Category Archives: WeNo blog

WeNo guide to… Mosaic Workshop!



Turning into Chestnut Road, just past the fruit and veg stall, our Intrepid FEAST reporter found Harry Day Mews. This handsome former furniture warehouse built in 1922 is now flats. Once you’ve buzzed the intercom, metal gates glide open and the Mosaic Workshop, London’s only specialist mosaic shop, is across the courtyard.


If making is your thing, a visit here is like being a five-year-old in a sweet shop, drawn to an array of baskets and inviting jars full of coloured tiles. Noticeable are the edible-looking millifiori, glass with a patterned interior, reminiscent of seaside rock. Then there are the packets of handmade smalti, traditional, richly coloured mosaic glass imported by owner James from the same Italian family for 20 years.


Here also are ‘the treats’ as James calls them – bronze, copper, silver and gold leaf tiles that an artist uses sparingly to embellish a piece. They shimmer when sunlight passes across them. The urge to touch is strong.


The shop is a large space with shelves containing all the workaday tools to make a mosaic: tile cutters, grouts, tiler sponges, adhesives and wood bases in various shapes and sizes, mirrors and table tops. But it is the unglazed ceramic and vitrified glass tiles sourced from Mexico, China, India, France, Portugal and Italy in every colour imaginable that leave a lasting impression.


So why is Mosaic Workshop in West Norwood? The business was launched in Holloway by mosaic artist Emma Biggs in 1987. Back then the focus was on mosaic commissions. Selling mosaic materials evolved into an additional income later. James joined in the early 90s, eventually taking on the shop side of the business. Being local to West Norwood, he set up in the current premises nine years ago. He recalls some of the commissions they did in those early days – mosaic pieces for Sir Terence Conran’s flagship restaurants Quaglinos and Mezzo, restoration work at the National Portrait Gallery, and a pair of boxing gloves for the bottom of Frank Bruno’s swimming pool! One of the highlights has been fixing a mosaic in a 13-storey cruise liner in Germany. James describes it as a floating tower block – from the top the people working below looked like ants. The mosaic was 20 square metres and took a week to install.


Who frequents the shop? About 10 per cent of customers are in the building trade. And, of course, Mosaic Workshop has artist regulars professionally working on commissions, community projects or running courses. Tessa Hunkin, a trained architect, also part of the original Mosaic Workshop team and responsible for some large-scale mosaics in Westminster Cathedral, now runs Hackney Mosaic Project. This group has created some of London’s finest community mosaics, often working therapeutically with people in the process of making. Examples of their work can be seen at London Zoo.


But the majority of customers are people undertaking decorative projects for their home – a hearth for a fireplace, garden paving slabs, bird baths, feature mirrors, and splashbacks for kitchens and bathrooms. Because it’s important to see the colours in person, makers will often visit deepest West Norwood, despite the mail-order service. What James enjoys most is meeting his customers, hearing about their projects and sharing ideas. It’s a bonus when they send in photos of the completed project. James comments that there has been a resurgence of interest in mosaics as an art form. Maybe this is due to the fact people are enhancing their homes rather than moving house. He ponders, “but also making requires concentration – it’s a good way of blocking stress, it’s a moment of peace”.

That sums up the experience of Mosaic Workshop. There is a kind of serenity in the space and …something oh-so-deeply attractive about those colourful tiles.


Mosaic Workshop

Unit 2 Harry Day Mews

1 Chestnut Rd

SE27 9EZ


Tue to Fri 10 to 5.30pm

Sat 10 to 4pm

Monthly Late Night until 8pm (1st Wednesday of every month)



WeNo Insider’s Guide to… Floral Hall!

Presenting Floral Hall, a longstanding West Norwood business with deep roots in the community.

Entering the shop you are greeted by a central explosion of colour and a subtle fragrance of flowers; along the edges are displays of seeds, bulbs, chocolates, candles and vases. And there’s more… for tucked around the corner on Lansdowne Hill, Floral Hall run a garden centre (a relatively young business at just five years old!) This does a particularly brisk trade in December when local people are busy selecting their Christmas trees and eagerly carrying them away.


Owner Sally and her team have been trading flowers from the high street premises for 20 years. When you view the attractive, wide shop frontage with plants arranged on the pavement, the shop does have certain solid presence. The business actually goes back even further – an impressive 37 years, operating initially as a flower stall. Sally recalls the pitch. It was next to a fish wagon and fruit stall on the cobbled right of way outside the Thurlow Arms (now Tesco Metro). The row of market stalls had operated in that spot for generations.


