Mosaics: Piecing It All Together


Mosaics add charm and whimsy to any room in your home or corner of your garden. Mosaics are not only beautiful to display, but they are truly a lot of fun to make!

Traditional mosaics are made by cutting tiny pieces of glass and fitting them together with just enough space between each piece for grout. Traditions change, however, and today's contemporary mosaics are not only made from glass but broken china pieces, buttons, shells and even Grandma's rhinestone jewelry.

To begin, choose an item on which to mosaic- fountains, small bistro tables and stepping stones are good starting places, but generally mosaics can be applied to any and all surfaces. If you've chosen a smooth surface, rough it up first using fine grit sandpaper or score it using a craft knife. A rough surface will allow the adhesive to form a better grip.

Next, decide on a pattern for your mosaic. For inspiration visit your local library or book store for a pattern or mosaic book. Once you have an idea for a design, draw it on paper and transfer it to the surface using carbon paper and a sharpen pencil or simply draw it directly on the surface.

As with any craft project, the proper tools are essential. Gather or purchase a good multipurpose adhesive (I prefer Liquid Nails), grout, tile nippers (for nipping tile), wheeled glass nippers (for nipping glass), a large sponge, latex gloves, protective eyewear, and a drop cloth or newspaper for work surface protection.

Now lets have some fun choosing tesserae! Tesserae are the small pieces used to make a mosaic. China, pottery pieces, stones, marbles and glass tile are popular forms of tesserae. Ceramic and glass tiles are another form of mosaic vasestesserae. Ceramic tiles have glossy color fired onto the top surface of a ceramic or porcelain tile. Glass tile or Vitreous tile has rich color that extends throughout the body of the tile. Either has smooth front and textured back for better adhesive grip.

Before gluing the tesserae to your surface, determine the best placement and fit. Nip pieces using either a tile or wheeled glass nippers to desire shape, ensuring a proper fit. It is always best to work from the center of the design outward making sure you stop 1/4 from the edge of the surface. Leave 1/8 space between each piece of tesserae for grout.

When you are ready to glue, pick up each piece and place a small amount of glue on the backside and press firmly into place. Hold in place until there is no movement in the tesserae. If the surface is rounded, place it on its side using pillows to hold it in place as you mosaic. Continue this process until the design is complete. Allow glue to dry according to manufactures instructions.

The final step in mosaics is applying the grout. Grout can dramatically effect on the look of your mosaic. Grouts are available in a multitude of colors. Select a shade that either blends or contrast with the tesserae. Mixing grout is quite simple. Wearing a disposable glove, follow the manufacturer's directions and mix just enough for the project. Once mixed mosaic benchapply to the surface, spread the grout into all the nooks and crannies. Wait about 15 minutes for grout to set. Begin to gently wipe away the excess grout using a paper towel taking care not to pull the grout out of tile spaces. It is very important to remove any grout on the tiles surface before grout is completely dry. Using the soft cloth, buff the tiles to a clean shine. Allow 24 hours for the mosaic piece to dry thoroughly.

Now that you know more about mosaics, you can learn about choosing the right tools.

Flower vase (top left) created by Rita Levine; Vases (top right) created by Keturah Esch; and Bench project made with Mosaic Outdoor Cement, bench mold #8875 and pattern from Tiffany Garden Benches #6079.

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Rita Levine

Rita Levine

Rita has been surrounded by arts and crafts her entire life. Is it any wonder that she is now employed by Diamond Tech, one of the largest manufacturers of art glass, mosaic and hot glass crafting products? Rita says most of her inspiration comes from her mother. Her mother's handiwork could be seen in the kitchen where Rita watched her stir up imaginative dishes for her hungry family of nine and in the sewing room where she magically turned feed-sacks into adorable sundresses for her daughters. "So, I would say my genius and inspiration comes from dear ol' Mom," Rita said. Since graduating from the University of Cincinnati, Rita's art career has centered on paper, pencil and computers. However that all changed when she became employed by Diamond Tech. During her tenure, she was introduced to and fell in love with glass and mosaics, a love affair or obsession that continues today.  This obsession has lead Rita to edit and co-author twelve glass crafting books, produce a video on glass beadmaking and provide handmade mosaic projects to several well-known magazines. "In my opinion, glass crafting is an unsung art and I am here to sing its praises. I believe the more one learns about stained glass, mosaics, fusing and glass beadmaking the more one wants to learn MORE!" For 20 years Rita has lived in sunny Tampa, FL. "I have lovely daughter who enjoys mosaics, not necessarily with me - teenagers. Often times we find ourselves at garage sales looking at tables chairs, clocks and saying to each other, 'we can mosaic that!' I'm telling you it's addictive."