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Tree of Life at the RUH

This summer I was commissioned to make a “Tree of Life” mosaic to raise awareness of organ donation for the Royal United Hospital in Bath.

When the organ donation hospital team were looking for inspiration for a tree of life, they found my Olive Tree on my website and got in touch.

It was a long project beginning with sketches in May that were finally given the go ahead in September. The mural mosaic  was installed last Thursday 22nd November.

They loved the shape of the Olive Tree, so wanted something similar.

They wanted me to use the Organ Donation logo in some way and they chose the words I was to use on the leaves. The words were carefully chosen by the team to advocate organ donation.

This was my first coloured sketch …

And my final sketch that was approved so the mosaic could begin…

My new studio was very useful as I had a clear wall to size up and  hang the cartoon! …

September was Somerset Art Weeks which meant I had visitors coming into the studio for a couple of weeks, so I chose to make the birds and the heart indirect, that way I was working on smaller pieces and could switch concentration from talking to working much easier.

I cut the shape from a large sheet of birch plywood. As this is a mosaic for an indoor wall, wood is a good backer as long as it isn’t warped…

I cut the wood in three sections as planned in the sketch, as it was 180cm long. Having three sections made it much easier to work on in the direct method using wood glue. It would also make it lighter to install.

Once SAW had finished I was ready to install the birds, butterfly, heart and fruit sections. I just used wood glue (which is basically the same as strong pva) on the back of the sections and on the wood. I could have used tile adhesive but it wasn’t really necessary in this case, and it was nice to keep the cement dust to a minimum for a change!

Paper soaked off and background of stained glass sky …

In the Studio

The Leaves

The leaves were made by cutting out clear (float/ greenhouse) glass into leaf shapes and stenciling the words on the back. I started by stenciling the larger leaves in gold leaf…

unfortunately they didn’t work as well as I wished as they showed the brush marks and looked a little scruffy, so I used spray paint instead. Gold on the big leaves and copper on the smaller ones…

There was a lot of cleaning around letters where the paint over spills a little, but the prit stik glue I used to hold the stencils washed of easily.

On top of the lettering and again behind the glass, I used transparent glass paints. (Very smelly, I wouldn’t recommend using them without ventilation as they can make you feel very sleepy…zzzzzz)

Once awake again 😉 I backed the leaves in textured white paper to make them brighter once stuck to the base.

And at last it was ready to grout…

Yes I do grout!
on the floor of the studio

Installation Day

The hospital team installed the mosaic while I held the pieces in place.  We used button fixes. They are really strong and hidden fixtures but not easy to use with unusual shapes. I think they would be great with square or rectangle shapes where you can line them up easier. So it took a while.


Want to donate your organs after death?  Visit https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/register-to-donate/register-your-details/ to register

Thank you 🙂

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