Thursday, 04 November 2010
Please call with your ideas for a project. 

Let Debra bring the creativity out in your children or community group,
by working with them to design and create an artwork of beauty.

If you would like full school participation in an engaging creative activity, increasing self-confidence and a
lasting legacy in the form of a stunning mosaic - just let Debra know your budget and size of mosaic required
and she will develop a project tailored to your needs. 

A recent mosaic - 2' x 4' mosaic for exterior installation at Lime Walk House, Mental Health Rehabilitation Unit, Macclesfield;

Sunflower, summer mosaic for mental health unit

This 7 week (2 hours per week) project was the second delivered at the residential unit.

Please follow our blog for more images and further information.

Completed earlier this year, this mosaic was commissioned by St Oswald's Parish Church, Bollington. All schools in Bollington plus nursing homes and sheltered housing. the Bishop of Chester placed the very last piece  just before blessing the mosaic. An incredible 846 local people made their mosaic mark in this community project.

We are now taking bookings for school projects for 2015

St Vincent De Paul RC Primary School mosaic. The brief was to design a mosaic using ideas from the children and to facilitate a child focussed piece of artwork.

"The mosaic looks spectacular" Roisin Moores, Head of the school told Debra.

Each child created an picture and I went through all of them to come up with a design that encompassed the children's ideas.  I used the children's drawings - they hand modelled the clay tesserae which was fired. The children then painted the ceramic pieces and mosaiced the panel.  

Donated to the communal area for the staff to enjoy at Clarence Mill, Bollington, a sink splashback depicting Adelphi and Clarence Mill, with White Nancy, central.


Schools and communities we have worked in 2014:
St John's Primary, Bollington
Dean Valley Primary, Bollington
St Vincent De Paul RC Primary, Knutsford
St Greg's RC Primary, Bollington
Bollington Cross Primary, Bollington
St Oswald's Parish Church, Bollington

We worked with these schools in 2013:

St John's Primary, Bollington
Bexton Primary, Knutsford
Bushbury Hill Primary, Wolverhampton
Mosaic plantpots in Salford
Disley Children's Centre

With many years of experience of bringing creativity to schools and the local community, Debra can help your school or group create something to delight all.
Qualified, experienced and CRB checked (DBS applied for) Debra is available as a creative practitioner in schools. She can be booked for a range of activities from Chinese New Year silk painting to full school mosaic murals.  If you would like your school to experience eco art from an expert, give us a call to see how we can help.

In the meantime, here are the answers to some FAQs:


Engaging the local community is, for me, the most important part of a piece of public artwork. People of all ages and abilities are able to work towards a common goal and encouraging all kinds of groups to participate gives a sense of ownership.

I am well aware of the concerns people may have when considering a mosaic. I have spoken at many consultation meetings and the following issues seem to be a common thread.  I have put together this short introduction to allay any fears.  I am, however, more than happy to go into further detail if you would like me to or to discuss anything I have missed.


It is essential that the materials used in a mosaic are appropriate to the application.

There are numerous substrates (surfaces) which may be used if the mosaic is not to be applied directly to the chosen surface such as: MDF, plywood, external plywood, tile backer board, mesh and many more.

The benefits to using substrates separately to the end surface, particularly when working with young children, older adults or people with a disability, is that the workshop may be delivered inside and can be structured to be accessible.

Any wood based substrate is always 12 mm deep to avoid warping but the tile backer board may be thinner.  This is also a good substrate to use if variance of depth is required in a design.

As a professional mosaic muralist, I only ever use external plywood when specifically requested and as a starting point would not consider it as a substrate for outside.

When working with various groups, it is important to facilitate each group to achieve and the use of mesh and cement backerboard are ideal for this.

Each may be used in smaller sections so accessibiliy (and weather) is not an issue, and are then put together as a ‘jigsaw’ to finish.  Appropriately sectioned so that the ‘joins’ simply become part of the andamenti flow.

The cement board is foam, sandwiched inbetween fibremesh coated in cement. This is used extensively in bathrooms and conservatories and can withstand diverse temperatures.


Mesh is placed over laminated designs and the particiant fixes the tesserae with Weldbond (the only PVA I use for exterior use) which, when dry, may be fixed with cement based adhesive onto the prepared wall prior to grouting.

