The Mosaic Makers Of Hackney Downs
You may recall my friends the Mosaic Makers of Hoxton, led by artist Tessa Hunkin, who created the beautiful murals in Shepherdess Walk and Pitfield St last year. Now they have moved up to Hackney Downs, establishing their workshop in the pavilion and applying their magical talents to decorating an open air theatre in the children’s playground.
Already one panel is complete and I discovered Tessa and her team hard at work to fulfil their ambition of covering the entire theatre with mosaic by the autumn. Inspired by a trip to Jordan, Tessa revealed to me that her design is “loosely based upon Roman hunting scenes, but without the blood.” Each of the mosaic makers undertakes to create one of the animals and Tessa’s role is to unify their contributions into a harmonious whole. Up here at the top of Hackney, upon what was once an ancient piece of common land, it makes complete sense to come upon these fearsome wild creatures rendered in such magnificent timeless style.
Stalwarts from Hoxton, Nikky Turner and Ken Edwards were there to greet me as I entered the workshop where the mosaic makers sat around a large table, joined by new members as the enthusiastic band has grown. A hush of concentration prevailed, broken only by the incessant snapping of terrazzo being cut to size, rather like that of a band of squirrels cracking nuts. Two days a week you will find them there in the pavilion on Hackney Downs, and every other Saturday afternoon when anyone is welcome to lend a hand. “Being here in the park, we’ve had a quite a lot of local people come to join us,” Tessa admitted, “people between jobs or off work for some reason – and lots of Italians, mosaic is a magnet for Italians.”
Even as I sat with the mosaic makers, a man on a bicycle leaned in to deliver his verdict on the work so far. “If that mosaic was a meal, it’d be from a Michelin starred restaurant,” he declared authoritatively and cycled off down the path, leaving the makers to continue with their work in placid silence.
It has been inspiring to see Tessa Hunkin’s skilfully wrought mosaics come to fruition in recent years, enriching the environment of the East End with their lyrical imagery – and rare to come across works of art that successfully combine such a sophisticated aesthetic flair with a genuine popular appeal. Even with only one panel finished, it is already possible to deduce how spectacular the entire work on Hackney Downs will be and now I cannot wait to go back after the summer and see it complete.
Ken Edwards made the lion
Design for a side panel
Gabi made the leopard
Design for a side panel
Nikky Turner made the monkey
Design for the back wall by Tessa Hunkin
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