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Retirement Commission

Mosaic to say farewell to a school

What to buy to say goodbye?

It's often hard to know how to say goodbye to somewhere you have worked for many years, especially as a teacher. During my Open Studio during Christmas, I spoke to lots of visitors about my work and through this a teacher contacted me to ask about commissioning me to design and make a leaving present to give to her school.


After a long discussion about what she thought she might like, events at the school, images she wanted to include and a good look at some of my mosaics on display in my studio we started to sketch out some ideas. She then came back a few weeks later to look over some paper designs and talk about the finer details of colour and content.


It's quite useful to photograph some mosaics on paper so that you can mock-up a potential design. We had lots of discussion about the number of birds and whether to include an owl!

To get an idea of flow of the leaf pattern I find it helpful to place the tiles on the paper pattern and make adjustments at this stage, before sticking anything down.

As the board will be fixed to an external wall, and out in all weathers the plywood board is first stained and then five coats of yacht varnish. The board has to dry for a day between each coat so this is a LONG process and best planned around other work.

The board took the oak stain better than expected and the varnish is adhering well. Fingers crossed at this stage.

I generally map out the design in pencil but taking tiles from the paper pattern layout.

I quite often work in different areas so that I don't end up with lots of tiles when I'm keen at one end and fewer tiles when I start to flag! It's best to pace yourself and enjoy working on each section.

All the tiles are now glued in position with some minor tweaks here and there.

The client wanted to keep the design light and bright so we opted for a beige grout from Mapai - they are waterproof and less gritty than some others. Grout colour makes a huge difference to the design and need some consideration within the design process.

And the final mosaic unveiled to the client, who was delighted - she loved the links to the garden club she ran, that the mirrors allowed the children to be reflected in the design and her championing of the arts in school. I was just relieved that she loved it! There was much emotion invested in this piece and I hope that the school community enjoy it for many years.

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