Making Mr. W. Rabbit


When a valued client (who is now a friend) commissioned me to make a rabbit sculpture for his garden, I knew exactly what to propose…and, happily, he liked the idea very much.

Mr. W. Rabbit on reflective silver card – template for the stainless steel plinth

Sherri Warner Hunter has developed a method of working glass reinforced cement layers to form what she refers to as concrete over carved high density polystyrene forms. This creates an ideal sculpture substrate for mosaic embellishment to be applied and it can all be done with entirely weather resistant materials.

Sherri’s presentation at the BAMM (British Association for Modern Mosaic) Annual Forum in 2019 was very inspiring. BAMM’s current president, Tamara Froud has trained with Sherri and recently hosted a series of successful workshops in the UK to teach the techniques to others. Attending one of these would have been the obvious solution for me but we were in Spring 2020 – lockdown – and attending a workshop was not an option…unless, of course, it could be delivered online…

So, I approached Tamara and explained my idea – would she be interested in creating an online version of her “Polysculpt” course? Would she welcome testing it out on a very keen and willing student? To my great pleasure the answer was yes and yes. (Tamara is a ‘can do’ artist!)

Within no time, Tamara had e-mailed a proposed course outline and I had gathered the tools and materials required to make a start. Communicating at key stages via zoom call, text and telephone, Tamara then proceeded to expertly mentor me through the whole process, providing useful tips and advice as needed. I tried to document as much of my activity as possible for her in video and photos.

Gathering the tools and materials

Although I did make a small clay maquette, which is the usual starting point, I decided that I would prefer to work from a full scale reference, so I made a 1:1 scale clay rabbit as well!

Clay rabbit for reference

The next task was to carve the polystrene…

Using the ceramicist’s turntables was invaluable for constantly checking the form from every view and comparing it with the clay as I gradually transformed the block into a rabbit form, using hot wire cutters (kindly made for me by Grahame, a fellow maker at Cakebread Workshop), a craft knife and surformers. The fabric behind the sculpture was suspended to prevent the polystyrene bits getting into the shelves – they are, as warned, all pervasive.

Eventually the form was complete to my satisfaction. I reinforced the rabbit’s vulnerable little legs and used card templates to work out the right size and shape for the ears. Once this was determined, they became the pattern for making the ears in armature wire and copper mesh. This done, I could start preparing the surface for the first cement layer…

Why a rabbit sculpture, you might be wondering?

Well, there is a lovely family story behind this but it’s also a private one, so all I’ll say is that there is a special connection with the famous white rabbit from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. This inspired the choice of white and iridescent white glass for the mosaic surface…

Three or four shades of blue vitreous glass tesserae were used for the eye and an improvised technique for ‘tuftiness’ brought texture to the eye socket surrounds and the bob tail.

A position for Mr. W. Rabbit to reside has been prepared and he will soon be sitting upon a reflective dull polished stainless steel topped plinth, keeping a watchful eye over the garden!

Finally, because I grew very fond of my faithful clay rabbit and the key role he played in this creative endeavour, I found it impossible to scrap him back into the clay bucket. Instead, I asked my skilled friends at Castle Fine Arts Foundry to produce a mould from him to enable a series of limited edition casts to be produced. After all, we all know that it’s only natural for rabbits to quickly multiply!

I plan to cast ciment fondu/concrete editions of the rabbit but to begin with, here are two initial casts in resin/fibreglass – one white, one black. They both still need some more work to refine and finish their surfaces, and one of them is required for a further commision from a different client next spring, so…watch this space…

St John The Baptist RC – Rochdale


A fascinating and well researched virtual visit to St. John the Baptist R.C. Church in Rochdale, courtesy of the incomparable Modern Moocher, Steve Marland…a great blog post for you to enjoy! Also, you can zoom in on this amazing 3D model shown below by Historic England and Sketchfab.

I have had the privilege and pleasure to visit St John’s several times over the years and doubly pleased to visit with a group of some 30 Modernists in March 2020 as part of a Rochdale Walk, prior to the lockdown days later.

I cannot thank Christine Mathewson and her fellow volunteers enough for the warm welcome we were given. They take such pride in their church and are eager to convey that pride along with their obvious erudition.

Approaching from the adjacent railway station we could not fail to be impressed by the scale and grandeur of the church, a wonderful mix of the Byzantine and restrained Art Deco – most clearly expressed in the sculptural angels looming high above the tram stop.

The building is Grade II* Listed and deservedly so – details can be found here on the Historic England site.

