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Will Rosie

Will Rosie on piecing together contemporary art

By Will Rosie

Maker of Majestic Mosaics! at Mr Mosaic

The artist behind the specially curated mosaic pieces adorning the walls of the Old Bond Store is installing intrigue and joy through his art.

With strings to his bow which also include being a qualified youth and community worker and a funeral minister, Will Rosie began his artistic odyssey as a self-employed freelance artist specialising in graffiti. He found himself picking up the pieces of a community youth engagement project and creating 12 square metres of mosaics. The project unearthed a skill which he has a natural inclination for and resulted in a series of commissions and fun mosaics across the city which made him an enigma in Southampton and earned him the title of Mr. Mosaic.

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Your mosaics have created fun and intrigue around the city, you’ve even been referred to as the guerrilla tiler. What inspired you to create mosaic street art across Southampton?

I'm not like Banksy, I even wear a high vis jacket that says Totally Legit Artist on it while I’m putting up mosaics.

I started doing little Mr. Men mosaics as a laugh because I thought our city needed to have some good permanent art trails. So, I started making them around the city. I didn't realise their popularity was bubbling under the surface until suddenly I had interviews with the BBC, ITV, and NBC News in the States and then started to get orders coming in for bespoke mosaics.

How does an artist establish and emerge their own unique style?

Banksy is quite political with his artwork and then you've got other artists who’ve got something about them that appeals to some people but doesn’t necessarily appeal to everybody. I want my artwork to be accessible. I'm not interested in activism or politics. I want to produce art that is inoffensive, that is fun, and that makes people smile. Who doesn't love Mr. Men? They've been in our culture for 50 years.

How do you balance the requests from clients with your own artistic visions?

I'm not a precious artist, at the end of the day the client is going to pay me to do a job and that money is going to pay my bills. I'm not precious about my own vision when it comes to what they want, I'll help them, but whatever they want, that's what they get because that's what they're paying me to do.

Is there a piece you’ve created that you're particularly proud of?

I recently did a portrait of Steve Arnott from Line of Duty in mosaic; I was really pleased with that.

The Mayor of Southampton asked me to make a Mr. Mayor, and then off the back of that, he commissioned me to do a Mayflower 400 celebration mosaic. It's on display in the Marlands Shopping Centre, I've designed it so it looks like an official stamp in mosaic and it’s huge.

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Do you have any tips for artists trying to turn their passion into a business?

Firstly, don’t be precious about your work. There are lots of artists who won’t take commissions or do a particular piece of work because it’s not their style. Get into the zone, produce an amazing piece, and the client is going to be happy.

Secondly, don’t sell yourself short. If you’re good at something, then make sure that you’re commanding the right price. But I’ve also been prepared to sacrifice my time without any desire to make money from it. I’ve donated artwork to the city because I just wanted people to enjoy themselves. I picked one thing and I just kept doing it, and it just happened to be the right thing and people liked it, and it suddenly generated a following.

I think one of the strengths that artists have is the ability to be creative, but we aren’t always necessarily business-minded. And one of the strengths that businesses have is their ability to be able to run businesses but they’re not necessarily able to engage with creativity. One of the strengths of an artist is our creative nature, and our ability to think outside the box in creative ways, so we have a lot to offer the business world in that sense.

"I'm not interested in activism or politics. I want to produce art that is inoffensive, that is fun, and that makes people smile"

If you could create anything, what would it be?

I would like to mosaic an entire road in Southampton, and make it the mosaic mile.

I love the city and I want the city to benefit from what I can do. If we were to create a mosaic mile that people could visit, then that’s going to draw attention from all over the place. People don’t need to get off a cruise ship and go to Winchester, they’ll get off the cruise ship and they’ll want to go and visit the mosaic mile here in Southampton.

When your business is your passion, how do you relax outside of work?

I find it difficult to switch off at the moment. During the evenings, I’ve invented these things called squojis (square emojis) on my Instagram. I’m doing treasure hunts in the city so people can find them like the mosaics but if they do, it’s a keepsake for them. I’m developing little storylines and personalities for them and it’s going down really well.

"Don't be precious about your work. Get into the zone, produce an amazing piece, and the client is going to be happy."

Will Rosie, Maker of Majestic Mosaics! at Mr Mosaic