Making a mosaic on mesh – step by step

 

making a mosaic on mesh
My Unswept Floor mosaic. Photo and mosaic: Helen Miles Mosaics

How to make a direct method mosaic on mesh, Part I

Truth be told, I am going through a bit of a mesh phase. I cant seem to get enough of it. Making a mesh on mesh is just so darn simple, convenient, versatile and all-round handy. The finished work is easily lifted from its base, doesn’t weigh much and is a total synch to transport. The ‘unswept floor’ mosaic I am working on above is just the latest in a string of mesh mosaics I have made in my new found enthusiasm for the method.

Here’s one that’s finished. See what I mean about it’s light weight, ready-to-go-ness?

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One of the things I like about making a mosaic on mesh, is that they can be whatever shape you like:

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What more could you possibly want? Nothing. Good, we’re agreed, so let’s get to work.

Supplies:

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First, you will need some supplies:

  • Your design. Make sure it is clearly outlined with a black marker pen so that it is easy to see through the layers once the cling film and mesh are laid  on top.
  • A backing board
  • Tape
  • Cling film
  • Mesh. All mosaic suppliers will keep it in stock. I use the Mosaic Workshop but I have actually found some perfectly good mesh in a builder’s yard here in Athens, so I don’t think you need to get particularly fussy about it being mosaic mesh as opposed to any other kind.
  • PVA Glue
  • A Stanley knife

Making a mosaic on mesh- the method:

1. Put your design on the backing board and tape it down at the corners.

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2. Put a layer of cling film over the design so that the mesh doesn’t end up getting glued onto the paper. Tape the cling film down too.

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3. Put the mesh on top, securing it firmly at the edges.

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4. Lay your tesserae in the normal manner. For more details on laying a direct method mosaic go to my post: http://helenmilesmosaics.org/making-mosaics-2/how-to-make-mosaics/making-a-mosaic-trivet/

TOP TIP:  Take care to apply only enough glue needed to fix the individual tesserae to the mesh – not so much that it squishes around the sides. You want to make sure that the gaps between the tesserae are clear for the grout to fill.

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5. Wait until the glue is fully dry and then cut around the mosaic with your Stanley knife, so it can be lifted off the base:

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6. Turn the mosaic over and peel off the cling film:

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7. Grout the mosaic in the usual way. (See my post on grouting: http://helenmilesmosaics.org/making-mosaics-2/grouting-mosaics/ ). Leave it to dry and, voila, there you have a light weight, ‘cut out’ mosaic that you can fix onto any clean, dry, flat surface.

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A word of warning

I got the idea for pre-grouting the mosaics on mesh from Elaine Goodwin’s book Classic Mosaic in which she has a wonderful photograph of a court yard space with mosaicked birds on the wall hovering over an actual (mosaicked) bird table. It seemed like a good idea to grout in advance because you avoid all the mess and bother of grouting on site especially if you making small mosaics.  The only drawback though, is that the pieces are fragile. I don’t recommend choosing a shape/design with fiddly bits or thin projections. I made a bird aka Goodwin and the tail cracked after grouting. A spot of super glue will set it to rights but I will avoid shapes like this in the future.

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Furthermore, I don’t intend to use the pre-grouted technique on slightly larger mosaics. This one is 32cm  x 23cm and I feel that it’s best to grout it once it’s been applied on site to a wall with tile adhesive.

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For Making Mosaics on Mesh, Part II: Larger mosaics on mesh, follow this link: http://helenmilesmosaics.org/mosaic-tutorials/larger-mosaics-on-mesh/

For further mosaic tutorials, go to my series on Making a Mosaic Trivet.

 

 

 

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31 Comments

    1. Hi there – first of all please accept my apologies for my late reply. I was on a rather extended holiday without a laptop! You can only use tesserae of different sizes on mesh if you dont want the finished work to be flat. There isn’t a way that I know of to build them up and make them all an equal height if you are using mesh. I hope that helps. Many thanks, Helen

    1. Interesting question. The glue I use explicitly says on the can that it’s suitable for indoor and outdoor use and for sticking all manner of materials including stone so I suspect it’s not simple PVA. I can’t see any reason why it would be incompatible with exterior tile adhesive but I have only used the mesh method for mosaics which are either indoor mosaics or ones which have a sheltered position outdoors. I wouldn’t put them on a north facing wall which is going to be battered by sea storms every day! Please let me know what you think/decide. Thanks, Helen.

