Steven "Stevo" Sadvary is scoring and cutting glass in his Squirrel Hill studio, his sheepdog sitting by his side.
It's a unique place -- an otherwise unused level of a parking garage where several artists have set up work spaces. Panels and shards of brightly-colored glass are packed onto shelves lining the wall, and mosaics of all kinds hang on the walls and rest on tables. It's mostly Sadvary's own work, but occasionally one of his students' pieces.
Sadvary, now a resident of Stowe Township, graduated from Edinboro University in 1980 with a degree in Weaving & Textiles, but he said he essentially fell into mosaics by chance.
"I bought a house in Highland Park ... a woman had left a bunch of Mexican tiles in coffee cans in the basement and I started tinkering around with that," he said. "I did a big lobster mosaic in the shower space at the house, and some people saw it and wanted some work done in their house. It just started snowballing after that, and I was able to quit waiting on tables.”
Now, he does all kinds of projects, from cityscapes to dog portraits. But he also uses his talent to give back to his own neighborhood. The most impressive example covers an outer wall of the Stowe Township Fire Department.
“I made a huge, bigger-than-life size mosaic mural of a firetruck," Sadvary said. "It looks like it’s coming out the side of the building. Up in the upper corner, on the left, there’s a fireman’s badge that they wear on their shoulder, and there’s big water swirls behind the badge -- three of these -- that represent the water that is their weapon.”
Sadvary said the fire department offered about $400 to cover the cost of grout, and some of the firemen volunteered to help, but the rest of the project -- including the work and the cost of tiles -- was pro bono.
“It took about a month-and-a-half to do it," Sadvary said. "I had a lot of tile left over from other projects. The tile’s kind of expensive because it’s imported. They don’t make indoor/outdoor ceramic tile in the States anymore -- with bright colors -- so it came from Italy and Holland.”
Sadvary said he’s helped out Stowe Township in other ways, too, from repainting the sign of the Parkway Theater for free and painting the township’s welcome signs at a huge discount, to creating a garden in an abandoned lot.
Sadvary doesn’t seem to think twice about using his skills as an artist to help his neighborhood.
“I just want to spread the joy," he said.