Author Archives: makemosaictrace

About makemosaictrace

I live in Manchester with my husband and two daughters and work as a professional artist, based at my studio on the edge of the city centre. A lot of my work involves connecting with people in schools, colleges and other community settings. I have frequently been commissioned to produce art for public spaces: parks, town squares, new housing developments, etc. In recent years, I have become involved in heritage restoration, repairing mosaic floors and features in period properties such as Manchester Victoria Station.

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.

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. 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 cut 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. 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. Somehow, she seemed to keep her attention simultaneously on the tiniest of details and the ‘bigger picture’. Isidora is an exceptionally skilled project manager 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 overjoyed to receive an international delegation of artists. We were treated as VIPs and they held a champagne reception for us, showering us with gifts and keepsakes to show their appreciation.

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 caring 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.

 

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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”

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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”

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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”

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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”

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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!


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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.

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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.

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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


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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…

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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.”

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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…

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Fixed, grouted…

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All done!

Magnificent Marble Mosaics


Y3 Tackle Roman Mosaic Techniques

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It was the first day back after half term and the energy in the school was palpable. To enrich their topic about The Romans, I was there to work with the Y3 pupils to help them each make their own mosaic.

We kicked off with a brief slide presentation to introduce the history of mosaic making and how it was adopted and progressed by The Romans for their villa floors. Then we examined a marble mosaic that I made last year, observing the use of specific shapes, ie. ‘keystones’ to form curved lines for lettering and triangles where a diagonal line meets a horizontal line.

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detail from “The Girl Who Fought For Education”, Tracey Cartledge, 2016

In preparation for the day, the youngsters had already planned their designs using a limited palette of black, white, green and red – the colours of our marble. They had also had some fun making printed mosaics with square dowels. Finally, they could now get their hands on the authentic material and they were raring to go…

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I’m sure you will be as impressed as I was to see how rapidly these bright pupils applied so much fresh knowledge to their own work to create these mosaics in not much more than one hour…

At the end of the school day I showed the class teacher and TA how to grout the mosaics  and left them a big bag of grout and tips on cleaning and waxing afterwards. I’ll post some pictures of the final results once they’re all complete.

This workshop was booked from my website, where there are also kits available for class mosaic projects.