How To Make Mosaics
I usually start out with a piece of plywood for the base. I have recently found that a cabinet grade plywood will hold up much better than a standard board. You could also use a garden stone, counter top, concrete bench, etc. Get creative with it! I always have my design and color palette in mind before starting, and I check my supplies to be sure I have enough tiles in stock. I also have a box of tools which contains a file, tile cutters, hammer, mirror mastic, and tile adhesive.
Once I choose the base material (wood) I cut it to size with a power saw, sand the edges and back, and seal the back side. I seal it in the beginning so that I don't have to risk moving it too much at the end. I flip the material over and draw out the design with a piece of chalk. I like to use chalk because it's easy to revise the drawing if needed. If I am using mirror, I attach the mirror to the board at the beginning. The reason for this is to make sure the mirror glue dries before getting started with the tiles.
For this particular piece, the wood is cut to 36" x 24" and the mirror is about 30" x 12". I drew out my whimsical design of flowers and dragonflies and started smashing tiles. The dragonfly wings have a lace pattern imprinted onto them that was done during tile making. The flower stems were strips of clay that were easily cut into small rectangles. The grass tiles were probably the most difficult because I had to break them into pointy pieces. There are three shades of green that were used for the grass. It was tricky to alternate the colors without having a repeating pattern. The blue sky tiles have flower impressions that allow the glaze to pool and change color within the same tile. I also used glass beads around the top half to create a frame around the mirror. I felt that the design needed some relief for the eye at the top part near the mirror. I always finish the edge with small square tiles or beads so that there is no need to frame it. Once all the pieces are in, it is best to wait for all the glue to dry completely
Then I choose the grout color. Light grey works for nearly every piece, but sometimes it is fun to add some mood to the overall piece with colored grout. Grouting is really messy. It gets everywhere. I always cover my tabletops and hands with plastic. I also have separate materials for grouting; separate sponges and bowls and towels because it doesn't wash out of things well. After mixing the grout I have to work fast to cover the entire piece and sides with the grout. I let it set up a bit before cleaning it off with water. I then let the grout dry for about 2 days before sealing it. I like to seal the grout so that it doesn't rub off onto my hands when handling. I also feel that the sealer keeps the grout in tact. It may not be necessary to seal the grout, but I like to do it so that when handling and transporting my work, it stays clean and feels finished.
Once all that work is done, I have to put the backing on so that the piece can be hung. Again, there are several ways this can be done! The way I do it is by drilling 2 small holes in the back of the piece where I want it to be hung. I then put in heavy duty eye hooks and loop across a piece of wire that is suited to hold the weight of the artwork.
This piece was created in the summer of 2008.