Cutting, laying and fixing the mosaic
- Part I of this four-part series was about preparing the board: https://helenmilesmosaics.org/making-mosaics-2/how-to-make-mosaics/preparing-the-board.
- Part II covered choosing materials and a design: https://helenmilesmosaics.org/making-mosaics-2/how-to-make-mosaics/mosaic-designs-and-materials/.
Now its time to get down to business and start cutting your tiles, laying the mosaic and sticking the tesserae in place.
Tools for making a mosaic trivet:
You will need:
- Tile nippers
- Tweezers (optional)
- PVA glue
The tile nippers are easy to find at most hardware suppliers – make sure they have the spring bit in the middle. They will cost around 12 pounds and there are plenty of suppliers in the UK who will send them mail order. Try: http://www.mosaic-workshop.co.uk//MOSAIC-TOOLS/Cutting-Tools/Tile-Nippers/prod_68.html.
Some mosaic makers can live without tweezers, but I cant. I bought these tweezers years ago from a Byzantine arts supplier in Thessaloniki, Greece, which isn’t going to help you much here, but I would go the extra mile and try and find ones with that little bendy bit at the end. In my view they are essential for allowing you to place small and fiddly tesserae with ease and accuracy.
The glue you can get anywhere. I use this big tub of the stuff which says that it sticks almost anything you care to imagine from ceramic to glass and it’s never let me down.
Cut the individual tesserae by holding the tile firmly between finger and thumb in one hand and the nippers in the other.
Place the edge of the nippers over the edge of the tile, no more than about three millimetres in and then give the nippers a firm squeeze.
If you place the nippers too far over the tile, then cutting will be much harder, if not impossible.
This is how NOT to do it:
1. Transfer or copy the mosaic design onto your board and then lay down the outline tesserae. The way you glue the tesserae depends on personal preference. Either a) put a largish blob of glue into a shallow receptacle, like a jar lid, and then dip each tesserae into the glue before laying it, or b) apply a line of glue to the board and press the tesserae into the glue in batches. I use method ‘a’.
2. Once the glue sets, you’ve had it, so it’s best to do the awkward filling-in bits at this stage too. The white triangle background piece in the photo can be fitted in neatly when the outline tesserae are still moveable and the same with the brown tesserae on the wings.
3. Next, fill in the main design, again doing fiddly bits of the background if necessary as you work, as in the gap between the bird’s legs in this photo.
4. Start doing the outline around your main design in the colour you have chosen for your background.
5. Complete the outline around the main design features. I always like to ‘pepper’ my background colour with a slightly different tone to add interest.
6. Then lay down a line of tesserae around the edge of the board to act as a ‘frame’ making sure that the natural straight edge of the tiles matches the edge of the board. Once you’ve done that, you can start filling in the background.
7. Continue until you have finished filling in the background area. The mosaic is now ready for grouting and finishing.