Welcome to Creative Personalities, a new content series that celebrates our growing community of makers and artists. At Emily and Fin we pride ourselves on designing clothing that is carefully crafted in-house by women for women, so we’ve decided to uncover the individuals that share our creatively considered approach.
To tell these unique stories we’re going behind the scenes to explore their creative space and process. Our first creative maker is artist Maud Milton. Specialising in mosaics and ceramics Maud is the founder of Artyface, an organisation that works with communities on legacy street mosaics.
It’s a crisp Autumn day in East London as we head to Maud’s home studio in Walthamstow. We walk through the flat and into the living room / kitchen where there are mosaic tiles scattered throughout the room - different pieces at different stages on nearly every surface. On the wall are a collection of Maud’s landscapes and perched on the sofa underneath is Bella the cat, quietly observing our movements.
Maud leads us through the French doors at the back of the room and into the garden where her studio is. The space is filled with bags of clay, crates of tiles, shelves of books and draws of paint brushes. In the centre of the room is the kiln which Maud begins to carefully load as we chat away….
The street pieces Maud creates are of the highest quality and designed to last decades if not hundreds of years! They are all high-fired stoneware, porcelain and glass from some of the best suppliers in the world. She also receives lots of donated tiles that would normally go to landfill as well as recycled materials from leftover supplier jobs.
So… where did it all begin?
‘Well.. I did my Foundation in Cheltenham where I specialised in clay, then a degree in Ceramics at Cardiff University. After that a year artist in residence at a girls school in North Wales, then a couple of years artist in residence at Prema Art Centre in Gloucestershire. I also went out to Italy for three months every year for four years and worked in an art centre there, painting landscapes. Nature is a big passion of mine, which is why so many of the mosaics are inspired by it.
My first job was for a friend who was a landscape gardener - I bumped into him in a queue for a nightclub in Cardiff and he said he was working on a mural for a school. I wrote down my number (in eyeliner on the back of his hand I think!) but he never called… so I looked through the directory and found schools beginning with ‘H’ ( I was sure the school began with an ‘H!) I phoned them all until I found the one he was working at! Our next project was a big park he’d designed in Caerphilly and they brought me in to add a community element - I worked with a local primary school in Caerphilly to make a story board that goes around a round seat with four local legends. The pictures were hand-drawn in clay by the children. I actually got an email about two months ago from someone that made it with me all those years ago (it must be about 25 years ago now!?) and it’s still in the park and still looks as good as it did the day we made it! So these pieces live on.’
Is this when you founded Artyface?
'Yes, I started it about 20 years ago. We work with people as young as one all the way up to people in their nineties. We also work with people with mental health issues and addiction issues, so our projects are multicultural, multi-generational and inclusive. All our public workshops for community mosaics are free at the point of access (paid for by generous funders) and we try to make them accessible to everyone if they are in a cafe in a park, or a waiting-room at a train station. I host them at various locations across London: we have run projects in Chiswick, Greenwich, Notting Hill, and all over London, but we are currently mostly working in East and Central London.
I wear many hats: I fundraise, I project manage, I am the lead artist, I am the bookkeeper... We’ve had some lean years where I thought we were going to go under but we’ve managed to pull through!’
Are there other artists involved?
‘There’s a team of people that work with me who are all artists within their own right, ranging from stained glass artists to fabric designers. We also have a collection of lovely local volunteers who join in, work with the community and learn about mosaicing. On our current project for the London Borough of Culture there are 8 paid artists including myself, and 4 regular volunteers, all working with the community, so far 1200 participants aged 1 -85 all have made their mark on 5 intricate London Overground Mosaic Roundels for 4 Waltham Forest train stations.
We are all really passionate about the mosaics going on the street because they last forever and they’re free!'
What do you love about what you do?
‘What I really love is seeing people come together and having a chat and a laugh and learning with each other. Bringing the local community together to share in a creative experience and making something of value that more can enjoy. We've just put up a really lovely community street project in Bethnal Green, Braintree Street, based on multi-cultural fabric patterns from around the world, almost like a mosaic quilt!'
After a few peppermint teas and a biscuit (or three!) it’s time to pop out and visit some of Maud’s beautiful mosaics. We walk just a few minutes up the road and come to a long brick wall which acts as an ongoing canvas for her street art….
‘We started these mosaics about two years ago, the idea is they are all based on William Morris, May Morris (his daughter) and William De Morgan….’
William Morris was a British textile designer, writer and socialist - he was a key figure in the Arts & Crafts movement during the late 19th Century. William De Morgan was an English potter, tile designer and lifelong friend of William Morris, he designed stained glass, furniture and tiles for Morris & Co. May Morris, William Morris’s daughter, was an artisan, embroidery designer, socialist and editor.
‘William Morris lived in Walthamstow and there’s a William Morris gallery here too, in Loyd Park. So we looked at the Arts & Crafts (the Swan mosaic is actually based on a wallpaper from the movement) and we worked with over a thousand people on the three phases of the project. Some of the tiles are hand-painted and made by the community - they textured them by pressing things into the clay and we fired them in the kiln. Then we come back together with a mosaic to make!
The bee piece is based on the seven most common bees you’ll find in the local area as well as pollen rich flowers you can plant. There are also beehives in the church just behind this mosaic so there’s a nice link.
Every time I walk past the mosaics I see people looking at them, touching them, taking pictures of them, it’s really special… and the project isn’t over yet! We’ll hopefully be making some more very soon.'
Maud has a second studio she uses to build her mosaics as well as house her vast, and ever growing, collection of tiles. The space is located at Trinity Buoy Wharf an industrial hub of workspaces for people in the creative industry. The site is mix of heritage brick buildings (including a lighthouse) and stacks of colourful shipping containers. You’ll also find the iconic 1940’s diner Fat Boy’s here… before heading to Maud’s space we stopped for a tasty burger in a basket!
The studio is the bottom space in a pile of big red containers, as Maud swings open the door we’re met with a sea of colour! Bright tiles, pictures, paints and blue crates from floor to ceiling. Maud moves over to the bench and begins to carefully cut vivid orange tiles into smaller squares…
So why do you create this type of art?
‘It's beautiful non-pretentious art that inspires people of all ages and cultures and can be enjoyed on many levels: some people will enjoy the cultural references, some will enjoy learning about nature from it, babies love the sparkly reflections and colours, children love to name the animals, some will respect the skills and craft involved. We get so many compliments. It is a lovely legacy to create for everyone to enjoy 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for free, for decades to come.’
To see more of Maud's work, you can find her on Instagram here!