The original design pre-1917 by…

View original post 487 more words

Keeping it fresh Part 2 – CPD with The Mosaic Restoration Company


Very soon after completing my work placement with Cliveden, I took up a second placement with The Mosaic Restoration Company. The company director, Gary Bricknell and I had been in touch for a few years. Gary had generously provided advice and passed on smaller jobs that weren’t viable for him and his team to travel for. This placement was to be a combination of time spent in the company workshop in Daventry, Northamptonshire and a week on site at the Old Admiralty Building in central London.

Unfortunately, my Mosaic & Marble Specialist CSCS card expired in the spring which meant quite a lot of hoop-jumping to acquire a replacement in keeping with the recent revisions of the CSCS system (yawn!). It took months to achieve this and was a thoroughly testing saga! There were also tests to pass specific to the building itself before I became adequately certified for working on the site. Once inducted for site safety on my first morning, I joined Gary, Pawel, Guy and Neil in the magnificent corridors of the elegant and nationally significant Grade II listed building to begin work.

The Old Admiralty Building is an elaborate labyrinth of corridors, offices and meeting rooms over several floors. At one time, Winston Churchill conducted top secret military operations from a wood-panelled room here, just restored as part of the current upgrade for the Department of Education. One lunchtime we managed to sneak a peek into this room and saw the original maps he used to pinpoint WW2 battle strategies. However, most of our time was spent on our knees fixing and cleaning the myriad areas of marble mosaic floor earmarked on the schedule for attention.

IMG_1213.jpg

Completed corridor, Old Admiralty Building. Photo by Gary Bricknell

Joining the team on this project built on my work with Cliveden and my experience of carrying out ground level mosaic repairs on large and busy construction sites elsewhere. The Mosaic Restoration team approach site work with diligence and expedience. There was an extensive list of disparate floor areas to repair and record throughout the myriad corridors that were constantly filled with operatives engaged in various other construction tasks. Whilst the nature of the work itself was familiar, inevitably Gary and his team have developed their own specific techniques for in situ repairs that were new to me. Principally, their well-honed methods make the work on site much swifter.

The week that I was on site with TMRC in London turned out to be the hottest week of the summer, with temperatures peaking at a record-breaking 38° by Thursday. We were relatively sheltered from the sun’s glare inside the building and, as fortune would have it, we managed to complete the workload a day and a half ahead of schedule. This meant that we could leave at lunchtime and avoid completely melting in the afternoon blaze. Early the following morning, I left London and drove to Daventry to spend the day at TMRC’s impressive workshop.

I felt like an excited child in an enormous sweet shop as I was shown around the storage facilities at TMRC HQ. Shelf after shelf filled with delicious shades of old English Jesse Rust and Venetian glass slabs; salvaged century-old and recently fired unglazed porcelain tesserae in towers of recycled take-away containers and sack upon sack of glistening marble, like sugar cubes, to feast my eyes upon. Upstairs, Guy had started to set out the sections of a large paper-faced glass mosaic mural for Liverpool University on the workshop floor. He explained the referencing system and I gave him a hand. Once it was all in position, we made minor adjustments and then restored any loose or detached tesserae back to their rightful positions.

IMG_0644

Setting out the Liverpool University Mosaic Mural panels at TMRC workshop. Photo Tracey Cartledge

The mosaic mural had been carefully removed from its original location at the university earlier in the year and was now being prepared for installation on a different wall and therefore required modifications. They had worked from a 1:1 full colour large format print to reconstruct the mural and adjust it to fit its new position. Gary showed me a technical model they had produced to work out an improvised installation method which involved an ingenious system of interlocking and overlapping panels. This, like the in-situ floor repair techniques, would allow the team to carry out maximum preparation in the workshop and the minimum of time on site in Liverpool. If you attended the BAMM Forum in York last October, you may remember Gary telling us about this project during his illuminating presentation.

IMG_0890.jpg

The Liverpool mosaic mural completed, prior to installation on site. Photo by Gary Bricknell.

In the afternoon, there was a delivery. Several large, heavy crates were craned into the loading bay containing great chunks of elaborate mosaic signage, complete with their original concrete backing. They had come down from Inverness where they formed part of the exterior decoration of The Rose Street Foundry & Engineering Company Limited building. TMRC have carried out several stages of restoration work for this building façade, including four pictorial mosaic panels depicting the city’s engineering and construction heritage. Three of these semi-circular panels appear on the front elevation of the building and the fourth is around the corner on one side, all framed by stone arches above the third-floor windows. One of the front panels was completely missing and needed to be designed and made from scratch to fit in with the others, in compatible style and material, with the same colour palette and appropriate content. We unpacked the crates of mosaic signage and then I set to work sponging off the muslin facing and cleaning up their surfaces.

