The Mosaic Restoration Company specialises in the conservation and creation of mosaics in the UK. Experts in their field, and members of our Specialist Skills Directory, they have completed large-scale projects on both secular and ecclesiastical historic buildings.
“In this country if you say mosaic, everyone thinks Italy, but we have amazing examples in UK which people should be proud of,” says mosaicist Gary Bricknell, founder and director of the Mosaic Restoration Company. He cites the frieze around the top of the Albert Hall as a particularly exquisite example, which can go unnoticed because Londoners can often “forget to look up”.
The cheerful and sincere south-Londoner set up the company in 1998 in central London, but soon moved it, along with his family, to Daventry, Northamptonshire, to be closer to projects he had for Scottish Heritage as well as others around the Midlands. 25 years later, he oversees a team of between five and ten people at anyone time, depending on the work load, including letter carvers, qualified conservators, stone masons and stained glass artists.
A family matter
As a child growing up in South London, Bricknell used to visit the workshop of his uncle the mosaic artist Trevor Caley, before starting work with him as an apprentice at the age of 18. Uncle and nephew, along with their team at the time, spent much of the 1980s creating brand new mosaics, mostly around London, including those on the platforms at Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road. He learned to be a mosaicist on the job. “We had a big workshop in Bell Green producing massive mosaics when working on the underground stations, using ceramic, marble and glass,” he explains.
In the 1990s they moved more into conservation and restoration work, which was when Bricknell first got involved with ecclesiastical mosaics. New work was not as abundant at the time so “restoration became become a necessity but actually I’ve grown to love”, he explains.
Today, his work load comprises of 80 per cent conservation and restoration, while 20 per cent is devoted to the design and fabrication of new mosaics. A recent new commission was a panel for Westminster Cathedral, which the team installed just before Christmas 2022, as well as some work for the Peninsula Hotel in London.
His passion for conservation work has not dimmed because it allows him to be part of the creations of some of the world’s best mosaic artists of all time, including Salviati, who created the mosaics on the Albert memorial, St Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral and above the Apple store on Oxford Street, among many others. All were fabricated in Europe and installed in London by Salviati himself. Now 150 years old, the mosaics naturally require attention. Another perk of the work is that he gets to go to Venice where the raw materials for mosaics are still in good supply.
A big restoration project which Bricknell particularly enjoyed was a round-topped 300 square metre mosaic around the nave and chancel of Rochdale Cathedral. The project involved a condition survey, during which they discovered that the dome was leaking as a result of moisture ingress. When the rain had got in it also caused salts to form on the surface of the mosaic as a result of which the bedding mortar failed and the mosaic had detached.
The team also had to undo and re-do some “pretty unsympathetic previous repairs” before cleaning each individual mosaic. The difference between before and after was “dramatic, a massive transformation”, says Bricknell, and the photos attest to as much. Other recent projects have included maintenance works at Shrewsbury Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral and Manchester Town Hall.
A new development to the conversation and restoration projects is that Bricknell and his team now get involved with the local communities while working on the projects. “All these projects now are hot on social value,” he explains. “When we do projects, we try and pull in local people, organises classes and trips, so it engages the locals in the project.”
“It’s not like a normal job,” says Bricknell, whose services continue to be in demand all around the UK (there is a one year lead time on projects at the moment). “You don’t get the Sunday blues. I’m really lucky to working with some really lovely people, we all get on really well, and there’s a great deal of pleasure about what do as well. It’s not about the money, it’s about taking on the challenge and pulling it off and the client being chuffed to bits, and you putting your name to it. We get a lot of satisfaction and pride, and we are lucky to work in an amazing places."
Profile by Olenka Hamilton
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