Pictured above: Creekmouth mosaic by Tamara Froud
By Angela Youngman
Working on a mosaic project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund can prove valuable in terms of building your portfolio, gaining credibility as an artist and, most importantly, in terms of income, finds Angela Youngman.
Founded in 1994, the National Lottery Heritage Fund has distributed over £8.3bn to more than 49,000 heritage projects across the UK, many of which have involved mosaics. The funding programme is designed to support projects that connect people and communities to the national, regional, and local heritage of the UK. Individual projects can range from £3,000 to millions of pounds, and usually such funding acts as a kickstarter to enable organisations to attract additional funding from other grant authorities. Such projects have included organising community mosaic workshops, creating heritage themed mosaics to be installed in public places as well as restoring historic mosaics.
Recent projects have included the creation of a Gilsland community mosaic as part of the Hadrian’s Wall 1900 Festival, educational mosaic workshops in Boston as part of the Steps to the Future project, and a massive restoration project in Salford focusing on St John the Baptist RC Church that has just been announced. This church project is high profile, involving not just mosaic masterclasses but restoration of the original 1930’s Sanctuary Eternal Life mosaic created out of stone, marble, glass and gold tesserae, which totally covers the entire dome, back wall and side walls surrounding the altar.
Training provides good foundation for working on projects
Lottery projects form an important part of the work of the London School of Mosaic. Joe Moss, Creative Producer at the London School of Mosaic, says: “We have the best training programme for any mosaic artisan in the country. There are opportunities to work on Lottery-funded projects and a wealth of experience that students and artists can tap into. It forms an opportunity for artists to work at the highest standards on public realm projects – partly because most of our work was for public space. We’ve also worked on exhibitions (for example at St Paul’s Cathedral), which is good for building an artist’s confidence.
“Artists are involved from the start, working within the supportive environment of the London School of Mosaic,” he continues. “There will be a mutually agreed ‘standard’ and generally artists are able to interpret this. Other artists may join in during the process of creating, if they’re needed.”
Project involvement comes in different ways
Sometimes work results through local contacts. At Gilsland, the initial idea came from local volunteers wanting to improve the image of a concrete bunker style bus stop in the centre of the village. Janet Gordon, from Gilsland Village Hall, explains what happened next. “We contacted artist Jane Dudman, who has been involved in several community art projects, to see if she would guide us and she said yes! Jane helped with planning and costing as all we knew was that we wanted to make a mosaic of Gilsland and some of its features, and that we wanted local people to give their views and be involved.”
“With Jane’s help to cost the project, we sent an application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The process was very detailed but it made us think very carefully about all the stages to make and complete the mosaic, and ensure we were organised and prepared to deliver the project. We held an open day for local people to give their ideas and try out techniques of mosaic tile cutting. Workshops were held at Gilsland school and youth club, who made paper mosaics. In February 2022, Jane set everyone off with the task of making the mosaic in reverse and she popped in to monitor and advise.”
Another such local project involved the Fifth Continent Landscape Partnership scheme, which is partly funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Designed to celebrate a unique landscape, the Fifth Continent’s cultural heritage officer Didier Rochard worked with Yolanda Houston’s Teach Me scheme to create a series of ten tiled mosaics made by artists working with local communities to be placed in local churches.
For London School of Mosaic graduates, some find work on Lottery-funded projects via their links with the school. “Many of our diploma graduates continue to work with us on publicly funded commissions and, in some cases, run these projects on our behalf,” adds Joe. “Two of our Diploma students are currently leading a large public realm commission at London Bridge with artist Adam Nathaniel Furman.”
A positive experience for artists
Artists who have participated in Lottery-funded schemes are positive about the outcomes. Tamara Froud, who is the current president of the British Association for Modern Mosaic, looks back on her involvement in a 2015 National Lottery Heritage project at Creekmouth.
“I found that the framework that the heritage lottery grant provided acted as a useful tool to direct my research and methodology for the Creekmouth heritage mosaic project,” says Tamara. “It gave a clear outline to work towards and encouraged true investigation of the area and people – something that never fails to throw up interesting details.
“I felt like I lived the Creekmouth life and became part of the community for the eight months of the project. It encouraged me to reach out to artist Carrie Reichardt to help me print some of the oral histories onto the tiles – something that gave the piece an added level of interest. It worked on two levels: as an image from a distance and then with so much more detailed information if you wanted to spend time looking close-up,” she continues.
Getting involved in a National Lottery Heritage funded scheme can certainly prove beneficial for mosaic artists. It’s a great way to explore new aspects of personal artistic practice, enriching creativity and generating ideas as well as income. But there is more to it than this – equally important are the other skills that are involved. The structure and organisation involved in participating in a Lottery-funded project develops management, administration as well as teaching skills and provides long-term publicity value, which can widen an artist’s work experience.
“Although there are plenty of hoops to jump through to work on a Lottery-funded project, it is a gift of guidance and good practice,” adds Tamara. “I think it enriched my practice. It certainly put me on the map as a heritage artist.”