IMG_0840.jpg

Cleaning the Rose Street Foundry Mosaic Signage, photo by Gary Bricknell

Before leaving Daventry, Gary told me about one or two future projects that TMRC have tendered for and mentioned my potential involvement in one of these. As I’d thoroughly enjoyed not just the work itself but also the friendliness, good humour and helpfulness of all the team, I was delighted by this prospect. So, we’ll see how things work out!

 

Keeping it Fresh – CPD with Cliveden Conservation, Taplow


Background

Mosaic_Installation_Salford_1991_Tracey_Cartledge copy

My journey into the fascinating world of mosaic has been, as career paths often are, determined principally by chance. Within two months of graduating with a Fine Art degree, I was delighted to be offered employment with a Manchester based environmental art organisation (Partnership Art Limited) that specialised in designing and installing works of art for public sites. Whilst there, I met artist Peter Hatton. Peter recruited me as his assistant for a project to engage with a community in Salford and produce and install a robust outdoor pavement mosaic in a local park. I loved every aspect of the work and learned the skills involved very quickly.

More opportunities followed and within five years I had installed community mosaic pavement features in various towns and parks throughout the north west, accepting commissions in my own name as a self-employed professional artist as well as working on behalf of West Yorkshire public art organisation, Chrysalis Arts. Concurrently, I collaborated with many different artists, sculptors and community groups to design, produce and install a wide variety of other types of public art, mainly for city centres and urban environments.

Checking Patterns

Work off site for the Victoria Station Mosaic Floor Restoration, 2014.

Having especially enjoyed the mosaic medium, I went on to find training opportunities with experts across the UK and abroad to develop my abilities and know-how in a variety of mosaic techniques and applications. One of the most influential of these was the one-to-one workshop with Lawrence Payne, which provided me with a fundamental understanding of the key principles in ancient mosaics, also relevant to mosaic floors in the neo-gothic architecture of the Victorian era. So, when I was first asked to quote for the restoration of a mosaic floor, it became apparent to me that all my experience of working on construction sites to install public art combined with the mosaic skills I had gradually acquired and my active interest in mosaic conservation made this a completely natural career progression.

Royal_Exchange_Mosaic_Restoration_2016 copy

In 2014, I won a substantial contract to repair the mosaic floors at Victoria Rail Station in Manchester as part of its £44m heritage restoration (featured in Grout 46) and since then I have worked more frequently in the field of mosaic conservation, learning on the job. However, without a formal education in this area of work, I decided last year that it was time to acquire some proper training with the nation’s leading experts. So, I approached both Cliveden Conservation and The Mosaic Restoration Company to ask about a potential work placement. They both responded with an enthusiastic ‘yes’.

Summer Placement with Cliveden Conservation 2019

Cliveden Conservation was established in 1982, originally “for the preservation of the National Trust Buildings and Statuary”. Since then it has grown into a bigger operation with three workshops, specialising in the conservation of both external and internal architectural features, historic objects, monuments and statuary. At the time of my application to them, a significant mosaic floor conservation project for a royal property in London was already underway in their Taplow workshop. Cliveden extended a warm welcome for me to join the mosaic team and I was successful in receiving a bursary to cover the cost of the placement from the York Foundation for Conservation and Craftsmanship.

Prior to my arrival in August 2019, the mosaic floor had been painstakingly lifted from its site and was now being stored on purpose built storage racks within the mosaic conservation workspace. The stage of work in progress involved the removal of the cambric and foam-board facing materials, the cleaning and fixing of missing and displaced tesserae followed by grouting, on a section by section basis.

Storage Shelves

Sections of the mosaic floor stored during conservation work, Cliveden Conservation, Taplow, Berkshire. Photo Tracey Cartledge

During my two weeks with Cliveden, the project manager, Ben Roberts, provided a slideshow presentation to illustrate and explain the stages of the project that had been carried out before I joined the team. The mosaic had been discovered during structural investigations to explore the source of water ingress from the porte-cochère of the building in question in 2017.

The mosaic floor was hidden between the upper layers of modern resin asphalt and concrete and the screed beneath. Another company – DBR Conservation – carried out a series of trials, surveys and investigations to inform a report that summarised findings and put forward recommendations and a schedule of works was drawn up for pricing. Based on their proposed methodology, schedule and quotation, Cliveden was the successful recipient of the contract.

The team arrived on site in August 2018 with spades and began popping off the asphalt top layer. Pneumatic hammer drills were required to break out the thick course of concrete below the asphalt which was very tough work, by all accounts. Finally, the cement residue was chipped off to reveal a most stunning marble mosaic.

