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The Mosaic Makers Of Hackney Downs

September 28, 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. So far we have raised £9,900 but we still have a way to go.




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

You may recall my friends the Mosaic Makers of Hoxton led by artist Tessa Hunkin. When they have moved up to Hackney Downs and established their workshop in the pavilion, they applied their magical talents to decorating an open air theatre in the children’s playground.

I discovered Tessa and her team hard at work to fulfil their ambition of covering the entire theatre with mosaic. 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 undertook to create one of the animals and Tessa’s role was 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.

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

You may also like to read about

The Mosaic Makers of Hoxton

The Hoxton Varieties Mosaic

2 Responses leave one →
  1. Bernie permalink
    September 28, 2023

    Who makes the tiles? With what processes? Where are they made? What do they cost?

  2. Esther Rank permalink
    October 1, 2023

    These mosaics are fantastic! Such careful work and what glorious results. I was so happy to chance upon the mosaic in Haggerston whilst waiting for a Covid vaccination at the nearby pharmacy some years back. Life affirming in so many ways!

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