07 January 2011

How to make an Original and long lasting Mosaic PART ONE


There are so many styles of mosaicing, and with some research on the internet, you will soon see what does, and does not appeal to you. There is no point in laboring over a mosaic creation, only to detest it on completion and hide it away in the cellar or garden. I don’t like seeing mosaic creations that are falling to pieces and rotting either. A good mosaic should last for a long time. An outdoor mosaic needs to be made properly to withstand temperature changes and weather.
Most of my very first mosaics creations have been recycled or hidden away, so why not skip this expensive learning curve and learn the correct methods? On the various internet mosaicing social networks, I come across names of materials I have never heard of, like “thinset”. In South Africa, we don’t have the same choices but manage well with the basics and some good products made by one or two companies.
My Golden Rules for beginners:
1)      Do not mosaic using a timber substrate, especially if the piece will be exposed to fluctuating temperatures. Timber expands and contracts and eventually the mosaic will fall apart. If the mosaic is going to stay indoors at a constant temperature it should be OK.
2)      Paint a priming agent or bonding liquid on surfaces before mosaicing on to them, and make sure you are glue-ing your piece onto a really sound, clean and firm surface.
3)      Buy some glass mosaic cutters. All mosaic artists should have some of these. 
4)      Start small. Remember, “Less is more”. Contrast your background and foreground colors or else the detail is lost.
5)      BE PATIENT! Drying time is important. No rushing- you just end up having to re grout the whole thing if you rush. Aim to get your grout level with the surface of your pieces
6)      Be Safe: Glass and glazed ceramic pieces are sharp. Wear goggles and gloves. Adhesives and grout are hard on nails and skin. Take precautions. Wear shoes in the work room and be careful of your elbows too. 
Materials required:
Water, Adhesive, grout, bonding liquid, buckets, sponges, spatulas, glass mosaic cutters and tile nippers. 
Collect or buy:
Tesserae: pebbles, shells, hardwood, ostrich shells, sea shells, glass, broken ceramic things
Ceramic or glass tiles, glass nuggets, ceramic or glass buttons,  ceramic or large glass beads, (semi precious stones can also be used if flat enough)
Earthmaid Mosaic inserts from Knysna Pottery House  www.knysnapotteryhouse.co.za 

A Surface:
Mirror frames, walls, floors, big stones, umbrella stands, fireplace surrounds, planters, an old bath in the garden, an entrance hall a path, a big paving slab, a birdbath, a fibre cement board


tree of life detail- before grouting. This mosaic, a  large wall panel, got lost by couriers on it's way to Texas, USA,  but was found, slightly damaged after 3 weeks. They refunded the transport cost, which was almost twice the cost of the mosaic. It was repaired and installed at the clients swimming pool - so a happy ending...


 I sold this at a craft fair.
 mosaic inserts around a mirror
 handmade from real leaf imprints from our jungly Knysna Pottery House garden
 she sells sea shells on the sea shore - we have big ones and small ones
To be continued…. 
Part Two...

28 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:53 PM

    This is the first time I comment on your site, but I've been reading it for a while now. I admire the passion with which you write the articles and hope someday I can do the same. Love

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  2. Hi, I'm just hoping to hang something on the wall. What do you recommend as the surface? Does it have to be a canvas?

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    1. this is a strange question, but doesnt seem to be spam so published it. Does what have to be canvas? the wall? the mosaic surface? No neither of those should be canvas. If you just want to hang something on the wall, find a piece of natural weathered timber, or a nice painting at the thrift store, hang that on the wall and save yourself lots of trouble. mosaic work takes commitment, patience and artistry.

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  3. How much does a complete mosaic art work for outdoor garden wall cost? As a self made art or as a purchased art? 24' X 10' wall

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    1. I dont know how to answer as I dont work on a flat rate. I work in metric system so I dont understand that size too well. My mosaics priced from R5000...upwards. depending on detail, colours and other factors..

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  4. Hi! I am new to mosaic and have a few questions. I recently bought a beautiful 140cm round Italian porcelain table that was smashed to pieces while shipping by the time it got to me. This actually happened twice so I have a lot of broken material to work with. I want to use the smashed porcelain pieces to make a mosaic table with the same dimensions as the one I ordered. Does porcelain work? its probably 3cm thick. What would be the best material/wood to use underneath? (it is for outdoor use) What is the best type of grout? I would want it a dark brown to match the colour of the porcelain. Thanks for any tips you can give me!

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    1. yes, porcelain works well. The best material to use as the substrate is Fibre cement board, called Nutec in South Africa. You can get it in 9mm thick sheets, and cut to size with an angle grinder. If table is large and needs support- double up the sheets- ie glue them together and clamp it overnight so you end up with 18mm base... hope this helps you. remember to apply bonding liquid to the fibre cement board before gluing pieces down. waterproof the underneath part with ordinary wall paint. Grout: Ordinary grout is fine, made with bonding liquid and water- the bonding liquid makes grout waterproof and strong. You can buy brown grout or make it yourself. best to buy it ready made though....

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    2. to make the brown grout- you use artists acrylic paint- mix into water before adding grout powder...

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  5. Anonymous6:14 AM

    Hi,

    We have an outdoor retaining wall. I believe that we do get moisture (cannot see it but there is soil and plants on the other side). I want to create a mosaic art work on this wall. Do I need to prep this wall in any particular way? It is 7ft tall and 12ft long.

