A celebration of colour, shape and form: Lose yourself in Charlie Sheppard’s joyful mosaics
Through his practice, the creative challenges the boundaries of the mosaic art form and aims to create pieces that bring warmth to the spaces they inhabit.
- Olivia Hingley
- 4 May 2023
For Charlie Sheppard – a London and Bath-based mosaic artist and creative at Anyways – the beauty of his craft is all in the process. “If I tried to describe traditional mosaic artwork, I would say that it’s firmly about the ‘destination’,” he explains. “My approach is the opposite; I see the making process as play, open-ended play.”
To allow this playful approach to flourish, Charlie has a few carefully selected materials and honed techniques. One of which is his use of “raw, organic broken shapes”, as opposed to “crafting individual shards into perfect pieces”. By working this way, he's able to produce “fluidness and imperfection”, creating “an interesting tension with the locked-in rigidity of the mosaic process”. But it’s often the colour that Charlie will fully immerse himself in, and sometimes he'll spend days finding the right tile or grout colour combinations. Then, Charlie will then work out the size and shape of the canvas, followed by the subject he wants to capture. “These three elements form the framework or parameters for the play to exist within. Then the work can evolve, grow or change within the making (or playing) process,” the artist details.
The art form is one that Charlie encountered and practised in childhood, due to “some bizarre mosaic-related history” in his family. “I’ve always found such joy in colour and using my hands to create,” he says. “Something just clicked in me the day I rediscovered the medium of mosaic.” It was around six or seven years ago that the artist returned to the craft, finding himself still inspired by the works he’d both seen and created growing up. Now, Charlie’s practice is one that has three “main arms” to it: predominantly physical tile mosaics, alongside mural paintings and design or illustration, all linked by their mosaic focus and the celebration of “colour, shape and form”.
Currently, Charlie’s works are showing in his first solo show Half-Full at Paul’s Smith’s flagship store in Mayfair, running until 7 May. For the show, Charlie experimented with dip, trip and quadrip-tych sets of mosaics. “I like the idea that the pieces can be placed together in different positions,” Charlie identifies. “A set of flowers can sit next to each other or at opposing ends of a wall – your imagination gets to fill in the empty space.” In such pieces, the movement, flow and placement gives the impression of a whole bunch of flowers, segmented and brought apart and then back together; a truly beguiling effect which guides the audience, but also leaves much up to the imagination.
At the end of 2022, Charlie created one of his largest pieces yet – a 12 x 3 metre mosaic mural in Mallorca, a place Charlie spends some time each year, and a place well-known for its public mosaic installations. A myriad of blues, oranges and yellows, the piece is a beautiful representation of the breadth of mosaic art; it's able to exist outside of its primary conception as a hand-crafted object. It’s these sorts of projects that Charlie is keen to immerse himself in further, experimenting more, immersing himself in interesting commissions, and exploring how his works could be applied to furniture pieces. But amongst this process of exploration and experimentation, one thing for certain is that Charlie will always be having fun. “If I catch myself straying too far from a playful, open-ended mindset, I start again,” the artist ends.
Charlie Sheppard: Garden Flowers (Copyright © Charlie Sheppard, 2023)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.