The square central panel, made up of black and white marble tesserae, depicts Neptune holding a trident in his right hand and a baby dolphin in the left, surrounded by four larger dolphins, positioned diagonally across each corner. A large field of Bianco Carrara tesserae, interspersed with short wavy lines of Nero Assoluto surrounds the central panel filling the rest of the floor, framed by a geometric border incorporating a black (Nero Assoluto) and yellow (Giallo Siena Intenso) guilloche. Outside the border is a wide band of random mix Giallo, Siena Intenso and a veined and varied grey marble. Finally, in a couple of places along the perimeter, there are door threshold panels featuring a red marble – possibly Rosso Alicante.

IMG_0529.jpg

Photograph showing the border of the mosaic floor and adjacent door threshold panel (right), courtesy of Cliveden Conservation.

Removing the mosaic from site was a formidable operation carried out under the supervision of Historic England. First, two separate reference grids were made: a grid of wavy lines to indicate the cut lines for lifting and a grid of straight lines for the photo documentation. Each section was photographed from above. Then Dremel tools were used to cut out all the tesserae along the wavy seamlines of the cutting grid, creating panels approximately 600mm x 600mm. The loose tesserae were labelled (using tippex) and stored carefully for later in labelled tubs. All the outer panels, having been faced with cambric and foam board, were then lifted using slate rippers, one by one, until only the central dolphin panel remained.

There was harder mortar and brick rubble beneath the centre section of mosaic floor. Following discussions with a structural engineer, it was decided that this should all be lifted in one piece and the team improvised an elaborate plan to achieve this. A specialist drilling company was brought in to drill laterally beneath the central mosaic area with core drills. Fourteen cores were left in place to form a rig to support the floor as it was subsequently lifted using a block and tackle at each corner. It must have been an amazing moment when the whole of this mosaic floor centre was successfully raised up and then fitted into its purpose-built crate for transportation.

Removing_foamboard_Cliveden_2019

In the workshop, I met the team of conservators working systematically on the sections of mosaic floor, starting with Adrian, who was busy removing the foam-board and cambric facing from the surface of each section. I was involved in the next part of the process, repairing the panels, overseen by Amelia. The first panel that I was presented with had a series of spaces where tesserae were missing. The preparation involved chiselling out the lime mortar in these spaces to a suitable depth right up to the adjacent mosaic pieces followed by fastidious cleaning and sorting of the salvaged tesserae. The mortar bed had to be kept damp all the time so that freshly mixed mortar would make a good bond with it.

Replacing the detatched tesserae

The prepared area ready for detatched tesserae to be reinstated

Unsurprisingly, the chiselling of the mortar prompted further tesserae to loosen, so that the spaces to be filled kept growing. When the preparation work was finally complete, I began recreating the missing areas of mosaic using a combination of salvaged tesserae as far as possible and newly cut stone when required. All this work was documented and the time spent carefully recorded.

IMG_0493

We used a hammer and hardie for cutting lengths of sawn new stone down to size. The hardie was a bench top version, unlike the hardies I have used previously. Following Amelia’s advice, I had taken a good selection of small hand tools with me, which included side-biters for further trimming the tesserae and painter’s palette knives that were perfect for mixing and applying small quantities of mortar. We used a specialist mortar “Adhere Cal” by SecilTek, formulated exclusively from natural hydraulic lime for the restoration industry. I had a set of wax modelling tools with me that proved useful as ‘nudging sticks’. On-the-spot improvisations, such as making paper templates and creating curved mini retainer walls out of foam-board, held temporarily in position with clay, created helpful solutions within the fixing process.

fullsizeoutput_1046

Closing the gap

Steady Progress

In total, I repaired three mosaic panels during my two-week placement. The days were blissful in the summer light, beginning at 7.30am and usually finishing around 5.00pm. During the two weeks, different people worked alongside me and on some days, I was working alone, due to the variety of other commitments the conservators on the mosaic team were involved with. There was ample free time outside our hours in the workshop to find out about other interesting projects going on at Cliveden and to check out the Anthony Caro open air exhibition in the grounds of the neighbouring Cliveden House (National Trust) property.

The most significant benefit of this placement was to see at first hand the approach taken in this type of mosaic floor conservation project from the beginning almost through to completion. I gained a clear insight into Cliveden’s techniques for lifting a large mosaic floor in sections and transporting it to their workshop, operating within a specific set of constraints. The hands-on work that I assisted with in the workshop brought new experiences such as working with hydraulic lime mortar and keeping a constant record of time spent on every task. This is important for evaluation purposes, monitoring costs and providing useful information when quoting for future projects.

In my next post I will report on my second work placement of summer 2019, working with The Mosaic Restoration Company.

