Simply put, mosaics are designs created by embedding small pieces of china, tiles, glass or even stone into a bed of cement or a similar fixative. Mosaics can be used indoors and out, and are often featured on floors, panels, ceilings and vaults. Historically the earliest mosaics can be traced back to the early Greeks, who used water-smoothed pebbles to make polychrome floor mosaics, depicting light figures set against a dark background. However, it was the Romans who exported the knowledge of this dramatic art form, around the globe.
Today mosaic remains a popular form of art. For beginners, there are a number of mosaic-making courses to choose from throughout New Zealand; many are tutored by contemporary mosaic artists themselves. Their methods of mosaic-making have been tried and tested, but the vast majority of courses teach novices the “direct method” of mosaic construction, whereby each tile is glued onto the supporting surface. It’s an ideal way to work with small installations as it allows beginners to make adjustments as they work.
However for larger-scale projects, many mosaic artists prefer to use the “double direct method”, working onto a fibreglass mesh, which is then transported to their installation. Alternatively, another popular approach is the “indirect method” whereby tiles are applied face-down to adhesive paper, before being transferred onto the installation.
To work with mosaic you will need a basic tool kit consisting of:
You will need: a wire brush or rough sandpaper, palette knife, sponges or cloths, paint or a silicone masonry sealant, cement based tile adhesive, grout powder, beeswax polish, a pot or planter, and prepared tesserae – ceramic or glass tiles, broken china, etc.
Mosaic experts recommend:
Choosing a contrasting grout for maximum impact.
Purchasing mirror glue if using pieces of mirror; over time other glues erode mirror foil resulting in unwanted black marks.
Ensuring you use frost-resistant materials in frost-prone areas, or plan to bring your planter inside during the colder months of the year.
Cutting tiles inside a see-through plastic bag – all the little pieces land inside the bag instead of flying up and catching you in the face.
Rinsing your hands with vinegar after working with cement or grout as it helps restore the pH level of your skin.
For outstanding inspirational mosaic moments we suggest visiting an artist’s studio such as The Giant’s House in Akaroa, where Josie Martin, an established artist, painter and sculptor, whose works feature globally in both public and private collections, has created an awe-inspiring array of mosaic installations and art works.
A number of excellent books are available on mosaic art. Take a look at "Backyard Mosaics" by Connie Sheerin which comes jam-packed with exciting projects for outdoor living, including pots and planters, bird baths, signs, and outdoor ornaments. Those seeking design inspiration need look no further than the "Mosaic Idea Book" by Rosalin Wates; it showcases a range of designs and shapes to create mosaic. Meanwhile the works of more than 75 mosaic artists from around the globe are highlighted in JoAnn Locktov’s "Mosaic Art & Style, a book exploring the architectural, decorative and functional aspects of mosaic.
Mosaic websites to check out:
Most major cities and towns regularly host mosaic courses with community centres, education facilities and high schools providing course programmes on a term by term basis, so keep an eye on your local paper for advertisements. Class prices depend on what is provided – some include all materials and equipment, while others require attendees to purchase their own.
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