Hackney Mosaic Project At London Zoo
Tessa Hunkin works on her mosaic while lions prowl nearby
Recently, I accompanied Tessa Hunkin of Hackney Mosaic Project to the lions’ enclosure at London Zoo where she installed her latest masterpiece while big cats prowled around. Commissioned by the Zoological Society of London, the magnificent mosaic is the result of four months work involving around thirty people, with a core of fifteen experienced mosaicists, to create a centrepiece for the new ‘Land of the Lions’ attraction at the Zoo.
The six panels of the mosaic portray the forest of Gir in Gujarat which is the origin of the lions at London Zoo. In Tessa’s design, Langur monkeys harvest fruit in the tree tops while Chital deer follow them below, scavenging windfalls and leftovers dropped from above. Yet this relationship serves a dual purpose for the Chital, since the Langurs see lions coming from far away, thereby warning the Chital when to take flight.
All through the winter months, the team at Hackney Mosaic have been working in the pavilion on Hackney Downs, painstakingly glueing thousands of tiny tesserae to a large brown paper panel with Tessa’s design traced in reverse. Once this was complete, the panels were impressed onto a rendered wall at the zoo by Walter Bernardin, a mosaicist of lifelong experience, and the paper was removed to reveal the finished mosaic in all its glory, with the design the right way round.
It was a tense process, tearing away the backing paper without removing pieces of mosaic and then applying grouting. In fact, so all-consuming was this task that Tessa and Walter continued at their work without even noticing the lions prowling around in curiosity…
Hackney Mosaic is a community project led by Tessa Hunkin that relies upon commissions to continue. If you would like to commission a mosaic please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The team at Hackney Mosaic with the completed mosaic
Tessa’s final design
Photo composite of the work in progress, seen in reverse (click to enlarge)
The first panel installed at London Zoo
Mosaicist Walter Bernadin removes the backing paper and fixes the mosaic with grouting
The completed mosaic installed at London Zoo
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