8 Easy Steps to Make Larger Mosaics on Mesh

larger mosaics on mesh, fish mosaic, Helen Miles Mosaics
Detail of fish mosaic splashback. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics

Larger mosaics on mesh.

Part II of a 2-part post on making mosaics on mesh.

Let me cast your minds back to February, 2014 when I wrote a step-by-step tutorial post on how to make a mosaic on mesh. Back then I was full of the joys of mesh and two years later I am still bursting with enthusiasm about the method. I love its versatility, and lightness and the way it solves the problem of making mosaics for faraway destinations, hard to reach places or awkward surfaces. It has all the advantages of the reverse paper method without the disadvantages of working in reverse.

larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics,
Installing the Unswept Floor Mosaic. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics.

The original blog post laid out the method for making a small mosaic and now its time to think about larger mosaics on mesh. Over the months a few people (to whom I am eternally grateful) have written comments in response to the post and it’s clear that people are interested in the method but that the first post doesn’t go far enough –  so this post about larger mosaics on mesh is for all those mosaic makers out there who are ready to take off and tackle bigger, more ambitious projects.

larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics
Fish mosaic on mesh cut into panels for transport. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics

Let me start by defining what I mean by larger mosaics on mesh. When the time comes to install your mosaic, you want to be sure to have easy to handle pieces that are not too unweildy. The process of fixing a mosaic on mesh into position is pretty much the same as the process involved in tiling a bathroom. As a rough guide, I aim for pieces which are not much larger than the size of a lap top screen although they might be longer and thinnerThere are plenty of exceptions to this and it really all depends on the space that the mosaic will fill and access to it. The fish mosaic above was made for a bathroom wall with no awkward corners or other impediments to installation so it could be made in larger, longer pieces which can still be held easily by one person and put into position.

larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics
Installing a mosaic on mesh into a garden indent. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics

Eight easy steps to making larger mosaics on mesh.

The first thing to think about when you make larger mosaics on mesh is where you are going to make the breaks in your design. Depending on the size of the mosaic you will either be making it in one piece and cutting it for transportation and installation (as was the case with this black and white birds mosaic below) or, if the mosaic is very large and your studio space is not (as was the case with the fishy splashback), then you will make the mosaic in pieces which will then be joined together on site. Once the mosaic is installed the break lines will be invisible as they will be an intrinsic part of the grouted interstices.

larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics
A mosaic on mesh with the cut lines marked. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics

As far as possible divide up the mosaic in accordance with its design. In other words, try not to cut across the ‘grain’ of the mosaic. The resulting mosaic panels will inevitably be different sizes and odd shapes but regular-sized pieces are not what you are aiming for. Given that the tesserae are flowing horizontally in this Unswept Floor mosaic, the left to right cut was easy. In order to divide  the mosaic up further I also needed to cut it from top to bottom so I tried to keep to the outer line of the fish and the glasses so that the breaks follow the same lines as the andamento.

larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics
Try and make sure the break lines follow the natural lines of the andamento. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics
larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics
After installation the break lines are no longer visible. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics

The mosaic I will use to illustrate the tutorial is a splash back with a fish theme which I recently made for a kitchen in Washington, DC. The main requirement was that the splashback should include an ocotopus based on the 3,500 year old Minoan vase (below) which is displayed in the Athens Archeological Museum.The mosaic measured 3.8 metres by .5 metres and was made in 25 pieces. This tutorial assumes that the mosaic you are making is larger than your working area and therefore needs to be cut into pieces before you begin work.

minoan pot,
Minoan pot with octopus design, Athens Archeological Museum, Greece.