The adhesive I prefer to use is Bal Mosaic Fix which is a professional fixative suitable for fixing sheets of tiles or mosaic tesserae to swimming pools and for exterior applications. This is a cementious, polymer reinforced adhesive.  Bal grout is used to complete the job, ensuring that moisture cannot get behind any of the tesserae once fixed.

Once grouted, a sealant is added for extra protection.


I prefer to use vitreous glass tesserae which is UVA and frost proof. Particularly for exterior applications, this material has strength and longevity. 

‘Found’ ceramics (broken crockery etc) can be vulnerable as frost can cause the glaze to crack away leaving an unsightly porous ceramic base. I do sometimes use specialist ‘Cesi’ ceramic tiles which can add texture to a mosaic (fired to a higher temperature and are frost resistant.) However, if a project requires specific pieces of tiles or ceramics, I can seal them in an attempt to make them frost resistant, though this isn’t guaranteed.

The tesserae range I use has an array of colours which can be matched to requirements. I quite often use additional specialist materials such as millefiori, smalti, stained glass, recyled glass and gold leaf tesserae which incur an additional cost on agreement.


The trick to successful mosaic design is in keeping things simple. As a public/community artist with many years experience, I am able to produce a design that can meet diverse requirements but which remains the idea of the community yet will work with a resistant material.  Work will only begin when the design has been agreed upon.


I can understand how frightening the thought of working with glass may be, particularly if children or vulnerable adults may be handling it.

The glass comes in 1 cm or 2 cm squares which form the majority of many designs and are mould processed so are not sharp like broken glass. If a specific design requires some other shapes, triangles or even circles can be made with a special cutter.  Depending on the ability of the group, either I will cut the tesserae to shape prior to the workshop or will give training on how to cut safely, negating harm to self or others in the group. A risk assessment is available on request.


There are many ways to engage people in an artwork. I have worked with small groups over several weeks during half day sessions, had children brought to me in 10, 20 or 30 minute blocks to place 2 - 15 tesserae and even had open drop ins whereby visitors come and fix one tessera in place. However involved an individual is, the element of pride is clear in their contribution.


This is such a good question. I have always been a ‘learner-led’  teacher and it is important for me to know from my clients how they want their mural to look. For a school mosaic, the charm of it is in how the child sees their work on completion. There are likely to be varying gaps and irregular tesselation.

For some projects the quality of the finished artwork is the priority but it is imperative that work produced by somebody is not changed or altered without their permission.  Participating in a group project may be the first an individual has tried something new or creative in a long time and may lead onto progression into new learning. 

As the lead on the artwork, it is my responsibility to ensure that the design comes together and looks like the original as agreed. I keep a careful eye on where pieces are being placed and ask if participants are happy for any to be moved slightly if they are likely to be unsafe. Part of the preparation of the workshops is to make each person able to achieve whilst the mosaic looks as it should


Workshops are planned to meet the needs of all and for large community projects, there are usually family sessions which allow parent/carer and or child to be involved together.  I am aware, however, that young children may need more freedom of expression and this why I also provide a separate table with plain paper, printed paper, crayons and foam squares where DRB checked volunteers help them with creative play.


It is harder to cause damage to a mosaic mural than to a painting. Graffiti simply washes off and if spirit based paints are used, white spirit can be used to clean it. Having stones thrown at a mosaic is less likely to have scratches and certainly less damage than if a stained glass window. Sadly, there is never a guarantee against vandalism but in my experience, involving the local community to create a more aesthetically pleasing environment increases the chances that the community takes ownership of their area.


If the mosaic is produced on mesh, the PVA glue used simply holds the pieces in place, just like the sheets that may be seen in DIY stores. The surface to house the mosaic is covered in cement based adhesive and the mesh is secured onto it in the same way as a tiler would tile mosaic sheets to a bathroom wall.  When dry the mosaic is then grouted and sealed.

Mosaics produced on cement backer board may be grouted prior to fixing to the surface.  If small pieces are used, it may simply be fixed with cement based adhesive but larger pieces will require special washers being placed prior to the mosaic being produced and the section being screwed to the wall. 

Wood substrates are always screwed to the surface. 

For exterior applications I strongly recommend that a silicone sealant is used all around the edges then (for standard murals on walls) a wooden beading is fixed to a. give the impression of a frame and b. further prevent any rain from getting behind the mosaic.

