Tina’s pony positively sparkles.
Warm brown eyes framed by lush black lashes gaze shyly, and her hooves glow ruby red, just like Dorothy’s famed shoes. But her true beauty is found in the hundreds of beads and glass cabochons that adorn her body from head to tail.
The former merry-go-round pony owes her transformation to South Hill mosaic artist Mary Stauner.
Last fall, Stauner was one of approximately 30 artists asked to participate in Pony Up!, an auction project to raise funds for the Wade J Woodmark Foundation. The Depoe Bay, Oregon, nonprofit operates Wade’s House, a place where family members who have lost children can gather and spend time together – to grieve, to take solace in one another and to begin to heal.
The foundation is named for the late son of John and Talley Woodmark.
“I was sent a vintage plastic molded pony that formerly belonged to a two-pony carousel that sat outside grocery stores throughout the northwest,” Stauner said. “The ponies were all made in a now-defunct factory near Moses Lake, back in the 1950s and ’60s. They were sent to artists throughout the United States, Australia and England.”
Each artist was asked to use their equine canvas to create a unique work of art. The ponies were due to be auctioned at a fundraiser this summer. The gala was postponed due to COVID-19, but eventually the completed ponies will end up at the Woodmark’s Silver Heron Art Gallery in Depoe Bay.
Stauner named her contribution “Tina’s Pony,” to honor a friend’s daughter who drowned just shy of her third birthday.
“The first thing I did was get eyes for her,” said Stauner, of the pony. “Once she had eyes, she came to life.”
Then came the intricate work of incorporating the glass and ceramic beads she’s collected from all over the world.
Though she has a minor in art history, Stauner spent her professional life as a criminal investigator for the federal government.
“Making a mosaic is similar to a criminal investigation,” she said. “You gather scattered bits and pieces and create a cohesive piece.”
After retiring, she moved to Spokane from the San Francisco Bay area.
“I’ve been making mosaics for 25 years,” she said. “This is the biggest project I’ve ever done.”
Stauner said balance is essential when creating mosaics. Ensuring that the patterns and colors work harmoniously throughout the piece takes countless hours.
The carousel pony features delightful details. Red hearts gleam like two spots of rouge on her cheeks. Four ceramic daisies adorn her haunches, and a garland of colorful roses graces her neck.
Tina’s Pony has taken almost a year to complete, and it provided the perfect project during the pandemic for Stauner, who admits it’s going to be hard to see the pony go.
“I get very attached to my art,” Stauner said. “I’m hoping she goes to a good home. I want people’s spirits to be lifted when they look at her.”
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