We recently stumbled across this beautiful mosaic piece entitled 'The Hounds of Hackney Downs' and simply had to know more about it! After some internet research, we found out that the piece was made in 2018 by artist Tessa Hunkin and Hackney Mosaic Project. The piece was inspired by the canine users of the busy Hackney Downs park and features tributes to over 50 local dogs. We were lucky enough to chat to Tessa herself and learn more about this beautiful project...
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself & your career?
I trained and worked as an architect before joining my friend Emma Biggs in her new enterprise, Mosaic Workshop, in the early 90s. I had found it unsatisfying as an architect telling other people to make things that I couldn’t make myself. Influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement and the Modernist theorists I believed , and still do, that good design comes from understanding materials and methods. So I wanted to be able to make the things I designed and mosaic was a lovely architectural medium to work with.
Can you tell us a bit about Hackney Mosaic Project?
I have always enjoyed making things and I think for many people, like me, it is very important for mental well being. I worked with a group at a mental health project making mosaics and I was struck that it was the process of making that had as much, if not more, therapeutic value than the process of designing. I thought the London Olympics in 2012 would provide a perfect opportunity for a large public mosaic that could be made as a therapeutic exercise by a group of vulnerable adults. I persuaded Hackney to go with the idea and it started as a six month project working with people in recovery from addiction and other mental health problems.That was ten years ago now and we are still going strong. Some of the volunteers have been with the Project since the beginning and are now extremely skilled.
We love the Hounds of Hackney Downs mosaic! How did this piece come into being?
Like many good ideas The Hounds of Hackney Downs happened by accident. I had designed a panel for the Park showing running dogs, inspired by the regular sight of happy dogs streaking across the open spaces. One of the volunteers asked if they could put the name of their dog above one of the pictures and the idea quickly caught on. There were only 6 running dogs so we expanded the piece around the corner and made some smaller dog portraits. Demand has proved insatiable and there are now 78 dogs and room for a few more.
Which dog is your favourite that is featured on this piece?
I don’t really have a favourite dog. Quite a lot of them are memorials to dogs that are no longer with us and I am very touched that it gives their owners such pleasure to have them immortalised in their favourite Park.
What is your favourite piece you have made?
The piece that was probably the most fun to work on was for London Zoo. We were lucky enough to be commissioned to make two pieces for the main entrance but before that we made a mosaic for the Land of the Lions exhibit. When we were installing it the lions were just on the other side of the wall and we were watched by some beautiful Langur monkeys, who also featured in the mosaic design.
What is your favourite thing about Hackney Mosaic Project?
We often say that the Project is not just about making pictures from broken fragments but also about piecing together people’s fragmented lives by giving them a new focus. I also think the group of volunteers is like a human mosaic, an assortment of different types, colours and sizes, who can all work together on joint projects and share the sense of achievement at the end. The group is the most challenging mosaic of all, and bits often fall out and have to be coaxed back in again, but if any one of them is in trouble they all come together and do what they can to help out.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
We love doing large mosaics in public places so if anyone has a large blank wall and maybe some money we would be happy to make something beautiful!
To visit the Hounds of Hackney Downs, head to the south-east corner of Hackney Downs park, Lower Clapton, London E5 8NP. You can learn more about Hackney Mosaic Project here.