Tessa trained and worked as an architect until 1989 when she joined forces with Emma Biggs at the recently founded Mosaic Workshop in Holloway London. The workshop undertook a range of commissions for public and private clients, including Terence Conran, Baby Spice, the Sultan of Oman, and Aston Villa football club.
Tessa has worked on a series of high-profile commissions at Westminster Cathedral and London Zoo and has together with Emma written books about the art of mosaic making. Significantly, Tessa also teaches at Mosaic Workshop an organization in Westminster that helps people recovering from mental health problems to participate in the craft.
Tessa has shown that it is possible to produce mosaics of the highest quality, all while contributing to the well being of the group of young adults. Just as mosaics are made up of thousands of pieces of different shapes and colours so too can they be assembled by many hands and many individuals each leaving their own mark.
In 2011, Tessa set up her own project in Hackney working with people recovering from addiction and mental health problems. This has been so successful and has produced wonderful public works in Hackney and beyond. Mosaics have been leaving legacies for thousands of years, and Tessa through her wonderful work is leaving hers too. This is Your London Legacy
“I suppose I’m of a generation that started working by hand and then computers came in—and I have a sort of hybrid way of working. “
There is little info on how ancient mosaics were made—Romans and the Byzantines didn’t write down and record how their mosaics were made. What we do know is that mosaics were commissioned by the wealthy and often stood as a symbol of power, but some were also made of scrap material and a little less royal in nature.
“Colour was what I missed most.”
Tessa started off in architecture—but quickly found all the straight lines and lack of color as a drain on her creativity. One of her friends was starting a business making mosaics and Tessa joined her. This was 30 years ago, and since then Tessa has been commissioned to work on all manner of mosaics for all sorts of people and institutions, including the Roman Catholic Church. Her personal favorites are large mosaics—site specific works that blend into a setting and doesn’t fight against anything else. In other words, mosaics harmonious with their environment.
“The National Gallery has some of the most fantastic mosaics on the floor—everyone goes to the National Gallery to look at the paintings, but I highly recommend looking at the floors. They are the best mosaics in London.”
Tessa also started the Hackney Mosaic Project—something that has taken over her life. It started off as a six-month project in 2011 that reached out to those suffering and recovering from mental health problems. Tessa instructs and leads people in recovery to use the time they have as an asset and contribute to public works of art. She isn’t setting out to cure people—but give them a moment in time that can stand for years to come and help give them the satisfaction of making something that lasts.
The Hackney Mosaic Project is ongoing and fosters a productive and healthy community—I highly encourage you to dive further into Tessa and the project’s mission at Hackney-Mosaic.co.uk