Whereas I work with my clients on installation, when agreed, I am not responsible for screwing into walls.  This is usually carried out by an appropriate member of staff or a qualified technician is provided. 

Whether grouting is carried out prior to installation or after, final grouting to cover any screws or joins is made to ensure a seamless finish.

Maintenance of the mosaic is minimal and would perhaps require a periodical wash to remove general dirt and dust created by traffic. 

Activities Available for 2013!
  • Chinese New Year - Silk Painted Banners
  • Digeridoo and Rain Sticks Workshop
  • Revamped Rubbish into Art
  • Ready, Steady, Rubbish - eco art
and so much us for a creative chat!


2011 was a very busy year for The Creative Space Studio. 

February saw the move to our new studio in the Adelphi Mill, Bollington, where we hold creative courses and workshops.

March through to the end of September was the design, planning, preparation, coordination and delivery of a 200 square foot mosaic for Macclesfield Town FC.  The mosaic was partially funded by Cheshire Peaks & Plains Housing Trust and Macclesfield Town FC.  The Creative Space Studio has donated over half of the days required to the project, with substantial donations from World of Mosaics and S&M Supplies, Macclesfield.

August saw the culmination of several months work on The Isle of Man last year, with hundreds of community members, who produced over 130 individual mosaics. These mosaics which were installed into the Loch Promenade Sunken Gardens in Douglas. Funded by Marks & Spencer, Groundwork UK, Douglas Development Partnership and Douglas Borough Council.
Debra Tracey from The Creative Space Studio (standing, right) with (from left) Manx sculptor Gavin Carter, Deputy Lady Mayoress, Deputy Mayor Councillor David Ashford, Kenny Marshall from Marks & Spencer and (seated) Manx artist Lorraine Cleasby.
Read the full story here on the Douglas Development Website.

A manx cat mosaic made by one of the children at the Douglas Youth Centre

The famous Manx Loaghtan Sheep telling everyone to recycle.

St Wilfrid's School Mosaic Mural - 1.5 m x 3 m - an exterior mosaic produced with over 200 children from reception to year 6 at St Wilfrid's C of E School, Newton Heath. Installation April 2010.

St Matthew's School Mosaic Mural - 1 m x 1 m - an interior mosaic produced with over 50 children in years 1 and 2 at St Matthew's C of E Primary school, Stockport.


Debra Tracey takes the lead in this exciting Isle of Man Project. Funded by the collaboration between Marks & Spencer and Groundwork plus funding from Douglas Development Partnership, this project aims to take the environmental message to the wider community. Individual mosaics produced by participants will be installed at Douglas sunken garden on the Isle of Man.

Garey Glass Project 2009 - 2011: Groups who participated in the project:

Breakthrough Breast Cancer - mosaic

Ashleigh Hill School - eco art fun with sculpture

Families from Home Education - eco art fun and carrier bag kites

General Public - mosaic workshops and eco art fun

Douglas Youth Group - mosaics

Manx Cancer Help - mosaics 

Jurby Prison - mosaics

St Mary's School - mosaics

FAIM (Manx Filipino Society) - new from old upcycled clothes

Isle of Man College - knitted and fused plastic bags

Kemmryk Homeless Charity - mosaic

Children's Centre - mosaic

Age Concern - knitted plastic bags

Community Service - mosaic

Cronk - Y - Berry Primary School - mosaic and kites from plastic bags

Ballakermeen High School - mosaics Manx Foundation for the Disabled -mosaics

Eastclife Resource Centre - mosaics
Pre 2010:

2’ x 4’ Exterior school mosaic, John Wycliffe School, Leicester (reception)

4’ x 4’ Exterior school mosaic, John Wycliffe School, Leicester (all school)

6’ x 4’ Exterior school mosaic,John Wycliffe School, Leicester (all school)


2’ x 4’ Exterior community mosaic with adults, Miles Platting


6’ x 12’ Exterior community mosaic with primary children, Dryclough, Kirklees
4’ x 8’ Interior community mosaic with adults, Irlam, Salford 

2’ x 4’ Interior community mosaic with adults, Cadishead, Salford


4’ x 6’ Interior community mosaic with adults, Wythenshawe 2000 4’ x 6’
Exterior community mosaic with adults, Wythenshawe

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