When Sally first came to West Norwood, there were an amazing seven floral outlets. She explains, “you see, there was no internet or competing supermarket trade…”. Even so, that seems like a lot of florists. But as our intrepid FEAST reporter spoke to Sally, it became clear flowers are part of the fabric of our lives. People use them to mark significant life events, in times of celebrations: weddings, special birthdays and births; and the painful times of loss: for funerals. So it’s not surprising Sally and her staff have got to know the shop regulars over the years, seen people’s kids grow up and go to university etc, which explained why during the interview in neighbouring Sorrento Restaurant, Sally was greeted by passersby saying hello and keen to exchange news.


So, what is unique about Floral Hall? Well, Sally prides herself on good service. You can order online and items can be delivered. Visitors to the shop notice the friendly atmosphere and gentle banter. Kevin, Christine and Linda have been working with Sally for years and they work together with ease.


And the highlights of the job? Sally doesn’t hesitate – the flowers. “You never cease to be amazed by their smell and beauty”. But it’s hard work, labour intensive. She visits New Covent Garden Market four times a week, arriving at 5am to haggle with buyers – a job her late husband Terry excelled at. She then has to load her van, drive back, unload, prepare and arrange stock. As she points out, it’s perishable stock so it’s risky judging what you need. The team have worked all night to meet the deadlines of Mothers Day and Valentines Day – bouquets have to be prepared fresh. She remembers with a smile how the Thurlow Arms publican would see the shop lights burning after hours and bring over a tray of sandwiches and hot toddies! Then there was the time when Next needed 250 buckets of flowers for their autumn catalogue shoot and they scrambled to meet the brief. But there have been highs –preparing the flowers for Kate Winslett’s wedding when she was at the height of her career (all top secret). And, inevitably, there have been lows – the time the van was stolen with all their stock just before Valentines Day and Terry had no choice but to purchase all the flowers again and buy a new van.


Have there been any memorable jobs? Certainly! Dead floral arrangements for a film set. Also many personal specialist arrangements – Linda recently created a floral ballroom dancing couple that they were particularly proud of.


This year is the shop’s 20th anniversary. We hope the team takes some time out for a well-deserved celebration!

Floral Hall

370 Norwood Road

SE27 9BQ

Mon-Sat 8.30 to 6pm and Sun 8.30 to 5pm












#WeNo Insider’s Guide to Maddison’s second hand shop

For this edition, our roving reporter headed past St Lukes up towards Rosebery’s auction house.


If you are a dedicated bargain hunter with a passion for second hand goods, then Maddison’s is a treat. The forecourt is a jumble of furniture. Inside, the shop is crammed with bookcases, chest of drawers, desks. The odd chair dangles from the ceiling. All of this is interspersed with bric a brac. It’s the type of shop where you need to look carefully and rummage; hard to manoeuvre around, with little focus on presentation, certainly worth peering behind bulky items for hidden treasures.


Whilst our intrepid FEAST reporter was talking to owner Ian, a steady stream of people browsed or purchased. The last was a young man who happily carried off a working typewriter. Ian commented he has regulars who pass by every couple of weeks. Each has their own particular interest, be it 50’s furniture, records, vintage cameras. And tellingly, about 35% of customers are trade. Note. You have been tipped off – because these are dealers looking for quality goods to sell on in their shops.


There are historic links to nearby Roseberys. Ian was first introduced to Roseberys by his antique dealer dad, keen to settle his son into the world of work when he returned home from travelling. For 11 years Ian worked at Roseberys; initially selling catalogues, becoming a furniture porter, cataloguing and doing bits of valuation work. When Roseberys began concentrating on higher value antiques, he saw a gap in the market. In 2003, he set up shop in a former butchers called… yes…Maddison’s. The name stuck. He took the original shop sign with him 4 years ago when changing premises.


So where does Ian get his stock? Well, about 85% comes from house clearances. Which explains why Maddison’s mid week opening is ad hoc – Ian will be out doing clearance or downsizing work. Call ahead to check opening, but Saturdays in the shop is the busy day – always open with fresh stock. Ian looks wistful “Its amazing how much people amass over a lifetime”. He recently cleared a massive 7 tons out of a studio flat.   Inevitably some of this stuff goes to the tip (one property contained 30 broken kettles, another a collection of cheese labels from around the world). However, he recycles as much as possible. To that end, Maddison’s has an on going relationship with neighbouring charity shop Emmaus. Ian donates over a van load a week to Emmaus; mainly lower value items like books. In contrast, some of the vintage curios now goes to Mabel’s Five and Dime. This is Maddison’s new sister shop, based in Sydenham.




86 Knight’s Hill

SE27 0JD

Call Ian for weekday opening times 07956 832970

Sat 10 to 4pm