Step One

First design your mosaic and make a template to the correct size. Then decide where the breaks will be and mark them onto your template. Make sure they are clearly visible as you will need them as guidelines once you’ve laid the cling film and mesh over the design (see Making a Mosaic on Mesh, Part I: http://helenmilesmosaics.org/mosaic-tutorials/making-a-mosaic-on-mesh/).

larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics
Draw your break lines onto your mosaic design. Photo and design: @Helen Miles Mosaics

Step Two

Cut the template into workable sizes. You will probably be able to work on at least two panels at once.

larger mosaics on mesh. Helen Miles Mosaics
Working on two panels side by side. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics

If I am working on two adjoining panels which are small enough not to require pre-cutting, I used to leave marginally wider interstices between the tesserae along the marked break lines. These become invisible after you install the mosaic. However, this is not necessary as long as you have a reasonable gap between the tesserae and I no longer bother.

larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics
Marginally wider spaces between the tesserae along the break lines. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics

Step Three

When you move onto the next panel, it’s helpful to lay the completed one alongside it in order to check that you maintain the flow of the andamento. I mark the direction of the flow on the new template and check it as I work.

larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics
Lay the completed panel alongside the new one so that you can mark the flow of the andamento. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics

Step Four

When you’re finished the mosaic it’s time to cut it into smaller pieces according to your needs.

larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics
The arrows show the break line between two panels where the mosaic will be cut. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics

Step Five

Dont forget to peel off the underlay of cling film when you remove the panels from their backing board.

larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics
Don’t forget to remove the plastic backing when you turn the mosaic over. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics

Step Six

You are then ready to lay out the completed mosaic and check how it looks.

larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics
Whole panel, right hand side. Photo and mosaic: @Helen MIles Mosaics
larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics
Left hand and central panels. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics

In some instances, the break lines didn’t merge into the flow of the andamento and remained visible. Another great advantage of the mesh method is that individual tesserae can be easily removed and put back in place so I ‘sewed’ adjoining panels together (see below) so that the joins wouldn’t draw the eye.

larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics
‘Sewing’ together two panels by laying longer tesserae at random across the break point . Photo and mosaic: @ Helen Miles Mosaics

Step Seven

If your mosaic has lots of panels be sure to number them and make a plan of the order the mosaic will be laid when it is reassembled on site.

larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics
Numbering the panels and marking the numbers on a plan so the mosaic can be easily reassembled. Photo and mosaic: @Helen Miles Mosaics

Step Eight

Your mosaic is now ready to stack and transport to its new home.

larger mosaics on mesh, Helen Miles Mosaics
Stacking the mosaic panels ready for transport. Photo: @Helen Miles Mosaics

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In case you missed the links above, here’s how you get to Part I of this post:

Making a mosaic on mesh – step by step

And here is a post about how to install mosaics on mesh:

Installing a mosaic splash back in seven easy steps.

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I wish you every success with your mosaic on mesh and would love to hear how you get on with the method so please send me your views, photos and comments as it would be great to do a follow up post showing readers’ work. 🙂

 

23 Comments

  1. Jennifer Fernandez

    When you say “cut the template into workable sizes” in step 2. You mean divide up the sections that you will will in first? Not to actually cut the sections correct? The cutting doesn’t happen until after you attach the pieces correct? What do you use to cut along the break lines?

    1. Hi Jennifer. Yes, ideally the cutting happens after the pieces are attached and I use a Stanley Knife (Exacto knife in America) to cut through the mesh. However, this was a very long mosaic and I didn’t have the space in the studio to make it all in one piece so had to decide where to divide up the template before I started in order to have ‘workable sizes’ that fitted the space I had available. This is why it was important to ‘sew’ the pieces together – see Step Six. I hope this helps!

  2. Jane de Gault

    Hello Helen from the Sunshine Coast in Australia. I have a tricky area on my kitchen floor where my husband has removed a few short walls that house the fridge and pantry. And hallway behind. There is now an odd ‘E’ shape where there are no tiles on the floor, over a 2m x 900mm area. I’ve tried to source replacement tiles to fill the E but had no luck…so looking at a mosaic. The existing floor tile is 330x330mm square and 5mm thick.
    My beginner questions are – how would I bring the mosaic up to the same height as the existing floor? Some of the existing tiles have been cut, do you think I should try and remove the irregular shaped tiles so all are the uniform 330×330?
    Any other advice you can give this beginner would me much appreciated

    1. Lori Murphy

      Hello! I will be attempting my first larger piece.
      I am doing a 5ftx3ft backsplash in my laundry room.

