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The Hoxton Varieties Mosaic

November 19, 2013
by the gentle author

Walter Bernadin, master mosaic fixer & Tessa Hunkin, mosaic designer

The Mosaic Makers of Hoxton have been busy again and on Sunday I had the privilege to see their latest masterpiece unveiled upon the corner of Pitfield St and Old St. Celebrating the former Varieties Music Hall that opened nearby in 1870, the mural designed by Tessa Hunkin and realised by members of Hackney Mosaic Project, illustrates the glory days of live popular entertainment in Hoxton with colourful images of acrobats and performing dogs.

When I arrived, Walter Bernadin, a sprightly white-haired Italian, was up a ladder sponging off the excess grout to reveal Tessa’s lively design in its full glory for the first time. “I am a master mosaic fixing specialist, I’ve been doing it for fifty years,” he admitted to me when I brought him a cup of hot tea to warm his cold hands, “My father Giovanni was a mosaic fixing specialist before me, so I just took on from him. We come from Sequals in Italy, most of the mosiac fixers in London are from there.”

“My father was in espionage and he had been here as a prisoner of war in Mildenhall. Then, in the sixties, there was a lot of terrazzo going on in London, so he came over in 1964. He ran a mosaic gang of forty men and I helped them out on Saturdays from the age of twelve and that’s how I learnt my trade. They put it on bridges and underpasses to cover the concrete. I could take you all over London and show you work my father done.”

Building upon the success of the Shepherdess Walk Murals, the Hoxton Varieties Mosaic is another aesthetic triumph – installing joyful artwork in unloved corners of the neighbourhood and drawing everyone back to consider the meaning of the place. Even on a grim Sunday in November, a small crowd gathered in delighted excitement to admire the exuberance of the conception as a blank wall acquired a new life in Hoxton.

Walter Bernadin, Master Mosaic Fixing Specialist - “I could take you all over London and show you work my father done.”

Walter still carries his deed of apprenticeship with him in the van

Walter sponges off the surplus grouting to reveal Tessa’s finished design

Visit the Hoxton Varieties Mosaic at the corner of Pitfield St & Old St, N1.

You may also like to read about

The Mosaic Makers of Hoxton

19 Responses leave one →
  1. Libby Hall permalink
    November 19, 2013

    How wonderful!

  2. Patty/Bc permalink
    November 19, 2013

    Such a beautiful work of art for the community. Lots of love and patience to create it, everyone who worked on it should be very proud of their work. Love it immensely!

  3. SBW permalink
    November 19, 2013

    Gorgeous.

  4. November 19, 2013

    Excellent, love the yappy dog. And the one with the turned over ear.
    I just added ‘Hoxton Varieties Mosaic’ to Google maps, so now you’re a thing in Google Maps.

  5. November 19, 2013

    What a pleasure to look at. Wonderful to see the English lyrical tradition of Ravilious still alive and healthy.

  6. November 19, 2013

    What a wonderful piece of art, a real ray of sunshine on a grey day. My favourite has to be the little dog peeping out from behind the curtain on the right, what a lovely touch! Valerie

  7. colin permalink
    November 19, 2013

    This latest mosaic is absolutely beautiful, planning visit to this amazing project – can’t wait to see it in reality.

  8. Ros permalink
    November 19, 2013

    Just marvellous – joyous and stylish through and through.

  9. November 19, 2013

    Delightful! Does anybody know who did the balloon mosaics in the Finsbury Park tube station?

  10. isa permalink
    November 20, 2013

    A truly beautiful piece of work so funny the cheeky dog wonderful!

  11. Barbara permalink
    November 20, 2013

    Another beautiful mosaic . It’s great to hear about all the exciting things happening in Hoxton. I lived there for many years and miss it greatly, it’s lovely to be able to ” keep in touch”.

  12. November 20, 2013

    Absolutely beautiful!

  13. November 21, 2013

    This is such a wonderfully uplifting work and lucky to have it right in my neighborhood! Tessa and the workshop are also the impetus behind the fabulous Shepherdess Walk murals and pavements. I love that you included some background on Walter Bernadin, the master mosaic fixer. It’s is a very important job, and they are the unsung heroes of the mosaic world. Thanks for a great article and photos!

  14. Julie Richey permalink
    November 21, 2013

    Thanks Lillian! Great to hear the story behind the “fixers” this time – so often overlooked when reporting on the addition of a new public art piece. Bravi to both Walter and Tessa!

  15. November 21, 2013

    Gorgeous work! I love the modern humour in the design juxtaposed with the ancient/medieval craftsmanship. Thanks for a great post. ;-)

  16. November 22, 2013

    Greetings! Lovely, well-written article about a marvelous mosaic – so filled with joy and joie de vivre! I am sharing with followers of Mosaic Art NOW on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you! Nancie

  17. martin clowes permalink
    November 22, 2013

    What a huge mosaic- it must have taken a long time to create- love the simplicity, yet also the complexity of it.

  18. Rachel Fell permalink
    November 22, 2013

    Thank you, wonderful to read about it after seeing it passing by this week, brightened my day! It’s such a great mosaic and revives that empty square/space.

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