The Maestro of Magical Mosaics

April 2024, by Diane Sulg

Steve Terlizzese’s mosaics are funny and full of whimsy. Photo courtesy of Steve Terlizzese 

Steve Terlizzese is an architect, a carpenter, a writer, a sculptor, and a comedian. And the amazing thing is he uses all these talents every day making his mosaic art. 

Steve and his wife, Lorri, a mega-talented abstract painter, live in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where they are renovating a large mid-century home. They both have studios on the lower floor and live upstairs amidst all their art. 

Trained as a painter who specialized in faux finishes, Steve started making some modest collage-like mosaics, and something about the shiny and colorful surfaces just tickled his fancy. Then one day more than 32 years ago, he added some words to his creations and his passion was found. He realized he had a lot to say about almost every subject he could think of, so his art has never stopped talking. 

In many ways, Steve is a folk artist, too. He is self-taught and uses a huge array of found objects in every piece of art. His mosaics are so much more than simple tiles — in fact, they have everything from coffee cups to toys to jewelry and intricate small bits of sparkle. 

And, of course, there are words. Every single piece Steve makes has a message, some funny, many poignant, and a few are even a bit cheeky, but they all compose a compelling mosaic story. 

Steve wants all his work to be beautiful, thoughtful, whimsical, and functional. Hence, he makes mirrors, clocks, and wall hooks — all pieces his delighted customers can use every day. Steve makes every piece himself, starting with the carpentry to build the piece. Now you might think, well that is not too hard — he just makes a flat board to hold all those pieces. 

Hold on to your hat — Steve builds full-size grandfather clocks, and they are crazy beautiful. He says when he was younger, they were all one piece, but since his “strapping youth” is over, they are now a combination of three separate units. 

The remarkable result is a jaw-dropping mosaic creation fit to be the center of attention in any setting. Check out Steve’s website, and be sure to click on both “major installations” and “monumental pieces.” His pieces are ingenious eye candy, and I promise you will be amazed, intrigued, and in love with his art. 

Steve designs and does every bit of work on each piece by himself. As a result, he is barely able to produce enough to take to about a dozen shows each year. He also works on huge commissions like mosaic walls, building facades, and public art projects. 

He is honored to have his work in The Smithsonian, The Tennessee State Museum, The Creative Discovery Museum, and The Museum of Art & Whimsy. His pieces have been on the covers of countless magazines, but Steve is still itching to design an album cover and a wine bottle. 

All of Steve’s creations have precise execution, which you may not even notice because you are so taken by the fun and whimsy, the unusual objects in the piece, and the vibrant colors. While many have a light-hearted and charming vibe, others are graceful, beautiful, and over-the-top extravagant. But best of all, they have Steve’s delightful personality and quirky attitude! 

Steve Terlizzese Photo courtesy of Steve Terlizzese 
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Diane Sulg 
Diane Sulg is executive director of CRAFT and founder and co-chair of American Craft Week (ACW). She is a handmade advocate who provides valuable information in her one-day seminars titled “All About Wholesale” at wholesale shows throughout the United States. Diane is the former owner of Maddi’s Gallery, in Charlotte and Huntersville, North Carolina.