Xuan My Ho
Xuan My Ho works in her home mosaic studio, on a piece inspired by Brazilian Carnaval dancers.

Xuan My Ho swears there’s no art in her past. “No ancestor I was aware of, became an artist,” she declared.

But fate was against the Kings Mountain resident. In 1998 she visited Spain and was taken with the work of noted Spanish artist Antoni Gaudí. At a brief mosaic class at the College of San Mateo, she “started to fall in love with” mosaic, and took it up as a hobby.

Her architect husband, Hiep, encouraged her by giving her books about famous artists like Vincent Van Gogh. A friend coaxed her out of her shyness to show her own work in the Mountain Folk Art section of the Kings Mountain Art Fair. It was her first foray into selling her work, and that weekend, a rather well-known resident of the region — rocker Neil Young — bought a table set of hers.

“That inspired me to keep going,” she said with her trademark merry giggle.

Now, in her home studio, with redwoods rising outside her window, beside a cabinet full of mosaic pieces and within reach of bottles of pure water for making grout, she creates mosaic works when she isn’t working as a quality assurance engineer at Oracle. She does two-dimensional landscape scenes or studies of women, or three-dimensional pieces like a dog, a water fountain, an embracing couple or a Japanese flower arrangement. Into them all goes a sparkling array of mosaics of mixed or solid colors, tiny mirrors, or a wide variety of textures or floral patterns.

Visitors to her home go up and down multiple levels where they see decorative pieces on the walls to bench and table sets in the house or on the patio. They’re largely the result of those books her husband (whom she nicknames her “professional dish-breaker,”) bought her “in hopes that she would get it. She got it.”

Born in Saigon, having escaped the country in 1978 “to find freedom,” she went into computer science and didn’t consider art — until now.

Ho has shown her work solo in San Francisco and at the annual Saratoga Rotary Club art show in early May. Currently her work is on display through February at Penelope’s Den at 17285 Skyline Blvd.

This year again she will show work with the Mountain Folk at the 2013 Kings Mountain Art Fair. Last year she spearheaded the Kings Mountain Mosaic Project, supported by donations from mountain residents, to coincide with the art fair’s 50th anniversary in 2013.

This year, fair visitors will see the wording “Phleger Station” in green mosaic over the Kings Mountain community center and fire station, near a mosaic portrait of a couple hiking on wooded mountain trails with stars and rocks bearing donors’ names.

Penelope’s Den can be reached at (408) 309-8206.

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