    As of now it is painted. It also has some 'pipe' openings on the bottom for seepage of extra water from the soil on the other side.

    Can I send you the pictures on any account?

    PS: After reading SEVERAL blogs, I found yours and havent looked for another one yet :-)

    I hope you keep posting more.

    Regards,
    --
    Surbhi
    surbhi.s.gupta@gmail.com

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    1. thank you Surbhi. One of the classic mistakes all beginner mosaic artists make, is to make their first project a big one. I really believe one should start with a small project. Regarding your large wall, I would not mosaic directly on to it, due to the moisture problem you mention. Rather mosaic onto a fibre cement board, and attach that to the wall with bolts. You could divide it into smaller squares and do the mosaic in patches, rather than one large board. make sure to waterproof the back of the board as well.

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    2. You can tile directly onto wall, around the outer edge of the boards, to create a frame around the mosaic.

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    3. Thanks Marylou,
      I appreciate your taking the time to reply back. I will definitely take your advise on starting with smaller projects. The big wall just sits out there glaring at me like a big blank canvas but it should wait till I can get a better grip of the art.
      Regards,
      --
      Surbhi

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    4. In the meantime, you could do a painting on it. A practice run for the mosaic. paint the wall to look like giant flowers and ferns with a tiger peeping through it... haha, that should be fun. Plain water based paint. You can always just white it out and try again if you dont like it.

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  6. Hi,
    I love the instructions of putting the mosaic on the fibre cement board and bolting it to the wall, instead of mosaic directly on the wall...very smart! My question is similar. My wall is an indoor brick fireplace. It's the deep red (basic) brick, but I would love for it to be white, so it would make the room seem not so dark. I was planning on painting the brick white, but obviously mosaic would be so much more beautiful! Would you suggest straight on mosaic for the entire wall ( floor to ceiling ) or doing it like you explained for the last person? The last question is about the weight of the mosaic. Just picking up a handful of glass or a small container of grout is so heavy, so adding enough for especially a large project seems like it would be too heavy for even a wall, or am I overthinking it? Thank you for you're expert advise.

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    1. A brick wall can definitely handle the weight, and i am sure a well built dry wall could handle a mosaic panel as well. Think of it as adding an extra layer, which adds strength, if anything. I think you should tackle the mosaic one area at a time, and not directly onto the wall. ie- use fibre cement board- about 6mm thick. If you move, you can always remove the mosaic without causing any damage- and just patch the holes.

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  7. hi. other than bolting a mosaic to a wall, if created with a cement sheet backing, what are some options for wall hanging, as if it were a painting, but not.. i am not wanting to get my project framed once complete and want to hang it on the wall. it will be approx 1 meter wide x 0.5 meters high

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    Replies
    1. sorry I really cant advise you to hang a big heavy mosaic on a wall- if it falls off it would break or break something below it. Bolts can be removed if you ever need to take the mosaic down. I usually allow space for a ceramic frame on the board- all in one and bolt to wall.

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  8. Hi i would like to know a few options for hanging a mosaic created on cement sheet backing on a wall in my home, once complete i dont want to get my project framed. it willbe approx 100cm wide x 50cm high. i have not started .. thanks

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    Replies
    1. Hi Guilia. is the wall a brick wall? If so- drill four holes in the corners of your mosaic and leave them uncovered. when complete mark holes on wall, once you are sure it is in perfect level position, drill holes into walls and then attach the mosaic. If exposed to the elements- seal between board and wall so insects rain etc dont get behind it. And paint and seal the back of the board too. (beforehand)

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  9. Anonymous4:03 PM

    Hi, I'm Betty Anne. I created an outdoor mosaic table top to put on a cast iron sewing table base. Put it outside and the wood base warped in the weather and it's now falling apart. I want to try another one, but need to ask if putting wood under the cement board that I'm going to use is wise? I need to attach it to table legs at some point, and I'm not sure what to do. Any pointers?

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    Replies
    1. Dont use wood at all- get 2 sheets of 9mm fibre cement board, cut to size and glue them together- clamped so you end up with a board 18mm thick. waterproof the undersides and protect the edges too and it will handle all weather as it does not expand or contract. but it must be waterproofed and the grouting must be done very well, with added waterproofing agent.

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    2. If it is a small table- 9mm thick board will be fine- bigger tables need thicker board.

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  10. Hello Marylou, I want to do a flower box to hold large planters. This will be outside. From what I can gather you do not recommend using wood as the base. What about metal? Cement? Thank you for your help.

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    Replies
    1. cement is definitely the best. Use a cement based tile adhesive when sticking mosaics onto concrete or cement, not the ready made glue as that does not last outdoors as well as the powder tile adhesive. learned that the hard way on a birdbath.

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  11. cement/concrete pots are definitely best. remember to apply a coat of bonding liquid to it before applying mosaic, and add it to the grout water as well. to make it waterproof.

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  12. Hi, your work is wonderful! I was wondering if you could help me with a step by step process to make a mosaic for outside? I've been looking on the Internet for about a month now and I don't know what to do to the concrete fiberboard I'm going to be getting. I'm hoping it will be either 2x3 feet or 3x4. The materials I currently have are blue porcelain and a large mirror. I want to honor the area I live in by making a mosaic of the great Lakes I live on. I'll probably pick up more plates cups etc. At garage sales.

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    Replies
    1. Yes collect as much as you can first. if its your first mosaic, dont be too ambitious about your composition and great lakes etc.... keep to a pattern or something simple for the most effect.

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