This project was part of a matching grants program run out of the City of Chico in which I tried my hand at fundraising and the city matched me dollar for dollar. The observatory is a humble little tan building that sits on a tan hill in Upper Bidwell Park. It seemed like the perfect recipient for some free art to liven up the place. Even better, when I contacted them about it they told me how they were about to build the worlds first ever open sky planetarium. It was to be a circular cement structure with reclining seats to lean back and gaze up at the stars. Cement is my favorite substrate to cover up with tile so it seemed a perfect match for what I do.
They told me that when the structure was completed it was to be named after Chico alumni Carolyn Shoemaker who holds the world-record for most comets discovered. I decided then to incorporate 32 handmade comet tiles into the design to represent all of the comets she had discovered to date. Once they showed me the blueprints I chose the tops†of the concentric seats as the best place to mosaic. I wanted to steer clear of tiling the seats altogether and was told the back walls would most likely get blocked with strollers or wheelchairs. I made several dozen asteroid tiles to add a chunky 3-D effect which I interspersed with the comet tiles and broken outer-spacey black tiles.
All told the mosaic covered over 100 square feet of space and, with reluctance, the director finally allowed for me to put in little bits of glow-in-the-dark glass which glow a brilliant blue in the dark. I was only given a few weeks to complete the whole mosaic before the great unveiling in the fall of 2006 which meant I worked through cold and rainy whether to get the job done. I got to meet Carolyn Shoemaker at the ceremony and everyone was†overjoyed with how it turned out.