Mosaics have held a fascination for me ever since we lived in Cyprus back in the early 1990’s when the country had a very relaxed attitude to its archaeological sites.
There were a few premier attractions which were roped off and protected from the elements, but pretty much everywhere else it was quite normal to simply walk around and do what you liked; picking up pots, interacting with temple columns or, in my case, cleaning up a dry and dusty floor mosaic on an arid but spectacular hillside overlooking the sea. Just a few drops of water and 2000 year old colours sprang into life.
I think it was then that I became enchanted with the medium.I loved the fact that here was a picture that had withstood everything that time and the elements could throw at it. It was a statement in stone, full of gravitas and poetry, that could still speak to us today.
Highfield Primary School
Highfield Primary is a school with an amazing outdoor area and natural location. They have an exciting Forest School area with a cabin that has recently been built to store coats and tools and such like. It was my job to create mosaics to brighten up the walls of the cabin and set the scene for what kind of animals the children should expect to find in their environment. The mosaics were made with every school year group over the course of one hectic week. The hedgehog mosaic was particularly well loved by several members of the teaching staff who I genuinely believe would have sneaked off with it given half the chance.
These 3 mosaics were commissioned by Deputy Head teacher Val Wigham for installation in the new Kenton School.
A number of brain-storming sessions were held with year 10 and 11 pupils who gave the fundamental concepts and design ideas for the final mosaics.
There were many inspiring ideas, but the strongest threads were linked to Kenton School’s very active involvement with music, the arts, and positive performance attitudes.
Brandling Primary School
This Wildlife Mosaic project was inspired by teacher Liz Cherry who had a mission to bring Antonio Gaudi to Felling in the form of a high impact mosaic close to the School entrance. She also arranged that I would spend time with local parents in mosaic workshops in preparation for the final piece. A fun time, I think it is fair to say, was had by all. The final mosaic was a marvellously glitzy work that reflected nature and the school wildlife garden with a suitable degree of fun and bling.
The second Mosaic project at Brandling Primary was a much more solemn affair; a commemoration of the terrible Brandling Pit disaster in 1812. I worked closely with the school children to develop the design which would resemble a traditional Miner's Banner. We thought long and hard on the wording for the banner text, eventually deciding that "Light from Darkness" made a decent attempt to reflect the improvements made in the Mining industry as a result of the disaster. The Miner's Lamp was very much at the centre of the improvements and it is therefore at the very centre of the mosaic, shining out into the community of Felling.
The third mosaic was commisioned by head teacher Ailsa Taylor just before she took up a new headship in Washington. She particularly wanted something full of life and colour, and I'd like to think it was a bit of a leaving present to the school she'd loved so much. The day that my old pal Davy and myself installed the mosaic, Ailsa was dressed in a Sari escorting some glamorously dressed dignatries from Kerala around the school, and the combination of colours was intoxicating.
The Waggonways Project
The Waggonways project ran across a great area of North Tyneside, celebrating the industrial heritage of the area and promoting new leisure facilities and cycle ways etc. My brief was to work with pupils of St Peters school in Wallsend to create 6 floor mosaics and 2 murals. I wanted the floor mosaics to be simple and robust and make an immediate reference to the mining industry.
St. Cuthbert's Cross
This mosaic of the St. Cuthbert's Cross was commissioned to commemorate Lindisfarne Primary School which was closed in 2007. It was a unique project, aided by Jim Craig the Gateshead arts chaplain, who arranged for the mosaic to be located in the courtyard of St Edmunds Chapel, a glorious 13th century building on Gateshead high street. The design is based on the famous brooch that was placed in the burial chamber of St Cuthbert. To add to the jewel like effect, we brought in glass artist Sue Woolhouse to produce small glass plaques, featuring self drawn images of all the staff and pupils of the school. The addition of these glass pieces makes for an intimate tribute to a school that had served this particular area for many years. An additional thanks, as ever, goes to my old mucker Davy Whisler for installing the piece within the existing cobbles with little disruption or bother. Bless him.
The Wildlife Mosaics at Blackfell Primary were designed to enhance the newly created outdoor play area of key stage 1. The teaching staff were very keen to include animals that could be found locally and were also featured in their reading books.. All the mosaics were made with small groups from various classes and there was plenty of opportunity to get to know each other. My major concern was to make works that would link the whole area, with small pieces that would make an eyecatching entrance through the archways, leading to larger animals on the gazeebo. A very nice project to work on.
New York Primary
The New York Primary school arch was made as part of a marvellously grand Creative Partnerships project. The overall aim of the project revolved around the Circus, and climaxed in a performance in which most of the school was involved. My role was to create a fitting archway through which the parents and performers would enter the main hall. I had recently returned from a trip to Istanbul and had been totally blown away by the tiles at the Topkapi palace, and my archway was therefore a humble, nay very humble, response to Islamic ornamentation. It did however combine the handiwork of many children and I'm sure they felt very proud of the result. The overall project was guided by Katie Gascoigne, who did a very good job, and I have particularly fond memories of working with her on creating a suitably flamboyant backdrop for the Circus , transforming the school hall with miles of fabric and utilising skills with drapery that had hitherto lain very dormant indeed. Good luck Katie.
This mosaic of the life of St.Bede was created for the new Bede Academy in Blyth.The preparatory work for the final mosaic was begun with year 4 children in the old school with the definite vision of creating a link between old and new schools.
The children created a stunning paper mosaic of St Bede, learning the basic principle of how many small pieces build up to form a whole.
This is a selection of slightly older mosaic projects, commissions or one offs.
The coal miner is installed outside the Gateshead Housing company offices in the Civic centre. 2011.
The mosaics of 4 local landmarks were made with year 5 and 6 pupils at Percy Main primary. A Creative Partnerships project 2010.
3 brilliant insects created with the reception children and some mums at Burradon primary school to adorn the playground walls. 2011
Some nicely mischievous boys and their Sea life mosaic at Ludworth Primary School. 2004
A totem pole created in a very busy single day at Usworth Colliery Primary School. 2010