      1. Jill fordham

        Hi I am grappling with the same thing, I want make quite a large outdoor ground mosaic, and have been advised outdoor pva is ok with mesh as long as you apply it sparingly so that grout can get between the tiles. You can definitely do this. Nevertheless there are different schools of thought on how water, and frost resistant this might be

        1. Yes, that’s right about not applying too much PVA. When it is being installed the mosaic will be set into a bed of tile adhesive and will be grouted after that so the PVA is not the key ingredient when it comes to ensuring that the mosaic is fully embedded and will be resistant to water, frost etc.

  1. Barbara Masterson

    I love your tutorial but this may seem like a crazy question but I will ask anyway. If you are gluing the tile to the mesh over the saran wrap, how are you able to peel away the saran wrap? In my mind the glue would get on the saran wrap and not peel. What am I missing please?

    1. Not a crazy question at all and I can see why you are puzzled but don’t worry the cling film/saran wrap always comes away effortlessly. I have done it countless times and never had a problem with it sticking. I guess it’s because it’s a plastic slimey surface and the glue doesn’t adhere to it. If you are worried I would do a tiny sample with your glue just to double check. All the best, Helen.

  2. Carmen Eustaquio

    Thank you for the easy instructions! I started my project using the mesh, plastic and a colored picture of the religious icon. Its size
    is 23 (W) X 33 (H) inches. I will install the mosaic in my mom’s tomb. Can you please give me an advice on how to divide the artwork into at least 2 pieces and was thinking of putting it in a box or suitcase when I fly back home. I am avoiding the cost of cargo freight. I am from San Diego and the mosaic will be installed in Manila, Philippines. Should I divide the mosaic before I finish or after all the tesserae are in place? Much Thanks!

    1. Hi Carmen! Thanks for your questions which are really good ones. First of all, it’s best to divide the mosaic after you finish if at all possible so that the flow of the andamento is consistent throughout the mosaic. For the break/s, try and choose a line which fits with your design. So, for example, if your design is of fish swimming, then it makes sense to break the mosaic under the fish’s belly rather than through it! Since your design is of an icon, you would probaby want to break the mosaic under the head following the neck line perhaps? What I do is choose the break line/s before I start work and draw them onto the design and then lay the tesserae very slightly further apart along that line so a) I dont forget where the break is going to be and b) I am completely sure that the mosaic will be easy to cut. I will send you some photographs to your email address and also amend this blog post in due course so illustrate the point. All the best with your work, Helen.

  3. Rebecca Edwards

    Wonderful tutorial, thank you, Helen. I’ve been wanting to make irregular shaped pieces for a while now, and you’ve shown me how to do it. Much appreciated!

  4. I have purchased adhesive mesh. If I am making a mirror, do I adhere it to the frame with glue and then grout it? Or would you recommend I just apply the tiles directly to the mirror frame? I am guessing the benefit of using mesh is to be able to attach to walls? Are there any other benefits or suggestions for using mesh?

    1. Hello Arlene, In answer to your question, no, there are no advantages to using mesh in your case and you should apply the tiles directly to the frame. The advantages of using mesh is that it allows you to make a mosaic for a wall or floor or other awkward surface at your work table and then easily transport it and install it in situ. For small surfaces which are already suitable for applying mosaic like a wooden frame, then you dont need to use it. I hope that helps. All the best, Helen.

  5. Rebecca

    Hello Helen,
    Are you living in Athens? My family is from Mytilini…no wonder you love the Byzantium themes! I appreciate your tutorial as well and will gather my supplies so I can try this.
    Thank you for the very educational lesson!
    Rebecca

    1. Hi Rebecca! Yes, I am in Athens but will be moving back to Edinburgh next month (while still having long periods in Greece). Where are you? I would love to see the results once you have finished the mosaic. Helen.

  6. karen

    Hiya Helen.
    Great tutorial. I have done a bit of direct mosiacing outisde onto stone and an old tree stump
    .What is a suitable surface to do cut out shapes to go outside? Is it Water resistant MDF. I am thinking of doing fish, animals and flower shapes etc. Thought wood would swell.
    Also what glue woud you use for exterior.

