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HomeContentArtisanWorld renowned mosaicist David Arnott debuts work and wisdom at Coverings

World renowned mosaicist David Arnott debuts work and wisdom at Coverings

Last month mosaicist David Arnott made his first trip to Coverings from across the Pond, on the invitation of NTCA and Coverings. This world-renowned UK artist is famous for his ambitious mosaics of royalty, celebrities, music, movie, theater and sports figures, and exquisite commissions for private clients as well. His subjects reference the Rolling Stones’ lips logo, Her Majesty the Queen, David Bowie, Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger’s Joker, Sophia Loren and much more. Each mesmerizing artwork represents an extraordinary homage to the particular legend that he has chosen to portray. He integrates his style and spirit in each piece, and his initials are always hidden somewhere within the tiles.

Arnott’s work immortalizes stars from performing arts, movies, sports and more. The mosaic of the Avengers End Game has a majority of the cast signatures!

He has completed impressive personal commissions for celebrity clients including the Kardashians and Steve Harris of Iron Maiden and work for high-end brands such as Mercedes Benz, Gucci, Nike, and the Royal British Legion, including official artwork for the WW1 centenary in 2018. He has collaborated with celebrity designer Debbie Wingham on a series of “the most expensive objects” including a mosaic roulette table, and holds the record for creating the world’s most expensive mosaic. And Arnott’s mosaics hang in the world’s leading gallery group Clarendon Fine Art, giving him the opportunity to sell his work next to Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and many more including modern artist Banksy. 

Arnott devotes many hours of preparation to each composition, using photographs and sketches to perfect the detail he will require before he begins each project. These mosaics of Kate Moss, the Louis Vuitton logo and Rolling Stone lips were on display at Clarendon Fine Art Covent Garden in London.

At Coverings, Fireclay Installation Director Martin Brookes – himself a graduate of the City & Guilds of London Institute – interviewed Arnott at the Artisan Stage. In the presentation titled, “From Tile Setter to Artist: A Creative Transition,” Arnott detailed his journey from tile setter to tile artist, using proper materials and techniques and creating artistry with tile. Visit www.coverings.com to view a video of the interview. 

For this article, we trace his path to where he is today, starting at 16 when he took a wall and floor tiling course at Salford College. After some struggles, around 2002 he had the opportunity to create a mosaic of his own choice, which won multiple awards. 

“I realized it was something I really enjoyed doing and was good at,” Arnott said. After finishing the course, he was a tile apprentice for several years. “When I was on tiling jobs, I used to collect materials and went home to make mosaics, not realizing where I would be today,” he said. “My artworks have become a lot more precise over time, as I have learned how to capture more detail and emotion especially within portraits.” He has some favorite pieces, but currently his most prized mosaic is one that his daughter painted for his mother, and he created a mosaic over the painting. 

His mosaic portraits are meticulously constructed from thousands of mosaic fragments, each one hand cut, and some no bigger than a millimeter long. In his skilled and careful hands, this ancient artisan technique becomes a way of depicting some of the most familiar faces of our time in a completely new way. 

Arnott devotes many hours of preparation to each composition, using photographs and sketches to perfect the detail he will require before he begins each project, immersing himself in research about the individual he is portraying, whether it is listening to the music of David Bowie, or watching films of Sophia Loren. Once his design is perfected, he chooses and hand cuts the pieces of mosaic to form each fastidiously-executed portrait.

Arnott chooses LATICRETE setting materials for his projects, and Johnson Tile ceramics for his tiles. Here he is grouting a mosaic of Manchester United Football stadium with LATICRETE SpectraLOCK Pro.

His preferred materials are ceramic tiles from Johnson Tiles, due to the range of colors available. “They also break perfectly for mosaic,” he said. “For setting materials I have always used LATICRETE. For tools I mostly use Montolit, but I would love to design a pair of tile nippers in the future.”

Arnott uses the direct method in his work, adhering his tile pieces directly to the base. “As I mostly work on portraits, I like to keep an eye on where I’m up to,” he said. “One minor mistake can be very costly, especially in someone’s eyes. So therefore I am always standing my artwork up and looking from a distance to ensure I have captured the right detail.” Primarily, he works alone on his handmade artworks, but sometimes has the assistance of a helper who “keeps an eye on things for me.”

The road to artistic excellence and notoriety has not always been an easy one. “I have been through so many hard times, and even have nearly given up: people letting me down with payments and orders etc.,” he said “But I have always carried on, as it’s something I enjoy.”

Arnott has encouragement for aspiring tile artists: “If you work hard it will pay off. Just keep going. I’m living proof it can work if you work hard enough to make it work. The end goal is worth it.”

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Editorial Director and Senior Writer for TileLetter and TileLetter ARTISAN

Lesley Goddin has been writing and journaling since her first diary at age 11. Her journey has taken her through a career in publishing and publicity, landing her the editor position of TileLetter and its special publications in 2006. Her goal is to educate, inspire, recognize and encourage those in the tile industry -- especially the tile and stone contractor.

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