Artist and craftsperson Carrie Reichardt has spent almost 20 years transforming her house on a quiet Chiswick street into a mosaic-covered wonder…
‘I’ve always turned to art as a form of personal therapy, and after a mental health crisis in 1995, making art became an important way to deal with my emotions. I discovered mosaicking, finding it so meditative that I switched my fine art practice to include crafts. Then, in 2000, my partner encouraged me to mosaic the patio of our Chiswick house, and I made the decision to mosaic the entire house.
I started with the entrance around the door, creating a design based on the Indian textiles that I’d encountered as a community artist working in Southall. After that I worked on the lower sections of the front of the house, then the back wall facing on to the garden, helped by my colleagues from community arts collective Living Space Arts.
My art practice changed in the early 2000s when I started writing to Luis Ramirez, who was on death row in the US. I was so traumatised by his execution in 2005 that I worked on a mosaic tribute to him on the back wall for eight months. It was unveiled on what would have been Luis’s forty-third birthday and we closed the street when his family came to see it.
That was the first moment I used arts and crafts as a tool for activism and political protest. It was my only way of dealing with the injustice: if I was going to make art, I may as well make it meaningful. Whenever you create public art, there’s a steering committee that oversees things. However small the work is, there’s always censorship. I was so tired of people saying what I could and couldn’t do that I decided to make my house a piece of public art instead.
I dedicated the back of my house to injustice by referencing my pen pals in prison: political prisoners including the Angola Three and Black Panther Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore, who was represented by a flying eyeball. This section was completed with the help of a whole heap of artist friends, activists and volunteers.
By 2008, the back of the house was completed. It wasn’t until 2017 that I put out a call for other artists to join me to finish the front. My friend, the Chilean artist Isidora Paz López, offered to work on it for a week and I had at least another 30 artists from 12 countries join in, either physically working on the walls or sending a mosaic. With their help, I finally completed the work – called “The Treatment Rooms” – last year.
Some people initially objected to the house and even set up a petition, but in the past 20 years, only three people have told me personally that they don’t like it. My next-door neighbour even had me mosaic part of her front wall! A lot of people love the house and even those who don’t like the design appreciate the time, skill and labour that’s gone into it. People I don’t know make the journey to visit – whenever I come out of the door, there are people taking pictures.
Art is a powerful way we can open dialogue on difficult, painful conversations. When you’re collecting signatures for political campaigns, you just collect them from people who already think the way you do. But art engages people in a whole different way. It shows us our common humanity and unites people.’
For more unique London voices, sign up here to get Time Out features straight to your inbox.