I – and everyone else – was stunned when I was one of a handful of women to break into the male-dominated field of comedy writing in the early 70’s, hired to do scripts for award winning sitcoms like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Maude and The Bob Newhart Show. I was no less surprised to find myself aging out of the business shortly after my 50th birthday.
Ironically, I felt more capable of doing the work than I had when I was younger and choosing between job offers. After writing by myself for years, I’d partnered with my husband, Martin, a former magazine editor. We both missed pitching jokes in the writer’s room with hilariously funny people and were devastated that we were no longer welcome.
Our situation became more serious in 2008, when we suffered from a financial crisis. Having returned to New York from L.A., Martin and I believed we had enough money to carry us through our retirement years, but that was no longer true. He managed to get a job as a fund-raiser, which he’d done as a volunteer, and I turned to Craig’s list, applying for every job that didn’t require fluent Japanese. I was rejected by a young guy looking for someone to write jokes that would appear on condom wrappers and to work for a former television star, who said, “We’re not going to hire you, but we want to be your friend.”
For several years, I’d been designing vases and picture frames, working in the French style known as “pique assiette,” that uses pieces of plates. A friend said, “Why don’t you turn your beautiful mosaics into a business?” That made sense. Nobody cared about the age of a mosaic artist.
Starting an online business was challenging. But, encouraged by my previous success, I got a website and bought plates on eBay with words and designs that would add interest — Andy Warhol soup labels, the London Metro map and wine labels. I developed a style of my own, often creating pieces with a theme and using different grout colors. I branched out, making planters, kitchen caddies and desktop business card holders.
Our kitchen was my studio. Watching cable news while working inspired satirical mosaics — the Breaking News Series — that are on my site, www.sagemosaicart.com. Nipping red, white and blue plates, some with flag images, I covered cremation urns (which seemed fitting) to comment on politicians who’d cheated, Wall Street scoundrels and other political issues.
An urn titled, “Is the Right Right?” was chosen by the Brooklyn Waterfront Arts Coalition for their Wide Open exhibition. At the show, someone said, “My dog’s ashes are in a box. I’d love a beautiful urn for Cinnamon.” I figured out how to incorporate photos so I could transform an ordinary cremation urn into a “creation urn” that celebrates the life of a loved person or pet. Clients commission me and participate in the process on my other site, www.personalized-urns.com. I was amused by being told, “Your urns are to die for.”
I’m enjoying what’s now called an “encore career” though doing mosaic work is harder on the nail than writing. Still, I’ve never understood why older people were trusted to make life and death decisions on the Supreme Court, but not to write an episode of The Nanny.
To learn more about my career shift, watch this video…