Here we go again – me and my new method. Its not new in any real sense of the word as everyone has been doing it for goodness knows how long, but it’s new to me and I like to flatter myself that it is just a teensiest bit new new as my mosaic books only have a version of it, rather than the method I use.
There’s not much to it really – take an MDF board, sand it, score it, seal it, draw your design on it and get mosaicking – the trick, as far as I am concerned, is to use cement based tile adhesive with flex. I have tried my hand at mixing a quantity of your common or garden tile adhesive which the books recommend -the stuff that you use to apply tiles to walls- and I find it crumbly and unpredictable when dry. I once got really excited and spent a fortune on smalti, quite convinced that I had found my true calling, and spent hours making a Byzantine-style plant, only to find that after a while (I cant remember how long) it all started falling off. The good thing was that the smalti just needed a quick brush and it was instantly reusable. The other good thing was that I just trying it out for my own satisfaction, but it would have been a horribly embarrassing disaster if I’d been making it for a commission.
Well, that little experience put me off using the direct method with cement adhesive for a while, and I reverted to tried and trusted tile glue, buttering the tesserae piece by piece and grouting the finished result on completion. All well and good except that I felt that the end product lacked a certain something. It didn’t seem to have the spontaneity or immediacy of Roman mosaics. It all looked just a little too neat and clean. And then, earlier this year, I was in the Byzantine Museum of Thessaloniki staring down at favourite mosaic of a duck which is taken from some long vanished church, and I had a sudden spark of inspiration. The point, or so it seemed to me, was that the early mosaicists pressed their tesserae into a wet surface giving the surface of their work a slight, but very pleasing, unevenness. This is what I set out to do.
This is the result. I thought about grouting it for a while but I worried that the brightness of the colours and unevenness that I was deliberately trying to achieve, would be lost. So I’ve left it ‘self grouted’ and I am pleased to say that it seems (after giving it a thorough scrub) as firmly set as its possible to be. Hurray! Success?