How to make mosaics for your home

Anyone can make dazzling colorful Mosaics, no matter if you are 6 or 60 years old. By using some imagination and creativity you can create stunning objects or functional pieces for your home. Mosaics allow you to decorate furniture or create totally abstract pieces of art.

The basic method for all Mosaics is the same, a collection of small pieces are set into grout on a suitable base. If you go to your local library or book stores you will find many books on Mosaics that will give you some great examples of what you can achieve. Throughout this explanation, I shall refer to ‘grout’ and ‘tesserae’, ‘grout’ is the cement-like substance that you use to fill the gaps between the tesserae and make the surface level while strengthening the Mosaic at the same time. ‘Tesserae’ are the individual parts that together make the Mosaic. Tesserae used to only be small square pieces of ceramic but today they can be anything from ceramic to rubber, wood, glass, metal, old plates, and more. Anything you can get hands-on that will form a pattern.

Mosaic supplies you will need:

Tesserae.

Tile cutter for cutting large ceramic tiles.

Tile nippers used to shape the tesserae.

Glass cutter for cutting mirrors or glass panels.

Heavy duty gloves as protection while cutting glass.

Protective clear safety goggles for when you are cutting/breaking tiles.

Surgical gloves to keep your hands clean while applying the grout.

A hammer for breaking up irregular shaped pottery.

Buckets for mixing the grout in.

Jug for water.

Something to spread the grout, like a kitchen spatula.

An adhesive that will stick ceramics, wood, glass, metal and rubber.

Cleaning cloths and sponges, ideally the kind with a rough green side and a soft sponge side.

Cement or grout.

Sharp knife.

Plastic cover to protect working area.

Method

Preparation

You can mosaic practically anything that will stand up to the weight of the grout and the tesserae. A good way to start is to buy 1/4 inch hard board that has been sealed for outdoor use, this is very cost effective as a 4×4 feet sheet will only cost about $4.00. If you want to use furniture try going to your local Goodwill shop where you can find many pieces of furniture to transform into exquisite works of Mosaic art.

Before you can begin, you need to check the following.

1. Check that the surface you are going to use does not have extreme curves, other wise the grout will not adhere to the surface.

2. If you are going to use a wood base make sure you score the surfaces to help the grout fix, this is called applying a ‘tooth’ to the surface.

3. Make sure you seal wooden surfaces with a watered down solution of PVA glue, the white general purpose glue you can find at any hardware store.

4. Make sure the adhesive you have will work with the combination of tesserae substance and base substance.

5. Clean the surface thoroughly so the grout can catch.

Tesserae

You can go to your local hobby store and buy pre-made square tesserae made from glass or ceramics. A cheaper way is to purchase bulk quantities from a wholesaler online. A more fun collection method is to find old broken plates or floor tiles and create the tesserae yourself. The cheapest way to collect these is to go to your local tile shop or tile maker and ask them for any broken or unsalable tiles. You can also buy last year’s designs cheaper if they have a lot left over.

Grout

Grout is basically the same as cement apart from the type of sand that is used in higher quality and produces smoother finishes. You can get two types of grout, sanded and smooth. The sanded grout will give you a coarser finish but will work better when the gaps between the tesserae are wide. The smooth grout works better for finer details. Grout comes in all kinds of colors and you can create you own buy purchasing white grout and then adding a pigment or acrylic paint. You can buy grout either premixed or dry from a hobby shop or anywhere that sells floor tiles/kitchen tiles.

Inspiration

Absolutely any thing could inspire you. A walk in the park or city, paintings, television, advertising or a story. Be open to colors and designs as you go about your daily business. There are many historical images of Mosaics from the Romans to the Mexican Mayas. Try to make your mosaics original and special to you as this will make them more meaningful and their appeal will last longer. Remember mosaics will last for a very long time so make it worth doing.

Creating

There are two ways to make mosaics. You can either use the direct grout method or use adhesive and then grout over the top. If you are wanting speed the direct method is best but has the disadvantage of you not being able to see any pre drawn design on the base. The adhesive method means you can follow a design but you have more cleaning up to do as you lay the grout over the tesserae into the gaps.

The direct method

Before you start, have a design already in your mind or an image as inspiration. After preparing the base you mix the grout and apply it directly to the base in a small area, say the size of your hand. You then push the tesserae directly into the grout forming the pattern or design as you go. Once you have completed the design let it dry and give the tesserae a quick polish and you are finished.

The adhesive method

Draw out the design onto your base and then apply the tesserae one at a time by putting the adhesive on the tesserae and the attach it to the base. If you have large areas you can lay down a line of adhesive and then stick the tesserae to this. Once the adhesive has throughly set mix the grout and push it into the gaps left between the tesserae using your hand or a spatula. Immediately use a sponge to level of the grout and remove the excess. Clean the tesserae as well as you can, then leave the mosaic to dry. Once dry you can use a damp sponge to clean the tesserae. Using some household polish and lint free cloth, polish until they shine.

When using the grout I would recommend the use of old cloths or an apron to protect you as grout stains everything it comes in contact with while wet.

Summary

This has been a very brief essentials list of how to Mosaic but everything you need to know is included. As a beginner I would recommend the use of pre-made tesserae and flat board. As you become accustomed to the procedure let your imagination go wild as there are no boundaries to this fascinating and seductive art form. Have fun.

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