The Hoxton Varieties Mosaic
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.
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