making mosaics

Why did YOU start making mosaics?

My mosaic studio. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics
My mosaic studio. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Often, as I sit cutting and nipping and shaping and placing in my little studio at the top of the house, I ponder the attraction of mosaics. It does, as I’ve said before, provoke the ‘yer wha?’ response when you mention it to others. It’s solitary, it’s a bit odd, it’s horribly slow and frankly it’s rather eccentric so why do we do it? And how did we get from A (knowing nothing about mosaics) to B (being so absorbed in them that we are writing/reading blogs about them)?

Making mosaics. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics
Making mosaics. Photo: Helen Miles Mosaics

Inspired by Julie Sperling’s brilliant piece on the experience of taking a mosaic course, I decided it would be interesting to collect your thoughts and stories about the moment when you realised that mosaics were for you. Whether you are a professional, full time mosaic maker or someone who makes mosaics in the odd spare moments that jobs and children and life allow you, then the question is the same: why did you start making mosaics? Continue reading

Set in stone: a bespoke mosaic for a family wedding.

Thomas and Lucy's wedding mosaic

Mosaic inspiration: trying out ideas

The thing about mosaics – maybe the thing about life – is that the way things start out is not often the way they finish. Great seeming ideas morph into other entirely different ideas. Plans alter. Decisions get shelved and new ways forward reveal themselves. So it was with this mosaic which I made for my nephew, Thomas, on the occasion of his marriage to his girlfriend, Lucy. [An aside: that beautiful shawl was made by my mother.]

Thomas and Lucy leaving the church
Thomas and Lucy leaving the church

I wanted to make something which was entirely personal, a bespoke mosaic, which would fit them and only them. To set their lives together in stone, to seal their happiness and their future with glue and grout and wax. The original thought was to make a personal version of the Madaba map in Jordan, which is on my list of top ten favourite mosaics. I would put in streets and houses which had relevance to the couple but knowing that this was an ambitious plan and had the potential to be a disaster, I sat down to make a scaled down version based on a village in Scotland. Continue reading

So many pieces, so much time: a mosaic explained.

The mosaic making process: pre-grouting

How many tesserae does it take?

There we all were sitting around a day or two before the wedding chatting about this and that. We might have been doing our toes at that particular juncture or pouring out another bottle of wine as we happily anticipated the Scottish-Palestinian wedding on a Greek island. When the subject of presents came up I went to get the wedding mosaic and the company (bless them) made suitably appreciative comments. Then the conversation drifted to other things and the mosaic sat there amongst us, until one friend, leaning back in his chair, said: ‘Two thousand five hundred.’


‘Two thousand five hundred pieces in the mosaic.’


A simple enough comment, but it took me aback. What a lot! I’d never thought of the mosaic making process in terms of numbers. I know making mosaics is slow work and I sit there hour after hour, day after day, often feeling that I haven’t progressed at all, but two thousand five hundred. Golly. Continue reading

Looking forward, looking back: a year of mosaic work.


It’s September again

Sit down, Helen. Take a deep breath. Now another one. It’s over. Yes, that long summer of frenzied activity (and quite a lot of frenzied non activity too) is behind you. When I tried to count the number of times I packed and repacked during those hot, sticky months, I got as far as 17 and gave up. The point is that it’s September again, the beloved post-summer time of new beginnings. True the month is almost ending but September is not like January when the thought of another year passing only serves to remind you of unfulfilled commitments and unrealised longings. September is a gentle month, it forgives the lost opportunities of the months behind you and lets you turn your head into the wind and feel recharged. There is time. I can do it. Continue reading

Five simple mosaic tips

(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. Continue reading

The Story of C. and her Un-Swept Floor Mosaic

Inspiration for the Un-swept Floor Mosaic

For a long time I have been wanting to make my own version of the famous ancient un-swept floor mosaic motif. It’s a wonderfully whimsical design of the debris from a Roman feast strewn carelessly over a dining room floor. Animal bones, fruit peel, shells and nuts are among the things that have dropped from the banqueters fingers and remain there still, fixed in stone. My version would use both the remains of these long forgotten feasts and items from a modern life to tell a story.


Continue reading

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? Continue reading

Making a Mosaic Trivet, Part IV: Grouting mosaics

DSCN4804Making a mosaic trivet, Part IV: Grouting and finishing.

Now it’s time to get down and get dirty. Roll those sleeves up, tie on your pinny and get out the rubber gloves – the moment has come  to grout your mosaic.

NB: If you use porous stone as your mosaic material, then you need to apply a layer of varnish on the finished work BEFORE grouting to protect the stone and stop it ending up with a horrid grey film.

You’d be surprised how many people are not sure what grouting mosaics means, so just in case one of those people is you: grouting is when you fill in the gaps between the mosaic tiles to strengthen and protect the work. It also has the effect of bringing the piece together as a co-ordinated whole. It’s the most common method of finishing off a mosaic – but not the only one. Continue reading