Photography by Noah Farrington & Katie O'Neill
Tracey Cartledge is a Manchester based artist who specialises in mosaic art and decorative steelwork. She makes works of Public Art with and for communities, restores architectural mosaics of historical importance and accepts commissions for private clients.Tracey is currently working with the Mosaic Restoration Company in the restoration of Manchester Town Hall’s magnificent marble mosaic floors, which include the iconic Bees Landing.
One of Manchester Town Hall's iconic worker bee mosaics
Early days of the 'Our Town Hall' restoration project
Tracey was born in Adelaide, Australia in 1967 and moved back with her family to the UK in 1969. She was raised in Bury, attending Bury Grammar School for Girls, going on to complete a Foundation Art Course at MMU and then graduating in Fine Art (Sculpture) at the University of Wolverhampton, having completed an exchange to study at the Art School of Perpignan, France. Whilst working for Partnership Art Limited in 1991, Tracey was invited to assist on a community mosaic project with Chrysalis Arts (West Yorkshire) at Islington Park in Salford. She has been working with mosaic ever since.
Tracey working on the 'Salford Views' mosaic, Islington Park, Salford, 1991 (Photo - Len Grant)
In 1991 Tracey set up her own business, building up a varied portfolio of public art projects. Commissions include the sculptural neon sign for the Bury Met Arts Centre; Moo-lin Rouge for CowParade Manchester; mosaic paving features in Chorley and Preston town centres and in parks all around the North West; decorative forged steel and stainless steel fencing, gates, archways and other features for nature reserves, urban parks, castles, housing estates and private residencies and a number of “Safe Routes to School” schemes.
The projects she works on frequently involve community engagement. Facilitating workshops and teaching art processes is one of her key skills. Tracey has worked with hundreds of primary and secondary schools, many special educational needs schools and has hosted workshops in museums, libraries, community centres and art centres. In recent years, Tracey has become increasingly involved in restoration work. In 2014, she was contracted to restore all of the mosaic floors at Victoria Railway Station in Manchester as part of it’s £44m refurbishment.
Tracey Cartledge at work inside Manchester Town Hall
Presently, Tracey is involved in the Our Town Hall project, the major restoration of Manchester's Grade 1 listed Town Hall." Her role is Social Value Lead for the Mosaic Restoration Company, a 2 year contract from June 2022 to June 2024. She is responsible for ensuring that the team meets its social value targets. This includes providing apprenticeships, work experience opportunities and other contributions to local training and education. It also involves public engagement such as giving presentations and exhibiting the work in progress. Tracey takes every available opportunity to join the rest of the team with hands on restoration of the Town Hall’s magnificent mosaic floors.
I’m thoroughly enjoying working with our team on the restoration of the marble mosaics in what I consider to be the most magnificent building in Manchester.
Chorlton based Tracey is a professional member, North West Regional Co-ordinator and Vice-Chair for BAMM (British Association for Modern Mosaic) and also a member of AIMC (International Assocation of Contemporary Mosaicists).
THE SHOOT: Manchester Town Hall
The Grade 1 listed building currently undergoing a major renovation project - 'Our Town Hall'
Student reflection: Noah Farrington
This Greater Mancunians shoot with Tracey was a wonderful chance to test my photography skills and boost my confidence. To get access to the Town Hall we had to go through strict health and safety controls and had to wear a helmet, safety glasses, steel toe-capped boots and gloves. The inside of the building was like a building site with most of the mosaic floors and decorative walls covered for protection. Only the areas currently being restored were visible. It was here where we began to photograph Tracey working on the restoration of the floor. She was very friendly, easy to work with and passionate about her job. From a technical point of view the lighting inside the Town Hall was uneven, so we relied on our LED light wand to illuminate the important areas of the shots.
Tracey explained to us the processes involved in restoring the floors and landings as we moved upstairs to the workshop. It was here where the mosaic restorers rebuild the damaged and missing sections of the floor ready for re installation, using marble which perfectly matches the colour and shape of the original mosaics. We photographed Tracey here using some of the traditional marble cutting tools.
Finally, after leaving the building, we took the opportunity to get some final shots of Tracey in the bright Spring sunshine in front of the scaffolded Town Hall. She was holding an award she had received for her role in the ongoing restoration work. I was very pleased with my images. It was a privilege to photograph Tracey and to have access to the Town Hall. I’m looking forward to seeing my final work in next year’s Greater Mancunians exhibition at the Central Library.