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News > Alumni Career Profiles > Tracey Cartledge (Class of 1985)

Tracey Cartledge (Class of 1985)

Meet Tracey, a renowned Manchester based Artist, who specialises in Mosaic Art.
22 Jan 2024
United Kingdom
Alumni Career Profiles

We recently had the pleasure of catching up with Old Girl Tracey Cartledge (Class of 1985) to learn more about her life and work as an Artist. Tracey restores architectural mosaics in period properties and creates bespoke works of art to commission for both public spaces and private property, her specialist areas include all types of mosaic, decorative metalwork, sculpture, and educational workshops. 


Tracey takes an active role in community learning: working with schools; with adults attending her studio workshops and delivering community workshops for museums, galleries, and other organisations. 

How did Bury Grammar School (BGS) inspire you to become an Artist? 

Within a couple of years of attending BGS, Art became my favourite subject. The work on display in the corridors by older pupils always impressed me and I aspired to produce work of similar accomplishment.  

When I started in the Sixth Form, there were only four of us taking Art at A Level with a new teacher, Miss Cebertowicz, who revolutionised our understanding of contemporary art and opened up all kinds of new possibilities for us. This was just the inspiration we needed, and the timing was absolutely perfect. 

What was your career journey after leaving BGS? 

After BGS, I went to Manchester Polytechnic (now MMU) to complete a one-year Art Foundation course, which was truly enlightening. It provided an exciting opportunity to explore many ways of making art whilst developing ideas in response to a wide range of stimuli, within a large cohort of talented and enthusiastic young people. On completion of the foundation course, I was accepted at Wolverhampton for a BA Hons Degree in Fine Art (Sculpture).  

The relatively small, friendly community and industrial landscape that the town of Wolverhampton presented, with its surviving iron casting foundries, nourished my interests as an emerging artist and I thrived there. I mostly worked with found objects and cast concrete, setting up the “Art & Landscape Society.” This allowed me to use a polytechnic minibus for gathering objects and materials, as well as taking groups of Fine Art students out on ad hoc field trips, in the role of Student Representative, during our final year.

In the second year, I helped to arrange Study Abroad Exchanges with French art schools for myself and four other fine art students. Whilst at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Perpignan, I produced a new body of work based on (and mostly created during) daily wanderings around the town whilst also improving my French and I remember hoping that my BGS French teachers would be proud of my efforts! 

My final year dissertation explored the subject of Public Art and Percent for Art Policy, and it was during my research for this that I discovered Partnership Art Limited, a Manchester-based environmental arts organisation. In the September following my graduation they offered me a position and I worked for the company for a couple of years, picking up extremely useful skills and knowledge.  

In 1991, having secured a studio with SIGMA (Sculptors in Greater Manchester Association), I became a self-employed artist. Most of the commissioned projects that followed included facilitating the participation of community groups to influence the design of public art features for their own neighbourhoods. I gradually built up a superb network of talented fabricators, engineers, landscape architects, artists, and other specialists to collaborate with, many of whom I continue to work with today. 

In the late 2000s, I decided to specialise in mosaic making and my practice took a new direction. I joined the British Association for Modern Mosaic (BAMM) and set out on an educational journey to develop my skills and technical knowledge in this field. As an active member of BAMM, I became part of a global community of mosaicists and in 2022, on behalf of the organisation, I co-curated “Constellations”, an international exhibition of ambitious new works by artists from the UK, Europe and the USA at Chester Cathedral. 

Whilst still making contemporary and community mosaics in the studio, I have concurrently been working on the restoration of Victorian and Edwardian mosaics, most often the floors of 19th century civic buildings. In 2014, I was contracted to restore the mosaic floors of Victoria Rail Station in Manchester and in 2022 I was recruited by the Mosaic Restoration Company to work on their specialist team restoring the 4,000 square metres + of marble mosaic flooring in Manchester Town Hall.  

Photograph taken from the Greater Mancunians Instagram of Tracey working with the Mosaic Restoration Company in the restoration of Manchester Town Hall’s magnificent marble mosaic floors, which include the iconic Bees Landing. 

What advice would you have for our alumni or current students who are also aspiring Artists? 

This tends to go with the territory anyway, I think, but the most important advice I have is to be adaptable, stay positive and be open to opportunities that come your way. Although creating opportunities for yourself is important too! 

If you have a strong inclination to pursue a career in art, craft, or design, go for it! Don’t be put off by concerns about not being able to make a living. There are many directions that an art education can lead you in and you’ll always be learning. The UK has a great reputation for creativity and there’s a role out there for you if you’re determined enough and willing to work hard to achieve your aspirations. 

Your proudest professional achievement? 

Whilst working as part of the team restoring the floors, I was also given the role of "Social Value Lead" for the Mosaic Restoration Company on the "Our Town Hall Project". Last year, I was hugely honoured to receive the award for “Social Value Champion” across the whole project and to be selected as a “Greater Mancunian” and included in the “Greater Mancunians” photography project, due to be exhibited in Manchester Central Library very soon. 

The most challenging period of your career? 

It has been continuously challenging if I’m honest. For every project I work on, I’m simultaneously setting up the next one and because dates change and slip all the time, I’ve always had to be adaptable and ready to put in long hours to meet colliding deadlines.  

However, when the 2007/2008 credit crunch took hold, I was suddenly unable to secure any commissions at all. I looked around the studio at all the materials on the shelves and came up with the idea of designing kits for people to make their own mosaics.  

By chance, I spotted a competition aimed at helping small businesses to develop creative initiatives. I entered and managed to win the First Prize with my prototype Mosaic Stepping Stone Kit and received support to scale up production and set up distribution into galleries and craft retail. This helped me to stay afloat during a tricky time and I might have taken the business further had other creative opportunities not arisen to pique my interest instead. 

Your fondest memories of BGS? 

Fun memories that spring to mind include the trips to Brittany and Amsterdam and taking part in the first ever mixed curriculum with the Boys’ School on Friday afternoons which included new options such as car maintenance, debating group and woodwork! 

Here are some more images of Tracey’s work: 

Tracey working on her most recent local project, conserving, and restoring the mosaic floor at Bury Parish Church with the Mosaic Restoration Company. The image shows Tracey and her colleague Anais Vlahakis at work, rebuilding a large floor section from the centre aisle, re-using the original salvaged tesserae. 

Also, local to Bury, the neon, brass, copper, and stainless-steel signage for Bury Met Arts Centre (2001 - sadly no longer there) and safety railings at Clarendon Primary School in Bolton which includes a plethora of insects, flowers and small creatures designed by the pupils. 

Studio work: "The Blues" cast bronze mosaic; "Obstacles", made for the Constellations exhibition at Chester Cathedral in 2022 and "Well Crafted", which formed part of an exhibition that was organised with Marble Craft Brewery. 


 

 

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