      I like the idea of using mesh. But I was wondering, can I use mesh for the mandalas I am tiling, affix to the wall. Then do freehand tile pieces to fill in the untiled spaces, then grout?

      The mandalas will be more intricate, filling in not so much. The total shape of the backsplash won’t be square, as it starts uNader a cabinet, then higher over the sink. So if I was to use mesh for the whole backsplash, I’m afraid it won’t fit nicely.

      1. Hi Lori. Yes indeed, what you propose is one of the many advantages of using mesh. Needless to say the thickness of the tiles used in the mandalas need to be the same as that of the tiles in between the mandalas. Other than that, you are good to go. I did exactly what you are proposing for a bird bath which is on the home page of this site. I made the fiddly fish on mesh, cut them out and then stuck them onto the surface of the concrete basin and applied the other tiles directly around them. Your splash back will look great. Please send pics!

  3. Hello, Jane – that sounds like quite a project! In order to bring the mosaic up to the height of the existing floor you need to lay a substrate – a bed of cement – to which the mosaic will be fixed. Unless you are an expert at laying a smooth bed I would highly recommend getting someone skilled in to do the job as it requires practice and expertise to get it right. The irregular shaped tiles could be part of the ‘design’ for the mosaic but I think it would be hard to incorporate them into your plan as they would be fiddly to work around so I would recommend removing them and perhaps using parts of them in the mosaic in order to blend the mosaic and existing floor together. I hope that helps. Helen.

    1. Olivia

      Hi there Helen. I am converting a van and I am wanting to have a light weight floor that is mosaic, so I like this mesh option. My only concern/uncertainty is about sealing the mosaic so there are NO GAPS. This would mean cleaning is easier and I do not have to worry about what COULD happen if I have gaps. Could I use grout?

      1. Hi Olivia, that sounds like an interesting project. Yes, absolutely you would grout the completed mosaic once it is installed. All mosaics, except ones using the tile adhesive method which is covered in different blog posts, are grouted and do not have any gaps. Hope that helps, Helen

  4. Hi
    This mesh method may be the method I need so that I can safely work with a primary school this Autumn. The school had a competition to design a mosaic and it’s a delightful rainbow with “Welcome to [our]…. school” following the contour of the rainbow. I’ve scrounged some marineply, but it would be much better if the mosaic could be installed directly onto an outside wall.
    One question – what sort of glue do you use, please, to affix the tessarae to the mesh?

    1. Hello Monica. Actually, based on very little information, I suspect your marine ply idea would work better. If you use mesh you still need to prepare the wall – clean it, mortar it to create a smooth surface, and score it for grip. Also, the wall needs to be completely free of damp etc. The advantage of marine ply is that it will be stand proud of the wall but of course you need to be sure that the edges are sealed and protected from rainfall. The glue I use is called Titebond and is available from the Mosaic Workshop in London: https://www.mosaicworkshop.com/shop/titebond-2-237ml.html#fndtn-product_info. I hope that helps, Helen.

  5. Suzan

    Hi,
    I am planning on doing a mosaic for our balcony wall. My husband has concerns about future removal of the mosaic if we move. I will be doing it on the mosaic mesh. Can the mosaic be removed in the future without major damage to the wall? I also would be concerned about not destroying the mosaic upon removal.
    Thank you.
    Suzan

    1. Hi Suzan – I’m afraid you wont be able to move the mosaic if you use the mesh method. Think of it like tiling – you cant really remove tiles easily without damaging them and often leaving gouges in the walls too. Is it a big balcony? I would recommend using Wediboard (if you’re in the States) or Jackoboard if you are in the UK. You could cut the board into panels which would be easily removable if you move location. I hope that helps! Helen

