“A Little Quirky:” Newport Beach Artist Turns to Mosaics to Reflect Catalina Island


For his art, Robbie Britvich begins by breaking things – tiles, mainly.

“I don’t like anything specific. I like it irregular, ”Britvich said in a recent interview, adding that she usually starts hammering the backs of pieces of tile – sometimes whole, sometimes broken – with the image of what she wants to do already in her. head before you start. . “I’ve always been like that in my art.

“Offbeat, a bit,” said the 82-year-old Newport Beach artist.

Britvich works in mosaic and describes himself as having always been an artistic person. She started painting furniture, but eventually “graduated” to mosaic almost two decades ago, when her longtime friend Catrina Awalt was about to throw away tiles that had arrived broken in a shipment. at her boutique on Catalina Island.

“I said, ‘Don’t throw them away. I’m going to take them and I’m going to do something with them. So I did it. I started with birdhouses and she started selling them in her store and they all sold out, ”Britvich said. “And then I started doing historical things – the [Catalina Island] casino, chimes tower, sirens … [Awalt’s] I’ve been taking all of my parts for years and they sell out, so I just kept going.

Robbie Britvich, 82, places a piece of tile in a piece she calls “Casino Mermaid” at her Newport Beach home on Monday.

(Scott Smeltzer / Personal Photographer)

Awalt said Britvich’s works have prices ranging from $ 100 to $ 1,000 at Two’s Co. of Avalon, depending on the article’s scale. Additionally, she specifically sells her works only to people living in Southern California so that she can deliver them herself.

There is no fixing something unique, she said.

“I sell a lot of tiles, but some tiles from my store come in broken,” Awalt said. “She just comes up with these really smart ideas. You give him pottery, broken jewelry. Give her something to play with and she will find wonderful and wonderful things.

Britvich works out of his converted studio garage in Newport Crest and spends a few hours a day at his craft, taking anywhere from a week or two to a full month to complete an item, depending on his scale.

But art was not his life from the start. Not by far.

Britvich was born in 1938 in Oklahoma City. But when World War II ended and her father was discharged from the United States Navy, her family moved from West Virginia to San Pedro, where she grew up. She would eventually travel to Newport Beach in 1963, where she would later meet her husband, Darwin, and start her own business.

A mosaic lighthouse approximately 2 ½ to 3 feet high.

A mosaic lighthouse approximately 2 ½ to 3 feet high made by Robbie Britvich, resident of Newport Beach. The play is currently at Two’s Co. in Avalon on Catalina Island.

(Courtesy of Catrina Awalt)

She ran Robbie’s Rag and Mop, a concierge service for women, for approximately 25 years.

“[Darwin] was an entrepreneur and he was building houses and I sold my business then I got into my arts full time at that time because I [had been] kind of dabbling in it, ”Britvich said.

“We were just happy. Happy couple with children, grandchildren, then he had a stroke and was 69 [in 2002], “she said.” It was a tough time. When he passed away, I kept doing my business. I just kept doing it because it was my [survival]. “

She said that since her husband’s death she has found art to be a lifeline. And she likes to sell her works.

“I am 82 years old; In fact, I’m going to be 83 in November, ”she said. “It’s probably the best time of my life.”

Awalt has stated that she is fond of the coins Britvich brings, but the artist reminds her that she must sell the coins, not just keep them in her shop.

“My store is on the high end, so it has some interesting artwork. His just fits in there with everything else. I never know what she’ll find, ”Awalt said. “She says ‘I’m coming. I did this.’ She found an old antique mirror and tiled it I brought it in and it’s just beautiful, just one thing after another.

For Britvich, she said there is something about the presentation of art and its creation that makes her flourish.

“For me, I don’t think I could ever survive without it,” Britvich said. “When I create a piece, I get excited and then I just go into that area. I can not explain it. Isn’t that weird? Happy. I am happy.”

Robbie Britvich, 82, created a tile mosaic plaque at her home in Newport Beach.

Robbie Britvich, 82, created a tile mosaic plaque at her home in Newport Beach.

(Scott Smeltzer / Personal Photographer)

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