    Thank you.
    Keep up the great tutorials

    1. Hi Karen – sorry for the late reply – my computer was in the repair shop. I wouldn’t use MDF for outdoor use unless it’s in a very sheltered place and you don’t live somewhere which gets very wet/damp/humid. I would imagine that your best bet is to use mesh and then apply the mosaic directly onto whichever permanent outdoor surface you have chosen using an exterior grade water proof tile adhesive. The other great option is to use Wediboard – you should be able to order it from a mosaic supplier pretty easily. It’s perfect for outdoor use and of course has the advantage of being transportable if you wanted to move your mosaic to a different spot. As for the glue, I use one I can buy here in Greece called Atlacoll No. 37 which is very strong and suitable for binding all sorts of materials so I would just go along to your local hard ware shop and ask for an exterior glue suitable for ceramic or whatever material you use. I hope that helps. All the best, Helen.

  7. Helen,
    I am a watercolour artist, of long standing, 74 years old now.
    I have recently found a Victorian table plinth, and it is my intention to try my hand at making a mosaic table top 26″ x 24″so that I can breath a whole new life into the thing and use it as a plant stand.
    I have researched the net and come to the conclusion that your very generous instruction is miles ahead of anything that I have found, and therefore I will follow your advise, diligently!d
    Kind regards,
    Anthony.

  8. Cathy

    I’m wanting to give a make-over to 3×1 metre high plastic pots in the garden of a hospital – they look incredibly depressing as the pants get no attention and so die. I will be unable to move them so using the mesh method sounds a good idea – I’m thinking of separate mosaics of child-like flowers on stalks in bright colours arranged around base might cheer the pots up. Question: The pots have a slight curve, presumably grouting before mounting can only work successfully if I make the petals small enough not to be affected by the curve of the pot, and the same goes for any band I put around the rim of the pot.
    (Idea is for patients to help make the mosaic if I can get the method right.)

    1. Hi Cathy. Yes, I think the mesh method would work well but I would definitely not recommend grouting before mounting. It would be incredibly fiddly and could spoil all your lovely work. Is there any reason why you dont want to grout after mounting? You could make large, simple designs with the patients and then cut them into pieces, mount and grout. Bingo! It would look great but I’ve never used plastic as a base and so I would do some research on the right adhesive to use for that surface. Hope that helps, Helen.

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  10. Caele Gambs

    Hi Helen, Thank you for your wonderfully detailed tutorials and information. Your work is beautiful and inspiring.

    So much so that I am neck deep in my first mosaic – yay! I have been doing my best to follow your instructions and (I think) things are going pretty well. I am making a mosaic insert to go on our new bathroom floor and the tilers keep asking me the same question: they are worried the PVA craft glue (Elmers) I’m using to glue the tessarae to the mesh will prevent the thin set from gripping the tiles and that despite grouting, they expect the tiles will eventually come away. I try to use the glue sparingly but now they’ve got me worried. Have you ever had tiles come away post installation because the PVA glue prevented them sticking properly?

    Appreciate your thoughts,
    Caele

    1. Hi Caele, Thanks so much for your comment and very useful question. Yes, it’s important to make sure that the PVA glue doesn’t squidge out between the tesserae so it needs to be used sparingly otherwise you will essentially get a mat of glue behind the mosaic which will indeed stop the thin set from gripping the tiles.I have never had the problem of the tiles coming away post installation a) because I’m careful about not using too much glue, b) because the thin set provides a second layer of grip and c) because the grouting at the end provides further reinforcement. Good luck with the project and I’d love to see photos!

  11. Corrie Crooks

    Hi, this tutorial is great thank you 🙂 you’ve inspired me to create something for our new bathroom floor and I particularly like the kind of stone you have used, can you tell me what it is (I’m a total novice). I love that it looks like natural stone, not the shiny cheap mosaic tiles available in the art shops round here (UK). Any extra tips for a wet room floor would be great Many thanks

    1. Hi. Unfortunately (for you) the stone I use is imported from Greece and cant be obtained in the UK although there are alternative marble suppliers such as Mosaic Workshop. Depending of the type of stone you use, it can be quite porous so you have to be careful which type you use so I would recommend ceramic for a floor (which also has the advantage that it is non slip and has high impact strength – in other words is good for being walked on). Winckelmans are the best and you can buy them from all the mosaic supply companies such as Mosaic Trader: https://www.mosaictraderuk.co.uk/winckelmans-unglazed-porcelain/winckelmans-20mm-heritage-french-unglazed-porcelain.html. Hope that helps! Helen

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