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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.

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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 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.

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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. 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.

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

 

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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

 

 

On Our Doorstep


 

There is so much craftsmanship to be admired in the details of  Manchester’s amazing architecture. Have you noticed how many Victorian mosaic floors and thresholds we have in the city centre?

Manchester’s neo-gothic Town Hall has been in the news this week and, just like Buckingham Palace, we’re told that it needs ‘future-proofing’ to ensure its structural integrity. It has an abundance of stained glass leaded windows sagging under their own weight; fairy castle sweeping spiral staircases of stone leading you from one opus sectile marble floor to another featuring, of course, the iconic worker bee and cotton flower motifs in marble mosaic.

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Library Walk Mosaic Floor by J W Restoration, 2015

In 2015, J W Restoration were commissioned to replicate the cotton flower mosaics for a new floor in Library Walk, which runs between the Town Hall extension and Central Library.

Step out into Albert Square and there are more mosaic details within a few short steps of you. Across on the corner of Lloyd Street and South Mill Street, the circular portico at the entrance to what is now Red’s True Barbecue Restaurant has a fine example.

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Portico Mosaic Floor at the entrance to Red’s True Barbecue, Manchester

Over at the other side of the square at 14 Princess Street is the Northern Assurance Buildings. Here you can see a large – more than five square metres – threshold mosaic of a similar age, made using the same traditional method and materials. The mosaic material is unglazed porcelain. Just like the floors that I repaired at Victoria Station a couple of years ago and a more recent restoration in the Royal Exchange Shopping Arcade.

img_4221Restoration of the Philip Morris & Co threshold mosaic in Manchester Royal Exchange Shopping Arcade by Tracey Cartledge, 2016

Over on Rochdale Road, one of my favourite pubs and former home to the cellar brewery of Marbe Beers, is the Marble Arch pub, well known for its sloping floor. Last Christmas, the Chorlton Mosaic Group was invited to put up an exhibition in the pub’s back room. Below you can see the progress on my “Piece of the Marble”, copied from the pub floor, with a few minor colour modifications. This was purchased by the brewery and now lives on their office wall.

well-crafted“A Piece of the Marble” 2015 (in progress) and “Well Crafted” 2016 by Tracey Cartledge

Just like “Well Crafted”, again made in unglazed porcelain, making mosaics like this is great practice for commissioned threshold mosaics like the one below that transformed the entrance to Pettigrew Bakeries in Cardiff.

Pettigrew Bakeries, Cardiff, commissioned threshold mosaic by Tracey Cartledge, 2016

Whilst it has been difficult to research and confirm, I suspect that many of the above and other Manchester period architectural mosaics were the work of the Oppenheimer family business that was founded in 1865 and thrived in Old Trafford until the mid twentieth century.

Studio Workshops – Sign Up!!


New Dates for Summer 2016

If you’re fascinated by mosaics and would like to learn the basics, coming to one of my studio workshops is the ideal way to get started. The creative process is absorbing and therapeutic. The feedback from previous workshops has been very positive and enthusiastic.

Here are the dates and links to my main website, where you can book your place securely:

WORKSHOPS

Through the Looking Glass, Adventures in Mosaic Glass Appliqué


We love receiving visitors at Last Loft Studios in Manchester. It is an opportunity to share the fondness we have for our working environment at Talbot Mill and our respect, admiration and affection for our fellow artisans.

Even better are the occasions when visitors attend a weekend workshop to spend a joyful day with us exploring creative possibilities using the techniques that we can teach and share.

This Saturday, we had the pleasure to welcome five wonderful women into our studios, each bringing their own talents, experience and ideas to the table as we worked together to make glass-on-glass mosaic mandalas.

Caroline Channing – our resident glass expert – kicked off the day to a fine start with a meticulous demonstration of glass cutting techniques and a clear explanation of which tools to use for each purpose and how and why each specific method works. The group then practised and fairly quickly mastered the basic skills required for the day ahead.