Dynamic Mosaic


The Vogeltreppe Mosaic Project, Pirmasens, Germany 2019

The pure energy, excitement and ambition of her ground-breaking projects made an enormous impression on the audience of the BAMM Forum in 2013 when many of us met Isidora Paz Lopez for the first time. Her presentation, showing the extraordinary scale of public art projects that she had recently spearheaded in Chile, had an immediate impact and many of us were ready to rush out to join her at the first possible opportunity.

In 2014, a handful of UK BAMM members keenly accepted Isidora’s invitation to take part in “The First International Urban Mosaic Intervention.” This project involved a total of eighty artists travelling from twenty two countries, together with twenty local artists, and took place in the beautiful town of Puente Alto in the south of Santiago, Chile. Each artist created their own section of a long “Magic Garden” mosaic mural that breathed new life into the façade of the town hall building that it was directly installed onto.

Fly forward to 2019. Isidora has relocated from South America to live with her German husband and family close to Pirmasens, a town traditionally associated with Germany’s shoe industry. The town is economically depressed but Isidora is ready to launch her public art business locally with a project that has the potential to act as a catalyst for regeneration. Successful negotiations with the municipality of Pirmasens lead to the commissioning of the “Vogeltreppe Mosaic”. Not so big compared to Isidora’s previous commissions but at a scale and budget that the authorities are comfortable to start out with.

The site for the Vogeltreppe mosaic. Photo by Tracey Cartledge

The title of the project, “Vogeltreppe”, refers to the theme of birds and the site for the mosaic: an external concrete and steel stairwell, literally “Bird Stairs”. Pirmasens sits in a valley with streets at different levels, so hills and staircases appear frequently. Isidora announced the project to her friends, fans and Facebook followers in autumn, 2018. She invited artists to join two teams for stages of mosaic production taking place in February (Team Alpha) and March (Team Omega), 2019. There was also an invitation to make a native bird in mosaic on mesh and send it to her for inclusion in the mosaic. Some artists did both. In no time at all, a contingent of chirpy, colourful characters was winging its way to Pirmasens from all corners of the globe. More than one hundred birds have now safely landed ready to take up their position on the mosaic staircase.

BAMM members in Team Alpha taking part in the Vogeltreppe Mosaic Project in Pirmasens: Katy Galbraith, Isidora Paz Lopez, Tracey Cartledge and Jan Johnson. Photo by Cinzia Venturini.

Katy Galbraith, Jan Johnson and I were the three BAMM artists from the UK who ventured to Pirmasens to be part of Team Alpha. We arrived in the town ready to begin work on the morning of Tuesday 4th February, making our way to the workspace inside the Dynamikum building for a 10.00 am start. Having travelled on an icy cold evening, trudging through snow the night before, it was an absolute delight to be welcomed on our walk to work with glorious sunshine. Best foot forward, as we entered the former shoe factory building that now offers an interactive science museum experience with the key topic “motion”. Aptly enough.

Dynamikum Building, Pirmasens. Photo by Tracey Cartledge

Our week began with an introduction to the project, a brief introduction from each of us to the rest of the group followed by the presentation of gifts: a fabulous green Vogeltreppe work apron and a pair of ‘Brutus’ compound nippers – both practical and desirable. Enthused, we then set to work.

51536757_10218099519020230_8379178863158099968_o

Cartoons for the Vogeltreppe Mosaic by Isidora Paz Lopez. Photo by Isidora Paz Lopez.

Large sections of the design were set out on table tops, covered with plastic sheeting and mesh. The core team, who had been working and preparing for two weeks in advance of our arrival, were on hand to guide us with the colour scheme and instructions for each panel. Amazingly, she explained to us, Isidora carries the whole design in her head and draws out the cartoons at full scale by hand. That surprised many of us but we understood her logic for being able to see the final size of the smallest details to ascertain at the outset that they could be achieved in the mosaic medium.

Tracey Cartledge at work. Photo by Katy Galbraith

The meticulous approach to realising this beautiful design will contribute decidedly to its finished elegance. Isidora stressed that we should take our time to make each part of the mosaic accurately and neatly in preference to completing areas quickly. She supervised our work with a keen eye and a collaborative spirit, ready to allow artistic freedom but intent on ensuring that her overall vision was achieved and, to this ends, made quality control interventions as required.

51216183_10218099518700222_3479065290925408256_n

Artist Isidora Paz Lopez, making an important assessment about the mosaic work. Photo by Cinzia Venturini

Isidora was constantly re-assessing all aspects of the work: colour combinations, the direction of the light, the shape and style of cuts within every element in the composition. Isidora is an exceptionally skilled project manager who manages to keep her attention simultaneously on the tiniest of details and the ‘bigger picture’, as well as being an accomplished mosaicist.

