In spring 2016 the committee of Chorlton Central Church, where I run my weekly mosaic evening class, commissioned me to design a large exterior mosaic to cover the old church hall entrance.
The church had undergone extensive refurbishment works completed in 2015. These included the construction of a large new glass facade incorporating entrance doors within the south elevation. Architect Mick Timpson, who also runs yoga classes in the church, was responsible for the refurbishment and artist Steve Raw was commissioned to create the design for the glass treatment. The old entrance doorway – you can see on the left in this photo – became redundant and was blocked up to make a storage room.
The first stage of the commission was to consult with the church committee to agree the theme for the mosaic. They wanted the design to reflect the values of the church whilst having universal appeal and represent the church being part of Manchester’s multi faith network. Due to its position, we all agreed that we also wanted it to relate to the garden and convey a sense of welcome – ‘the door is open’. Referencing the bible’s creation story, tree of life (Genesis) and the water of life (Revelation) provided ample imagery. Following a presentation to the church congregation and ensuing feedback, modifications were made to create a final version of the design.
From the end of June and throughout July, I hosted seven workshops which allowed approximately 100 local participants to take part in the making of the mosaic. With fabulous assistants from Chorlton Mosaic Group on hand to help, each workshop started with a lesson on how to use the tools to cut and arrange the mosaic pieces. Using patterns cut from our full size cartoon, participants patiently started to make component parts of the design, just like a paint-by-numbers technique. Every piece was referenced and carefully stored.
In September I packed up all the mosaic contributions and took them to my studio. With two brilliant studio assistants, Karen Nolan and Karen Allerton, working with me, the parts were assembled, completed and all background areas made up within three weeks.
Prior to installation I was lucky enough to meet master mosaic fixer, Walter Bernadine in London after he made a presentation at the BAMM Annual Forum. We had a good chat and with Walter’s tips in mind, I subcontracted Manchester dream team Andy Carroll & Son to install the mosaic with me. Thanks to their expertise, the installation was like poetry in motion…
On Sunday 16th October , which was also the Reverend Bob’s Day retirement celebration, the mosaic was officially unveiled by local MP Jeff Smith. The event was well attended by many of those who played a role in its realisation and after the formalities we all enjoyed a lunch in the church hall, generously provided by the Central Church committee.
The Chorlton Mosaic Group continues to meet every Thursday at 7.15pm and welcomes new members at any time. For more details, check the website or get in touch with me by email at this address: firstname.lastname@example.org.