Flora & Fauna of Arizona

Arizona Mills Mall (at Entry One), Tempe, Arizona.
2500 sf (300 sf. of mosaic tile surrounded by 2200 sf of rock and stone).
Handmade clay tile, river rock, flagstone, and ledge stone.
Artist / designer / team.

Flora Fauna

Five pillars of rock and stone veneer surround handmade ceramic mosaics depicting iconic details of Arizona’s natural beauty. The installed handmade pieces look like a mosaic river cutting through the stone and rock pillars. Niki Glen and Helen Helwig inserted textures and colors to reflect the animals, plants, birds, reptiles, and rocks indigenous to Arizona. The colors also enhance the surrounding architecture and landscaping. High-fire stoneware clay, specially-formulated glazes (i.e. red iron oxide surface treatment), flagstone, river rock, ledge stone, and water shapes are combined for this project.


Members of the community and Fees Middle School students helped create birds, animals, and stylized images relating to the Grand Canyon and Arizona ecosystems. The artists also invited community members to attend clay workshops held at the offices at Arizona Mills. Other Arizona references created in clay include petroglyphs, fossilized trilobites, and other natural forms. The artists wanted to remind people of the natural beauty of Arizona as they are entering the manufactured, consumer-oriented environment of a big city shopping mall.


The AZ Mills Cooperation (Steve Hall, lead architect) created a call to artist to invite applications for each of its entry portals. As finalist, Glen and Helwig presented samples to show AZ Mills Cooperation. Glen and Helwig were commissioned for this entrance, and their style, subject, and approach was unrelated to any of the other artists selected. The Mills Cooperation created the pillars, and then Glen and Helwig were responsible for the “pillar treatment” of art work.

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Flora and Fauna of Arizona is a large installation commissioned for one entrance to the Arizona Mills Shopping Mall in Tempe, Arizona. One of the predominant themes in my work is an appreciation for nature, and I wanted to create a mosaic that reminded people of the natural form, texture, and patterns surrounding us. Using the geology of the Grand Canyon as inspiration, I embedded organic-shaped mosaic panels in five monumental pillars of stone and rock veneer.  Hand-made clay pieces of high and low relief show more details of the flora and fauna indigenous to our region.  My creative process is often a collective process, so many hands worked on this project to bring out our natural beauty.

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