Ann Shelby Valentine

Pique Assiette Mosaic Artist, PanAm Flight Attendant

Pique Assiette Mosaic Artist, PanAm Flight Attendant

Napa River Stele 

Harnessing The Elements Artists Chase Water And Wind 

By Michelle Wing

Calistoga Tribune, July 2, 2010

Artist a-Building

How can you capture the wind with a camera? How can you render water with stone?

Construction Photos Here

Only an artist has the answer. Make that two Calistoga artists. Yvonne Henry and Ann Shelby Valentine (her friends call her Shelby) have been wrestling with those questions, and the results have come to fruition in the form of two openings – Henry’s a performance art piece at the Napa City-County Library on July 15, and Valentine’s unveiling of a sculpture on July 14 at the Napa ARTwalk on First Street in Napa.


Ann Shelby Valentine. Valentine is an award-winning fabric artist, potter, and mosaic artist, who now works in the form of representational work known as pique assiette, which uses broken ceramic, pottery and china. The name comes from the French pique-assiette, a colloquial expression meaning “one who takes from others’ plates.”


Her challenge was equally as daunting as Henry’s – is there a way to make a 700 pound sculpture made of broken bits flow like a smooth river?

The professional jury said yes. Fifty pieces were submitted for the Napa ARTwalk, after a call that went out to five states. Valentine was the only Napa County artist whose work was chosen to be among the 10 pieces represented. Her nine-foot-tall mosaic stele, “Celebrate the Napa River,” was erected in front of Goodman Library on First Street in Napa on June 29, and will be on display for one year. It is for sale for $12,000, with delivery after the end of the ARTwalk commitment.


Valentine’s stele (a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for memorial purposes or as territorial markers) shows the river from the snow- -fed streams of Mt. St. Helena, down through Calistoga Geyser, with native flowers, vineyards, historic sites, and wildlife, all represented with broken bits of ceramic tiles.


Valentine said, “There was real energy and joy in making the piece,” Valentine said. “But to be selected. That was a bit unexpected. It’s wonderful. Everyone [at the Arts Council of Napa Valley] has been very supportive and delightful.”


Valentine says she loves the 3-D aspect of Pique Assiette. “I use materials that have texture and depth to them, and then I try to break the plan even beyond that,” she said. “That’s the feature that I’m known for.”


With the river stele, she had to be a bit more cautious, making it textured but not too rough, “because it’s public art, and people will touch it,” she said, noting that she didn’t want anyone to hurt themselves on something sharp.


Valentine spent 25 years in Palo Alto, moving to Calistoga two years ago with her husband Doug Molitor. Now 63, she says the wide breadth of her life experience is what makes her artistic work so vibrant.


Her mother took her and her sister to the Middle East in the 1960s, where she rode camels and saw the pyramids. She went to school in Switzerland. She worked as a flight attendant for Pan American beginning in 1969, and they sent her to the University of Moscow for language studies, hiring her because she spoke Russian. 


She has raised three children, now in their 20s and 30s. She was active in the Friends of the Palo Alto Library, and now serves as the Calistoga Commissioner to the Napa City-County Library – but she also sits on the Mosquito Abatement Board. She also spent years as the Governor’s Appointee to the Area Board 7 on Developmental Disabilities, partially because her eldest son is developmentally disabled.


And then there is the art experience. She and her husband have a home in Vermont. At an art center there called Frog Hollow, she served as the studio manager, doing pottery and wheel turning, specializing in glazing recipes and techniques. She participated in the Silicon Valley Open Studios, and exhibited fabric arts and the Marin Quilt Fair, and at Hildene in Vermont. And, of course, she turned to mosaic work at last.

She mentions all of this, she says, because, “It’s lateral thinking. It’s going beyond the focus to see what else there is.” Valentine explained, “I have many resources. It has influenced my art because I have such a broad, rich experience [in life].”


Another interesting note about Valentine’s choice of materials when doing her mosaic work: she exclusively uses broken or used items, nothing new. She goes to charitable nonprofit thrift stores to find things to use in her projects, knowing that the money will go towards a good cause.

In a statement on the Arts Council website, Valentine said, “The final test for any project is whether or not the piece can stand alone as interesting, unique or beautiful. It isn’t important to me that I create things that are utilitarian, but I do enjoy seeing them used and, as is true for people, recognized as having infinite possibilities.”


Valentine’s “Celebrate the Napa River” stele was transported to Napa with the assistance of Paul Coast Construction and Blakeley Construction.

The opening reception, and official first tour of the 10 sculptures, will take place on Wednesday, July 14 at Napa City Hall at 4 p.m., ending at the Hatt Building for mingling, wine and light refreshments from 5 to 6 p.m. The Arts Council Napa Valley, mayor Jill Techel and some of the sculptors will be on hand.


Valentine has been selected to show her work during Napa Valley Open Studios, held the last two weekends in September, 2010.




Press Release

Calistoga Artist Wins Place Along Napa’s Artwalk

Mosaic Stele Depicts Napa River From Mt. St. Helena To San Pablo Bay

June 29, 2010,  Calistoga, Ca. –  A nine-foot-tall mosaic stele by Calistoga artist, Ann Shelby Valentine, today was erected along the Napa ARTwalk, in front of the Goodman Library on First Street, Napa. The mosaic captures a variety of Napa River motifs. 

Valentine is the only Napa County artist to have her work included in the ARTwalk selection. The stele was chosen by a professional art jury from 50 pieces submitted for a place along the ARTwalk. Official introduction of the sculptures will be July 14, 2010.

The nine foot tall elliptical stele was designed to "Celebrate the Napa River." The top of the mosaic depicts the river from snow fed streams on Mt. St. Helena, winding down through the valley, until the river’s tawny waters flow into San Pablo Bay. Passing the Calistoga Geyser, it depicts examples of thriving tourism, fields of native flora, vineyards, historic sites, wildlife and restored natural habitats.

A stele is a stone or wooden slab, generally taller than it is wide, erected for commemorative purposes or as territorial markers.

A call went out to artists in five states for entries. Twenty sculptors, including five from Napa County responded, submitting 50 entries. A jury of professional artists judged the submissions without knowing the identities of the artists. The art works will be on view for one year. The pieces are for sale, with delivery after their one year ARTwalk commitment.

More Valentine Mosaics 



ARTwalk website:

ARTwalk Stele Photo:

Additional stele photos:


Removed from the Napa River Walk in the fall of 2011 the stele can now be seen along Route 128 at the north end of the Calistoga city limits.

Originally, the stele was located in front of the historic Goodman Library on First Street, Napa.  Assisting in moving the 700 pound, nine foot tall mosaic were Blakeley Construction and Paul Coates Construction of Calistoga.

Valentine works in Pique Assiette, a form of representational mosaic art that specifically uses broken ceramic, pottery and china. The name comes from the French pique-assiette,  a colloquial expression meaning "one who takes from others' plates".

Other pieces of Valentine’s work will be on display during Napa Valley Open Studios the last two weekends of September at her studio in Calistoga at 2771 Foothill Blvd.

To learn more about Napa ARTwalk, visit  There viewers can read biographies of the artists. After the July 14 official launch, ARTwalk brochures will be available on-line and throughout downtown Napa.                   

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