Detail of flowers. Photo by Katy Galbraith

During the next few days locals responded to fast spreading news about the project that encouraged them to pop in to visit. Happy with the warm, friendly welcome that they received, quite a few were inspired to stay and work alongside us. On the Wednesday, Team Alpha was booked for a complimentary two-hour session to explore the Dynamikum’s science museum and on the Thursday, we had a day trip to a Villeroy & Boch showroom and on to their museum and factory outlet. Work continued the next day and then in the evening we were special guests at the private view of a new exhibition of work by Salvador Dali at the Arts & Culture Centre. The Mayor and town officials of Pirmasens were delighted to receive an international delegation of artists and we received VIP treatment: a champagne reception and a shower of gifts and keepsakes to show their appreciation.

52494587_10218144239338210_5543472202562666496_n

Lisa Kline (USA) and Gordana Hajdin (Serbia) delighted wih some of the gifts received.

Shannon McEvoy and Sivan Ravid, Team Alpha. Photo by Tracey Cartledge

Fifty-two artists from twenty-one countries will have contributed to the Vogeltreppe Mosaic by the time that work is complete. In the workroom, you could mostly hear conversations in French, Spanish, German, English and Hebrew and yet none of these languages were the mother tongue of some of the artists amongst us. Gordana had travelled from Serbia to join the project – the first time she had ventured out of her country for twenty years. As an art teacher and a devoted member of her own neighbourhood in Belgrade, she has discovered the positive power of mosaic to bring together and heal communities that have faced difficult social challenges, with its mindful and therapeutic capabilities. This was echoed in the projects that Dalia Grossman presented to us, where she had brought Arabic and Jewish communities together, uniting them in their shared efforts to create public art mosaics and attempt to create a sense of harmony in Israel. Both participants had also overcome personal obstacles to get themselves to Pirmasens for the project in terms of health and opportunity.

Detail, ferns. Photo by Tracey Cartledge

On the first day Isidora made a pertinent comment about the value of the project. She said that it would be much more about the interactions we would have connecting with each other than it was about the work produced. She was spot on. We all left the previously unknown town of Pirmasens enriched and re-energised not so much by what we did but by the depth of friendship, laughter and love that we shared and enjoyed throughout the week. This was the true value of taking part in the Vogeltreppe Project.

51730783_10218144242778296_4453468584407990272_n

Tracey with new friends and flags (in background) of all nations represented by contributing international mosaic artists. Photo by Cinzia Venturini

 

The Crown


A remarkable small section of mosaic floor was recently uncovered when building work to create new ladies’ toilets was undertaken at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. Composed of Italian smalti, including gold leaf smalti, and marble tesserae with terrazzo surround, the mosaic floor is thought to date to 1904 when the auditorium was last renovated.

crown mosaic, theatre royal, haymarket 2018

“The Crown” mosaic revealed, November 2018. Photo by Mark Stradling, Theatre Manager.

They built and tiled around the mosaic so that the mosaic crown motif could be treated and ultimately viewed by theatre goers (females only – sorry gents!). First, though, it was our job was to clean and consolidate the mosaic and produce a conservation report.

Details showing surface deposits and dirt

The most damaged areas of the mosaic were the gold smalti. Whilst you can see a good quantity of gold surfaces intact, many were fractured and the majority had completely lost their gold leaf layer. Gold smalti are made to a traditional formula. Gold leaf is applied to a supporting layer of glass and then fused in a glass ‘sandwich’ with an upper paper-thin layer of glass, known as the cartellina.

img_20190123_103019566

All the red and almost all of the green glass tesserae you see here were originally varying shades of gold smalti. Photo by Kalypso Kampani.

We cleaned and consolidated the mosaic to remove surface deposits, protect the most delicate areas so that the mosaic will be preserved for the future and to restore its former vibrancy.

img_9614

Re-touching the grout to enhance its visual appearance and to eliminate minute areas of unsightly well-adhered white lime mortar residue, following cleaning and consolidation.

We have recommended that the mosaic is covered with a bespoke glass unit that will protect it whilst allowing people to see it – an interesting surprise if you choose the right cubicle!

The work was carried out by Tracey Cartledge and Kalypso Kampani.

New Studio Workshops


After some searching, the artists and makers of Last Loft Studios have found new premises. We have teamed up with Cornbrook Creative and one or two other makers to form the new studio group Cakebread Studios.

Our space is located between Ardwick Green and the Mancunian Way in a lovely little corner of Manchester that is proving very practical to commute to, despite the current roadworks that are making traffic horrendous in most parts of the city.

