Veronika Lukashevich speaks to the people behind the newly founded London School of Mosaic
The colourful mosaic on the wall of the Queenhithe Dock by the Thames makes time travel possible.
Among other important historical events, it takes the passers-by into the tumultuous world of a Roman invasion, bubonic plague, and the collapse of Roman rule.
The 30-metre-long timeline is one of London’s finest representations of the neglected craft of mosaics – an art form soon to be taught as a university degree for the first time in the UK.
The members of the Southbank Mosaics studio are the planning team behind the newly launched London School of Mosaic.
They’re also the creative minds behind 300 mosaic installations in central London, including the Queenhithe Dock – and they believe there is a need for more.
Founder of the school, David Tootill, said London’s public space is dominated by corporate blandness and lacks character and variety.
“London needs mosaics to prevent the capital from becoming like Shanghai or Dubai,” he said.
The London School of Mosaic aims to establish an educational standard in the craft. In the Ludham construction training centre in Camden, 22 students will learn the relevant aspects of the art form, including design, fabrication and practice.
“I think the strength of this course lies in its innovative approach of offering the access to knowledge under one roof,” said Francesca Busca, one of the students due to start the degree in October.
“The course is structured as a university degree with the involvement of professionals and teachers from different schools and countries,” she said.
“It is a significant step forward, since each school tends to follow its own method.”
The school aims to have a social impact on the city by working with communities throughout the capital, and other schools. Members of the studio have been pursuing this ambition for a number of years.
Since 2004, Southbank Mosaics studio has been providing mosaic sessions to children with special needs and young teenagers who have experienced trouble with the law.
“London needs mosaics to prevent the capital from becoming like Shanghai or Dubai”
The sessions are meant to be an educational alternative to custody – a possibility to repay the community by putting up mosaics in London’s public realm.
They are a modern addition to the 2,000 ancient mosaics that have been discovered throughout Britain in recent years, of which only 18 per cent have been restored, mainly due to the widespread lack of expertise and funding.
Funded by Nesta, a foundation that supports creative projects in different fields, the establishment of the School also creates hope for new jobs.
“The London School of Mosaic combines a commitment and strategy to preserve and celebrate this ancient art, both as a medium for generating new art and meeting a need for skills to preserve existing artworks,” said Fran Sanderson, head of arts investment and programmes at Nesta.
As for the future, Tootill hopes that the London School of Mosaic will help to transform British exteriors.
“We want to see the public realm turn into something interesting and make people proud of where they live,” he said.
“We just want to do our best. That’s the approach we would like to take.”