Chicago’s winters, with long stretches of subzero temperatures broken up by thawing periods, wreak havoc on the city’s streets. Last winter, mosaic artist Jim Bachor watched Chicago DOT crews visit the same pit-plagued patches of pavement multiple times during the cold season, patching and re-patching the same stretches.

“The pothole right in front of our house was one of the particularly disgusting ones,” Bachor says. “I thought it would be interesting to take my passion and meld it into a solution for at least one pothole.”

Bachor’s interest in mosaic dates back to the 1990s when he traveled to Europe to visit a friend. The ruins and artwork captured his imagination, but the mosaics especially resonated with him.

“Glass and marble never fade; those mosaics we see now look the way the artist intended centuries ago,” he says.

In early summer of 2013, Bachor gathered concrete, tiles, mortar, and other materials to fix up that first pothole with a miniature mosaic. Fearing he might be pegged as a vandal rather than a van Gogh, he tackled the first under cover of night.

It was sort of a practice run; he has since performed seven more mosaic patches.

His branded design mirrors the Chicago flag—white, with four red stars sandwiched by two light-blue stripes. The first simply read “POTHOLE” but subsequent pieces feature other messages, such as the phone number of a nearby auto repair shop.

Next page: Trial and error