We will be inviting guests to join us at Cakebread for Christmas drinks in December but if you’d like to say hello before that, do pop in. You may like to book yourself onto one of these mosaic workshops and spend a full creative day with me learning a new skill or improving on skills you have already.

Studio Workshops 2018/2019:

NEW SPRING DATES NOW PUBLISHED HERE

November – Saturday 10th November, 2018. 10.00am – 4.00pm
“Introduction to Mosaic”

Screen Shot 2018-10-13 at 12.06.32.png

Cakebread Studios, Cakebread Street, Ardwick, Manchester M12 6HF
Price £85.00
Price includes materials, refreshments and take home gift bag. Limited to 5 places. All tools provided.
Book your place HERE If you need further details or have any questions about the workshop, please do not hesitate to get in touch: traceycartledgemosaics@gmail.com

 

December – Saturday 1st December, 2018. 10.00am – 4.00pm
“Glass Appliqué Mosaic”

IMG_3235
Cakebread Studios, Cakebread Street, Ardwick, Manchester M12 6HF
Price £95.00
Price includes materials, refreshments and take home gift bag. Limited to 5 places. All tools provided.
Book your place HERE If you need further details or have any questions about the workshop, please do not hesitate to get in touch: traceycartledgemosaics@gmail.com

 

January – Saturday, 26th January 2019. 10.00am – 2.00pm
“Mosaic Stepping Stones”

IMG_2419
Cakebread Studios, Cakebread Street, Ardwick, Manchester M12 6HF
Price £65.00
Price includes materials, refreshments. Limited to 5 places. All tools provided.
Book your place HERE If you need further details or have any questions about the workshop, please do not hesitate to get in touch: traceycartledgemosaics@gmail.com

 

March – Saturday 2nd March, 2019. 10.00am – 4.00pm
“Introduction to Mosaic”

IMG_6264.JPG

Cakebread Studios, Cakebread Street, Ardwick, Manchester M12 6HF
Price £85.00
Price includes materials, refreshments and take home gift bag. Limited to 5 places. All tools provided.
Book your place HERE If you need further details or have any questions about the workshop, please do not hesitate to get in touch: traceycartledgemosaics@gmail.com

 

 

Let’s Go Fly a Kite!


Ravensbury sign, revised.jpg

Children at Ravensbury Community Primary School were delighted to be given the opportunity to make their mark on the school building as part of a vibrant new work of art.

I was commissioned to work with the school to create “a flotilla of high-flying kites” based on the school kite logo, representing the high flyers who are enabled by the inspiring education that they receive within and outside of these school walls.

Prior to my short residency in school, all of the pupils had created designs using a wide range of media: pastels, collage, gum paper, coloured pencil etc. The Headteacher, Maureen Hughes, and I had the challenging task of selecting nine designs to be made into mosaic kites.

IMG_7264

Grouting the completed mosaic kites

Pupils from Y1 up to Y6 worked in teams to produce the mosaic kites using frost-resistant glazed porcelain tile onto exterior grade cement board. Two extra workshop sessions were arranged for parents to contribute and, to the delight of their proud children, they made the bee kite, based on a pupil’s design.

Together with the steel signage and kite strings, these mosaic kite features combine to form a very welcoming and cheerful permanent work of art that embodies the spirit of Ravensbury Community Primary School.

IMG_0240

We Create, A Flotilla of High-Flying Kites

The feedback from staff, parents and governors has been enormously positive.

Farewell to Cornbrook, Last Loft Artist Studio Group Moves On


I have loved working in my space at Last Loft Studios in Talbot Mill for the past 10 years or so. During my time here, various artists and makers have left the group to relocate across the globe and new artists have joined. The current mix is a vibrant and happy collective with a wide range of skills and experience, producing a fascinating and eclectic creative output.

We have just exhibited within the mill as part of “A Grand Exposition“, an ambitious event organised by the guys on the 3rd Floor – Cornbrook Creative – in collaboration with Manchester Science Festival supported by the developers Capital and Centric, who have recently purchased the building for development.

Setting up the Last Loft exhibition at Talbot Mill’s “A Grand Exposition” event. In the foreground “Its Bark is Worse Than Its Bike” sculpture by Caroline Channing

Last Loft Studios was established by artist Liam Curtin in 2005. Liam was Manchester City Council’s first ever appointed artist-in-residence for the new Northern Quarter in 1994 and was instrumental to its early cultural development.

He took on the 2nd Floor unit in Talbot Mill on Ellesmere Street for studio space in 2005. As Liam signed the contract for the Talbot Mill unit, I had just moved to a space in Wellington House in Ancoats, following almost two years renting a studio in the Northern Quarter. A year later, I left Wellington House to join Liam’s evolving new group.

