Mosaic marvels: Attorney creates award-winning artistic designs

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney and artist Ruth Tyszka spends her days piecing together legal information, and her leisure time piecing together mosaic artwork.

“Both law and art demand that I keep learning and solving problems,” she says. “I love the ‘a-ha moment’ when everything comes together, whether it’s legal analysis or a new work of art.” 
An accomplished guitarist and graduate of the Musicians Institute in Hollywood, Calif., Tyszka spent 10 years playing in several local bands that covered Motown tunes and top 40 hits.

“But becoming a ‘rock star’ didn’t pan out,” she says with a smile. “I was ready for a change, I had a lot of interests and law seemed to offer the most options.

“Also, after working in bands for so long, where each member is very dependent on the others, I wanted a career that offered more autonomy, and in many ways, law has offered that.”

A graduate of Oakland University, Tyszka earned her JD, cum laude, from Wayne Law, where she was a member of the Student Board of Governors, and served as a student representative on the Law School Building Committee.

While in private practice at Miller Canfield and then at Rivenoak Law Group, she enjoyed teaming with colleagues to accomplish something for a client.

“It was exciting to divvy up a big project or case, work hard and then see it all come together, with a good result for the client,” she says.

Tyszka, who previously clerked for Federal Magistrate Judges Mona Majzoub and Charles Binder, currently works as a federal law clerk for U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds.

“I interned with her years ago as a student at Wayne Law, so it’s especially rewarding to be back,” she says.

She enjoys the research, analysis and writing involved in her work.

“Even after over a decade of practicing law in different capacities, as a law clerk I still come across issues and practice areas that are new to me,” she says.

Tyszka got into visual art during her time at Miller Canfield. A class in stained glass at Universal Stained Glass in Oak Park led to her interest in sculptural mixed-media mosaic work, which – much like legal work – involves problem solving: cutting glass, using adhesives and substrates, and figuring out how it will all stay together.

“I love the materials in mosaic, as well as the challenge of working with those materials – glass, stone, ceramic, and repurposed or recycled materials,” she says. “I’m drawn to materials that have the qualities of strength and permanence that characterized ancient and traditional mosaic materials.”

Two years ago, Tyszka studied at two mosaic schools in Ravenna, Italy, taking courses in mosaic restoration with Luciana Notturni at Mosaic Art School, and contemporary mosaic design at Koko Mosaico.

“It was a dream come true,” she says. “I spent each day working and learning in the studios, then spent my spare time touring historic sites and museums. I saw mosaics in person that I had been looking at for years in books.”

She and her husband, attorney David W. Christensen of Charfoos & Christensen in Royal Oak, even studied mosaics during their honeymoon in Greece.

“When my husband and I travel, our vacations usually involve at least one trip to a mosaic site, or we might spend a morning looking for beach glass, unique stones or flea market trinkets for my artwork – he is getting really good at spotting such things! We went to Greece on our honeymoon and were able to tour an ancient mosaic site – I’m pretty sure my husband now knows far more about mosaics that he ever hoped to learn.”

Tyszka shares her artistic passion by teaching others at the Creative Arts Studio in Royal Oak.

“I enjoy helping students solve problems with design or materials, and sometimes this is as simple as helping a new student, who might not be comfortable making art, start a project,” she says. “I always hope to inspire students to continue in the medium, so I love hearing from students who decide to take more classes or create more mosaic artwork on their own.”

Tyszka created “Just Listening” – a statue of Lady Justice that is a commentary on the NSA surveillance program – for ArtPrize 2014 in Grand Rapids, with two other Detroit area artists, Joan Schwartz and Darcel Deneau.

“It was my first large visual art collaboration and together we created something greater than we would have individually,” she says.

Last fall, the trio did a group show “Just Desserts” at the Janice Charach Gallery in West Bloomfield.

“I really appreciate being part of this continuing collaboration – both experiences challenged me to advance in my own artwork. After completing ‘Just Listening,’ I’m more comfortable expressing my voice through my artwork,” she says. 

Last year, Tyszka exhibited an installation called “Quo Vadis” at the Janice Charach Gallery, created in response to the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

“I was pleased with the range of responses people shared when they viewed ‘Quo Vadis,’” she says. “I believe they really thought about it and that was my intent with the artwork.”

A native of Pigeon in Michigan’s “Thumb,” Tyszka grew up in Waterford, and now makes her home in Bloomfield Hills with her husband and their two dogs.

As governance chair on the board of trustees for the Society of American Mosaic Artists, one of the largest nonprofit mosaic art organizations in the world, she would love to see the organization hold its annual American Mosaic Summit in Detroit in the future, and some members are working on identifying a large enough art gallery or museum space in Detroit willing to host the organization’s Mosaic Arts International juried art show.

Tyszka is also a member of the Mosaic Artists of Michigan, Detroit Artists Market and Friends of Polish Art.

“All three of these organizations offer great exhibition opportunities to their member artists,” she says.

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