Mosaic Artisans

The Arts & Crafts movement of the Victorian era sought to bring traditional craft and design to everyone’s home. They were concerned with improving the quality of our lives, reacting against  industrialisation and the mass market. Through the “diligent study of nature” and the historical ages of art, William Morris and his colleagues aimed to tackle the squalor of British interiors.

Today their influence has extended around the world and ironically, their designs are mass produced in factories in every continent. Home makers have many reasonably priced choices to decorate their rooms and interiors.

The challenge today is to turn our attention towards public space – our shared space, the place where we pass others by, or meet them: our streets, squares, schools, parks and housing estates. In Britain the modern grass and concrete solution is nearing its sell-by date, as the social consequences of this paucity, such as unemployment and mental health impairment, rear their head. We need to take an inclusive approach and work at several levels to tackle exterior squalor:

*Making our urban spaces beautiful through art, design and planting

*Creating meaningful jobs of practical purpose

*Providing an alternative to seeking for a job i.e. a place where you can work as a volunteer, or active citizen, or professional artisan

*Taking the task of designing out road works seriously, and then getting on with the job

*Designing in access to public space for people with physical and mental impairment, both through mobility and access to jobs.

Mosaic Artisan is taken in the broadest sense – using a range of artisan crafts to improve public space: Wresting control away from the bureaucratic minimalists and corporate teams who give us gray dig-up and gray slab-over, with mow the grass to infinity and beyond.

Instead of our street having just a street sweeper, we also need an artisan horticulturalist, a new type of craft worlker who makes our towns beautiful, designing and maintaining seating, bins, sculptures and murals, filling planters and borders with colourful flowers, taking care of the birds and bees.

Every street has a name and every town a history. These simple truths are a starting point. There is potential to bring character and detail, to design interst and create purposeful employment for the dispossessed.

The mechanism that holds back our development is the looming fixer who will, under act of parliament, use “emergency” to dig up whatever beaufitul artwork has been laid out. “The water mains are leaking, I have to dig up the road, otherwise households will flood.” It’s a powerful point.

So now we need to get the engineers together to sort out how we design an underground trench that separates, but allows access to, the utlities. The financial teams will be brought in to design a “holding mechanisam” that pays for immediate unlocking and access to each trench. And over the trench, a mosaic lid, make in prisons, that defines the edge of a pavement, in a beautiful way, allowing people with disabilities to know a) there is a hazard to be careful of, and b) they have been part of the solution to making our towns and cities look much better.

Behold: a rational street, that allows for the creativity of our imaginations. Then the street will become a new gallery and our neighbourhoods somewhere we are proud of.