in 2002. I was completing a Liberal Arts BA at Villanova University and introduced various facets of fine art into my Senior Project. My degree seemed to be pointing in the direction of some type of Social Work, but I was getting drawn to the idea of community engagement through art.

Throughout this time, I had been introduced to James’ work and career by a fellow Philadelphian. When I learned the terrible news of the fire in late 2003, the plan to come and volunteer on Hubbell Hill was hatched. For the life-altering summer of 2004, my relationship with what was happening on the Hill quickly evolved from volunteer to mosaic artist. The next thing I knew, I was part of building out the massive mosaic pieces for the Briercrest Park restrooms and was helping teach down at the Pacific Rim Park Tijuana project—all happening simultaneously. And all the while James was referring to me as an artist, something I was barely calling myself. Needless to say, this was a huge turning point in my life. From then on, I’ve referred to James as my mentor, although I know he prefers to call it a friendship.

Upon returning to Hubbell Studio for a full year of what I was treating as an apprenticeship in 2005, I joined the crew restoring the Hubbells’ home as well as assisting on the production and installation of the mosaics for James’ iconic gazebo on Shelter Island. After my departure from California in 2006, I returned to Hubbell Studios multiple times to assist in creating some of James’ mosaic commissions while starting my career in community art with the Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia (MAP).

Throughout the following decade, my career mostly centered around making public community art in the Philadelphia area. These works were large-scale glass mosaics, often in collaboration with mural painters, and always based in community engagement. In the summer of 2009, I did briefly reconnect with James to be a part of the PRP Philippines team, as I could never let too many years slip by without being around the inspiring force that is James and the community he’s built.

Left to right: Succulent stained glass window, 2017. Two stained glass mosaics installations from Max Myers Playground in Philadelphia, 2015.

In 2014, with the ILF buildings underway, I came out for a visit to Julian. I was, of course, promptly put to work being what James called “the first teacher” in the new buildings. A sweet honor, and so fun to be back to producing work with and for James. The firebird in the beautiful ILF bathroom was created during that visit.

It was also one of the first times the Margaret A Cargill Philanthropic Foundation mosaic commission was mentioned. In 2015, I returned to Hubbell Studio to create the budget and timeline for that incredible (and historically large) commission. My years with MAP provided quite a bit of training in project management and budget building. Over the next three years, I was honored to manage, create, teach, and install that commission in Minneapolis with and for James.

This brings me to present day, and I am humbled by the opportunity to come back into the fold of Hubbell Hill/ILF. It will be a pleasure, and frankly a dream, to come and help develop this Caretaker’s position. Of course, much of it will be to caretake the property and help teach classes at Ilan-Lael.
But also, it will provide me with time to focus on my own artwork while allowing me to engage with the thriving artistic community of ILF and, as many of us fondly call it, the Hubbell Bubble. There are so many ideas already brewing in my mind for furthering the educational and artistic development available on that incredible, magical property — a place I’m already lucky enough to consider one of my many homes.


Above: Emilie Ledieu and her dog Strongman in front of the new Caretaker’s Cottage at Ilan-Lael. PHOTO by Laurel Costa

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