Students surprise Meadows fitness instructor with mosaic mandala



Marsha Rafter’s art studio here in Hidden Meadows was the setting for a memorable surprise party for Hidden Meadows tness instructor Amy VanLiew.

Marsha’s creative haven off Burned Oak glitters with hundreds of jars of colorful tiles and glass pieces, and the home she shares with husband Mark is a sculpture gallery, indoors and out. Marsha, who does large mosaics on commission and teaches art in a variety of mediums, has offered classes and workshops in her studio for students of all ages since moving here three years ago. Among the most popular projects are mosaic mandalas.

“ ‘Mandala’ is a Sanskrit word that means ‘circle,’ ” Marsha explains. “It represents the wholeness of body, mind and spirit.” A mandala’s colorful and intricate pattern, which radiates daisylike from a central point, is reminiscent of a kaleidoscope. When you make your own mosaic mandala, Marsha adds, “it can be as individual as you are.”

As it happens, several of Marsha’s students also attend Amy’s tness classes. One of them, Pat Witman, suggested giving Amy a special gift to celebrate her newly renovated exercise studio on Lotus Pond Lane. Everyone agreed a mosaic mandala would be perfect. The 24-inch diameter mandala, which took eight participants several mornings at Marsha’s to complete, consists of leaf-shaped ceramic tiles; square tiles in a variety of colors, mille ore, and gemlike rounded pieces of brilliantly hued glass all held in place with purple grout that matches Amy’s studio’s walls.

On the evening of Amy’s birthday, mandala makers and friends hid in an alcove of Marsha’s studio lit only by the warm glow of the kiln. Amy, assuming that friend Colleen Light (who was taking her out to dinner) needed to stop by Marsha’s to get a nished project, was invited inside to “see something.” Amy soon was as surprised and delighted as anyone could wish. Happy tears, hugs, cell photos, and a pot luck followed.

Fitness coach Amy VanLiew (center) shows the mosaic mandala her students made for her. With Amy are those who attended her surprise birthday party at the home of artist Marsha Rafter (far left). Photo by Debra Lee Baldwin Walz

“I’m so grateful you all have come into my life,” Amy told the group. “Every time I look at my mandala, I’ll think of all that it symbolizes, and how much Hidden Meadows and my students mean to me.”

For more information on what these talented ladies offer, visit and Amy also writes a column for the Hidden Meadows News, and both instructors have e-newsletters. Ongoing clay and mosaic classes at Marsha’s are held Thursdays from 10 to 12:30, and her next mandala class is in February.