  6. Patricia Armstrong

    Hi Helen
    Like Suzan, I am planning an outdoor mosaic on Wediboard (I’m in AZ, USA). I had been puzzling over how to best do this, as I’m going to be putting up 7 different pieces, 2’x2′ each for five, and 2’x3′ for two. I just discovered your post yesterday, about the mesh method, without grouting, and I’m very excited about doing that. I’m planning to do the full 2’x2′, then thinset it onto the Wediboard which has been prepared to hang (i.e., framed sealed and prepped for hanging on our stucco wall).
    For Suzan’s benefit: I have had a very difficult time sourcing Wediboard. The manufacturer would only ship if the boards were cut too small for my needs, and the shipping fees were outrageous. The online mosaic shops don’t seem to carry even small wedi boards now. I recently discovered that Home Depot now carries an underlayment kit with five boards 2’x4′. Thank you Helen!

    1. Hi Patricia. Yes, that sounds like a good idea. I would say, though, that I do grout my mosaics on mesh. However, I agree that if you push the meshed piece into the thinset then the thinset will come up between the tiles and naturally ‘grout’ the finished piece. One extra word of warning – do please be careful not to use too much glue as if it squeezes out from under your tesserae it would prevent the thinset from getting inbetween the tiles. Good luck with your project!

  7. Ed Kish

    Hi Helen,
    My wife and I are trying to produce an outdoor mosaic that measures .75m x 2.1m. We have little experience at this point. Do you think its possible to use the face up mesh technique and then slide the whole thing off a piece of plywood onto a flat and level bed of thinset which will be applied over a concrete sub slab?
    Thanks!
    Ed and Andi

    1. Hi Ed and Andi – oooh, that sounds like an interesting project! I do think your plan is technically possible but think it would be much easier to cut up the mosaic. If you want to make it as a single piece, then cut it after completion along the natural ‘fault’ lines of the design. With a sharp Stanley knife or scalpel, cutting the mesh is very simple and means that you will have manageable sized pieces that can be picked up and carefully placed on the bed of thin set without any fear of the mosaic bunching or snagging in the process. Trust me! 🙂

  8. Maud

    Hi
    Thanks a lot for this tutorial.
    I have in mind a mosaic 1.50 m by 1.20m to replace something on an outside wall. This wall is a cement wall with plaster currently. Could you tell me please what is the best support for the mosaic in this context (I’m in Auckland so it’s quite humid)?
    Thanks a lot
    Maud

    1. Hi Maud, thanks for you enquiry. It’s a little difficult to say without seeing the wall but it sounds like you might be able to make the mosaic on mesh and then apply it directly to the wall with outdoor grade tile adhesive. The surface of the wall obviously has to be reasonably smooth and very stable, preferably with a wider brick at the top (sorry the name for this has completely escaped me) so that water doesn’t get behind the mosaic and eventually loosen it. Does that make sense? Good luck with your project, Helen

  9. Ed Kish

    Hi Helen,
    We exchanged messages a couple of months ago. We have successfully installed 27 steeping stones for our mosaic sun clock and are back to the large rectangular mosaic, which we are planning on installing face up on mesh. Our challenge now is dealing with tiles of varying thickness. Is there an “easy” way to shim up individual small pieces to match the predominate thickness or should we look for tile of the same thickness.

    Thanks! Ed and Andi

    1. Hi Ed and Andi. That’s a tricky one. Have you already started? If you have tiles of very different thickness and you want to use them then I would recommend creating your own substrate out of mesh and tile adhesive/thinset and then applying the tiles to the substrate again with tile adhesive/thinset. You will end up with a textured surface which wouldn’t be suitable if people are going to be brushing against it but might work if its reasonably high up on a wall. I wrote about creating your own substrate in this post https://helenmilesmosaics.org/mosaic-projects/how-to-make-a-mosaic/ and there is another one about the tiles adhesive method here: https://helenmilesmosaics.org/blog/tile-adhesive-method/. If this approach isn’t an option for any reason then, yes, I would recommend looking for tiles of the same thickness and carrying on with the standard mesh method. Hope that helps! Helen

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