Tracey Cartledge at work at Last Loft Studios, 2nd Floor, Talbot Mill, Ellesmere Street

Talbot Mill was very appealing. It is part of Manchester’s powerful industrial heritage, just like other surviving mills and warehouses close to the Bridgewater Canal in Cornbrook. Including the mill where I had my first studio as a member of SIGMA – Sculptors in Greater Manchester Association, from 1991 to 2003, also on Ellesmere Street.

The old SIGMA premises was in Terres Building, now an apartment block called Albert Mill owned by Urban Splash. For artists in Manchester, these run down mill spaces have proved ideal for studio space over the past 30 years. The rents have been affordable, the space and light is unparalleled, there is usually an antiquated goods lift and useful loading bay and the locations tend to be conveniently close to the city but outside expensive parking zones.

Exhibition Catalogues from SIGMA group shows at Bury Art Gallery and Stockport Art Gallery (1994)

SIGMA was set up in 1983 by a small group of recent fine art graduates to provide space specifically for sculptors in the North West Region, around the same time as their contemporaries set up MASA – Manchester Artist Studios Association. SIGMA received significant grant funding and the founding group of artists were well supported by the visual arts officer, Virginia Tandy, of what was then the North West Arts Board.

Virginia continued to make regular visits to Manchester’s studio groups, providing useful advise and assistance about grant applications, studio administration etc. Later, the NWAB was absorbed into Arts Council England and Virginia Tandy went on to other roles including becoming director of Manchester City Art Gallery, overseeing its major expansion and refurbishment in 2002. (She was awarded an OBE for her services to the arts in 2009)

Recent workshop in my studio space at Last Loft Studios, Talbot Mill, with visiting Australian artist Marian Shapiro. October 2017

Last Loft Studios has operated independently without any form of subsidy or grant for the arts. It has simply acted to provide work space for artists at the lowest possible rent, nothing more and it has done this very well. However, other artists and artist groups came and took space in the building and in neighbouring buildings, continuing to build on the ‘buzzy’ creative community of Cornbrook that began with SIGMA and, just ahead of SIGMA, a small group of artists in a railway arch around the corner. One of these was friend and sculptor Adrian Moakes, who stayed there until he, too, was finally forced to move out only a couple of years ago. Some of these creatives came together to celebrate their time in Cornbrook in the three day event that also served as a fond farewell for us as we get squeezed out by the rapid surge of development in the vicinity of Ellesmere Street.

So, it’s time to move on again. The artists of Last Loft Studios are hoping to move together in the new year…

UPDATE:

We were given an extension to stay at Talbot Mill until September 2018.

In the meantime, some of the artists from Last Loft Studios, myself included, have teamed up with Cornbrook Creative and a number of other makers to form a new group. We plan to move into premises in Ardwick this summmer to form “Cakebread Workshop”…

 

Jesse Rust repair at Churchgate House


IMG_5166

A close-up of part of the floor outside the Mayoral office in Churchgate House. Jesse Rust glass mosaic – it was popular stuff in it’s heyday. Jesse Rust worked with Alfred Waterhouse and you can see his firm’s work in Manchester Town Hall as well as in the corridors of the old part of Manchester Royal Infirmary. These floors underwent a major overhaul and full restoration a few years ago by fellow mosaic restorer Gary Bricknell and the team from the Mosaic Restoration Company. Gary gave me some useful advice when I was researching for this repair work.

As it was only a short length and, for the most part, a single row of tesserae that was missing from the floor, it was not going to be viable to have glass specially made to match the original material. This is how I improvised…

IMG_5320

Bisazza glass mosaic, carefully chosen for the colour and quality, shaped and abraded to best fit in with Jesse Rust’s beautiful colour palette, as seen in the opposite side of the floor in question, below. His mission had been to create a beautiful but affordable flooring material as an alternative to marble.

“I take old glass of any description and fuse it with a large quantity of sand together with the colouring matter. I thereby get a material resembling marble, but which is much harder and will resist moisture. Any colour and shape can be made in a fused state. I then press it into moulds, in the shape required either for geometric designs, or in squares to be broken up for mosaic.”

IMG_5175

Following meticulous removal of first the repair epoxy that had been used to temporarily fill the gap in the mosaic floor, then the damaged mortar bed and lastly the broken screed beneath, I repaired the floor beneath the glass tiles in three stages. Finally, here are the pieces lined up ready to fit…

IMG_5330

IMG_5338

Fixed, grouted…

IMG_5351

All done!