(Take Two – I accidently posted this before I’d finished it)
The more we make mosaics, the more we find the methods and tricks which work best for us. These mosaic tips are some of mine – none of them are rocket science but somehow they often get forgotten in mosaic technique books and short courses.
In no particular order, let us begin.
Mosaic Tips: No. 1
Lay the fiddly bits which fit into awkward spaces at the same time as the neighbouring tesserae so, if necessary, you can gently ease the neighbouring tesserae aside while the glue is still wet.
In the simple plant design above, it would have been much harder to lay the white background tesserae in the gaps between the leaves and the stalk if the dark plant tesserae hadn’t still been pliable.
Mosaic Tips: No. 2
Backgrounds tend to look best if they are not one uniform colour. The use of slightly different hues in the background is called ‘peppering’ and serves to liven up the background design which is obviously a crucial part of the whole.
Mark on the board in pencil where your accent pieces will be laid so that you don’t forget to add them during the laying process and end up with an uneven finish. Here is an example of a finished piece with the peppering effect showing in the slightly lighter tesserae in the background.
Mosaic Tips: No. 3
Check your spacing as you work.
You will have thought about this during the planning stage but it’s still important to keep it in mind as you work. The dark tessera at the front of the photo above marks the border of the piece. The bird design above (not shown) is complete and a layer of tesserae has been laid around it (see photo in Tip No 2). It’s important that the spacing between the border and the inner design is reasonably even so that you don’t end up with one thick line of tesserae and one thin one. In this photo you can see that there is space for two evenly sized tesserae between the border and the bird’s outline. Nip the tesserae to the correct size if need be.
Mosaic Tips: No. 4
It might sound a bit like Blue Peter but… when laying out a larger mosaic and working on the layout and spacing, it helps to make cardboard cut outs of the key elements in the design so that you can move them around easily and see how they work in different positions. I would dearly love to get myself a computer design program but until I do, it’s card board cut outs for me!
Mosaic Tips: No 5
Take breaks and use an elastic resistance band.
Mosaic making involves hours of concentrated work often spent sitting down hunched in the same position which puts an enormous strain on the back and upper body. So perhaps the most important of the mosaic tips is to make sure you take frequent breaks and do some quick stretches to avoid doing yourself any long term damage. I find one of these elastic resistance bands does just the trick.
When I started making mosaics I got carried away by the thrill of it all and just couldn’t stop. Eventually, after many wakeful nights with shooting pains in my arm, I ended up in the physiotherapist’s clinic and now I’m much more careful and stop what I’m doing every now and again and do a few stretches with my resistance band.
Is it not terribly hard on the hands generally, all those sharp edges?
It’s very good of you to share your practice in this way.
I thought of your work when we visited Ravenglass recently. There is a large mosaic using local stone – sandstone, beach pebbles, slate. The image is at the end of my last blog post.
No, not hard on the hands at all. Now that you mention it, I can see why it should be, but somehow it’s fine. Thank you for the mosaic ship photograph and I totally agree with you about the beauty of the pack horse bridges. Lovely.
Just finished a coffee table using glass and ceramic tiles. However I can feel some sharp edges when I run my hand over the surface. (My son has already cut himself!)
Is there any way I can smoothly the edges down?
Hello Yvonne, this sounds like the tiles were slightly different heights. Have you grouted it? If so, I would re-grout it and use the grout to smooth off the sharp edges if that makes sense? I hope this helps, Helen.
Thanks Helen – great tips 🙂
I’ve been struggling with my back recently too with some larger mosaics using the direct method – is there any way to work vertically with the direct method?! Its completely ruining me!
Its a tough one and I’m afraid I cant really help. I would suggest perhaps having your mosaic tilted towards you on a block and using one of those chairs that can be raised, rather like the sort of set up an architect would use. Good luck with it.