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The Mosaic Makers Of Hackney

September 22, 2023
by the gentle author


Starting in 2013, Spitalfields Life Books published 15 books over 6 years until the pandemic shut us down. Now we are ready to begin again and are crowdfunding to raise enough money to cover production of our next 3 books. We have raised £7,750 so far.




Today we preview Tessa Hunkin’s book


Tessa Hunkin and Hackney Mosaic Project have created breathtakingly beautiful and witty mosaics in locations all across the East End over the past ten years. In the process, Tessa has won the reputation as the pre-eminent mosaic designer in this country while leading a community endeavour that has elevated the lives of hundreds of participants.

“A beautiful book about Hackney Mosaic Project will be the best reward for all the people who have worked on the mosaics, bringing their achievement to a wider public and giving them the recognition they so well deserve.”

Tessa Hunkin

Next time you are walking up Shepherdess Walk in Hoxton and you pass that sinister tunnel with the worn flagstones, leading under the shabby nineteenth century terrace, I recommend you take courage and pass through it to the park at the other end where a wonderful surprise awaits you.

For two years, artist Tessa Hunkin and around one hundred and fifty people worked to create an elaborate set of mosaics in Shepherdess Walk Park. These breathtakingly beautiful pieces of work are an attraction in their own right – drawing people from far and wide to this corner of Hoxton.

I had the pleasure of going over to admire them in the company of Tessa and couple of the stalwart mosaic makers, when they contemplated the completion of their mighty task which transformed an unloved part of the park into an inspirational destination.

Taking the lyrical name of Shepherdess Walk as a starting point, the first mosaic portrays the shepherdesses that once drove their sheep through here when Hoxton was all fields. Next to this, a double wall panel illustrates park life throughout the seasons of  the year in the East End while, underfoot, a pair of pavement mosaics show the wild flowers that persist, all illustrated in superb botanic detail.

The quality of execution and subtle sense of colour in Tessa Hunkin’s designs have combined with humorous observation of the detail of the social and the natural world to create works of lasting value which residents of Hoxton can enjoy for generations to come.

Ken Edwards

“That’s my little rabbit, I named him ‘Randy.’ I’ve been coming here for over a year but, the first time, I thought it was something I wouldn’t be able to do. Yet Tessa showed me how to do it and I’ve been coming ever since. We work each Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, and every other Saturday when the youngsters from the Estate come to help. Even when you are not here, it’s what you think about. I live over in Well St and I walk here. Coming here, it helps with your sanity. We talk, we laugh, we joke. I love coming here, it’s very therapeutic, it’s a family atmosphere. I was a painter and decorator before and when you paint a flat that’s it, but this work that we’ve done is going to be here long after we’ve all gone and that’s very important to me.”


Katy Dixon

“I joined the summer before last. I am an artist and maker and I believe that art can heal people. We work as a group and enjoy the art of conversation together, and I imagine that’s how people would have worked on mosaics a long time ago in Pompeii. We like to listen to music while we work but it’s not always easy to find music that we can all agree upon. We tend to listen to reggae because it has an earthy quality.”

Tessa Hunkin

“We’ve made a little bit of Carthage here in Hoxton. I was inspired by the Roman mosaics of North Africa. It was my idea, I’ve been making mosaics for twenty-five years and I started working with people with mental health problems. I like working with groups of people on large compositions that they can be proud of. Mosaic-making is very time-consuming and laborious, so it seemed a good idea to work with people who have too much time, for whom filling time can be a problem. Also, I’m very interested in the historical precedents and that gives the work another dimension. This project started in July 2011 and it was going to be for six months but, when we came to end of the first mosaic nobody wanted the empty shop that is our workshop, so we just carried on.”


Nicky Turner

“When Tessa showed me the work, I thought it was interesting and I wanted to try but, originally, it was only going to be until the end of the year and now I’ve been here two years. I live in Stratford, two bus rides away, but I come two or three times a week. It’s always different here, so I never get bored. I worked on the borders, and I get satisfaction and self-esteem from doing this work.



Work in progress on the new Pitfield St mosaic, celebrating the former Hoxton Palace of Varieties


Nicky shows off his rings.

Ken with the poem he wrote about the mosaics

Katy with one of the sheep she led to the unveiling, dressed as a shepherdess

The old tunnel from Shepherdess Walk that leads to the mosaics in the park.

Click on this image to enlarge

Click on this image to enlarge

10 Responses leave one →
  1. Rob Cassels permalink
    September 22, 2023

    Thanks yet again GA for shining such a fascinating light on another amazing piece in the jigsaw that is London’s endless historical and evolving narrative. Always uplifting.

  2. Sally Bernard permalink
    September 22, 2023

    Please contact the City of London education department if I still worked there this would be a very interesting project for them , I love the fact that it has given so many people a purpose in life and has addressed loneliness and mental health issues too.Good luck the work is amazing.

  3. September 22, 2023

    Huge congratulations to Tessa and all the team.
    These mosaics are truly amazing, wonderful works …… full of the hearts and souls of everyone who has worked on them.
    They are equal in every way to the ones I’ve seen in Pompeii and elsewhere.
    What an achievement.

  4. Christine permalink
    September 22, 2023

    The mosaics are superb and will be there for future generations to come! It is a dying art x

  5. Maureen Cocklin permalink
    September 22, 2023

    The mosaics are fabulous. Maybe one day they will be looked as we look at Roman and Greek sites showing life in the day.

  6. Eve permalink
    September 22, 2023

    ..well done all, wonderful work – art with purpose!

  7. September 22, 2023

    These panels are magnificent — and I especially admire the BORDERS. Notice how the artists have created such fluid shadings and nuances throughout the different motifs. Masterful mosaics!
    And I loved the photo that showed one of the figures in-progress. Very beneficial for the readers.

    “to engulf this land with its unity” — A very fitting sentiment.
    Very much looking forward to your publishing effort that further illuminates the mosaic artists.
    Thank you, GA.

  8. September 22, 2023

    these mosaics are so incredibly beautiful and wonderful. i hope more people will be inspired and start mosaic projects all over the world.

  9. JLW permalink
    September 23, 2023

    I love these so much, just fabulous.

  10. Katrina Harvey permalink
    September 26, 2023

    Fantastic Article. My brother Nicky Turner has since passed away since these photos were taken. For 11 years he was part of the Hackney Mosaic Project with the wonderful Tessa Hunkin and team giving him the moral support and confidence to express himself through art, that he was already good at but didn’t realise. Please support Hackney Mosaic Project if you are able.

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