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Test piece by Deborah Pitman, photo by Deb Pitman

Each participant made a small test piece that was grouted and finished before the day ended. They went on to create their circular mandala using their newly acquired knowledge. We think the results are stunning…

 

 

 

Brushes, Beans, Bees & Butterflies


“Creativity bursting and spilling right out of the building”

This was the concept for the new signage commissioned for the side elevation of the fabulous Bean & Brush Family Art Cafe in Sale, Greater Manchester.

To achieve it, I picked up on the existing language of the ornate forged steel coffee beanstalks that make the terrace railings so distinctive and combined this with the use of ceramic mosaic as seen in the “opus paladanium” style of the pavement ‘welcome’ mosaic outside the entrance door.

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Pavement Mosaic featuring Bean & Brush logo at the entrance to the cafe, commissioned in 2011. Photo by Vincent Abbey

The new signage takes the form of coffee beanstalks growing out from a ground floor window and spreading across the building. From the stalks, beautiful hammered steel leaves and hand-cut steel words combine with mosaic features to proclaim the building’s identity in no uncertain terms.

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Photo by Vincent Abbey

I collaborated with Luke Lister blacksmiths, who fabricated all of the steel elements and installed the work for me on 16th November 2015. The design also includes ‘halo’ lighting that adds colour behind each of the largest size of hammered steel leaf and the two key mosaic features.

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Photo by Vincent Abbey

As you will have noticed, one of the beanstalk leaves is bigger than the rest and has evolved into an artist’s paint palette fabricated in ceramic mosaic. I produced this part of the signage, together with the butterfly, whose blue ‘flight path’ starts from the end of the ampersand in “Bean & Brush” and sweeps around to the front of the building, from where it appears to be just about to take off again…

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Photo by Vincent Abbey

Working on this commission was a complete delight for me. Michelle and Graham, who run the Bean & Brush, are lovely people with plenty of drive, vision and faith so the design consultation with them was lively, productive and enjoyable. As usual, Luke Listers interpreted the designs with great skill and professionalism and made an admirable job of installing the finished work. The final thanks go to Vincent Abbey for taking these wonderful photographs of quite a challenging subject!

 

 

Invited Back


Two projects that I’m currently working on have been commissioned by clients that I have previously made work for. This is excellent news. Follow up projects are affirmation that your work has been well received and the client has enjoyed working with you. That’s a great foundation to build on.

detail from 2006 interpretation panels at Halton Castle

detail from 2006 interpretation panels at Halton Castle

In 2006, designs for bespoke fence panels that interpret the castle’s history made in laser-cut and laser-etched stainless steel with bronze and mosaic embellishments were commissioned for Halton Castle in Runcorn.  It was a great project. Three primary schools, two assistant artists and a fantastic management team that included officers from the landscape architecture department of Halton Borough Council, the HBC Arts Officer and experts from Norton priory Museum helped to steer the project to success.

In 2015, the same management team has commissioned further artist designed interpretation panels to enhance a new line of fencing that makes another area of the castle grounds safe for the visiting public. The new panels provide information relating to the panoramic views that this landmark site affords. These include the bridging point along the Mersey known as the Runcorn Gap, the city of Liverpool and more local points of interest such as St. Mary’s Church and the actual castle buildings.

Bean & Brush Signage, design drawing, 2015

Bean & Brush Signage, design drawing, 2015

Meantime, the owners of the very popular Bean & Brush family art cafe in Sale have commissioned new signage for their building. In 2011, they commissioned a pavement mosaic outside their front door to welcome people in. This mosaic, made with durable frost-resistant glazed porcelain and cast in-situ, features the cafe’s butterfly logo. The new signage has now been designed and approved and is currently being fabricated, ready for installation in the next month. The design picks up the theme of the forged steel coffee bean stalks that adorn the terrace railings and plays with the notion of creativity spilling right out of the building from its windows…

work in progress

work in progress

…with butterflies and bees, forged steel leaves and splashes of colourful mosaic this signage is a commission full of fun to work on!