choosing mosaic tiles & techniques

Mosaic making is really ALL about materials isn't it? Let's face it most mosaic artists are secret horders.  Above is a sample of the treasures i've collected over the years to help inspire the next project. Crockery, keys, coins, plastic buttons, shells, an old necklace, weathered glass collected from many a beach holiday.

Often a mosaic course student has arrived with a box of treasures hoping to create something special with their collection.  Is it the opportunity to play that attracts us to the art of mosaic? After all we are piecing together our ideas by playing with the relationship between the  colour, texture and shape of materials. However there is a BUT...

What happens when you have to make something big, for an outside wall or a mosaic floor feature for a bathroom? Of course all sorts of practical issues then have to be considered and i've found that certain materials have become my 'staples'.  Vitreous glass is one of them.  

Why vitreous glass tiles? Well they are easy to cut with your standard mosaic tile nippers. They also come in a wide colour palette from dark to light, through many tones of one colour and for school art projects the ever useful bright reds, oranges and yellows....great for rainbows and flowers.  

Children are quick at filling in areas of their design once a boundary outline has been put down. Their excitement is in seeing their school mosaic coming to life quickly piece by piece. My job is to make that happen easily for them...

So I usually cut the vitreous glass tiles into halves for outlines and then quarters or random triangles for the filling in.  It's then about managing the glue, not too much, onto the bumpy side of the tile  AND making sure the tiny tesserae pieces have some space around them for the grout. 

Well that's schools but what about my portfolio of mosaic art? My current fascination is with smalti. That  beautiful Byzantine glass manufactured, by hand, at the Orsoni Factory in Italy.

Wielding hammer and hardy, I have been using  smalti to add some textural interest to my latest sculptures.  Here is progress in the studio... 

And it's been great to see the recently reopened Tottenham Court Road public art mosaics by Eduardo Palozzi.  A reminder that we can use smalti in it's 'pizza' form. Large flat slabs which here create a contrast of scale and shape to the 20cm x 20cm vitreous glass tiles used in the background.  Check it out next time you are in London....

Well it's a bye from me for now but  to conclude... I'd say work out your technical and practical boundaries, choose your materials accordingly and then play, play, play! Click for Courses.