Here is part two of our series on mosaic tiling. For part one of how to mosaic tile, please see the link at the bottom of this article.
1) Prepare your surface
Sandpaper and apply bonding liquid onto your surface and allow it to dry.
2) Choose your design and colors.
Make a pencil sketch on your surface if you can. When planning your composition, try and imagine it in the mind's eye. For example, you may want to visualize:
If you were creating an underwater scene for mosaic tiling you would:
Note that I haven't started using adhesive yet. I only start sticking the pieces down when I am happy with the design and colors. When trying to visualize the end product, remember that the grouting process changes the mosaic considerably. It pulls the design together.
3) Cutting glass, mirror and ceramic tiles:
Use glass mosaic cutters. They have two round blades that you squeeze together and they snap the piece in half with ease. Practice using them by cutting lots of squares, rectangles and some triangles. If you limit yourself to these shapes it will go quicker (and you will develop a similar style to mine.)
As you place a piece down, look at the space you leave behind. Are you leaving yourself a big angled confusion or an easy shape? Sometimes just trimming a corner off makes your next piece easier to place.
4) Placing your pieces down
Place your pieces onto your design, and trim off the bits that are "in the way", i.e. hold your piece over the place where you want it to go, and trim off any corner that is in the way. My rule is that pieces should be close together, but not touching. Grout is important and adds strength to the mosaic. Later, when everything is glued down and dry, the grout must be able to surround each mosaic piece.
I sometimes take it a step further and grind down the sharp edges on the glazed ceramic pieces, or mirror, as they can be horribly sharp.
5) Now just get on with it!
Tile adhesive - in South Africa we have the pasty ready mixed white glue in a 1kg bucket, or mosaic adhesive (white cement) or grey powdery tile adhesive that you add water to. I usually use the ready mixed ones, but I still use the old fashioned tile adhesive if working onto a concrete surface, like a water feature, birdbath, umbrella stand or shower floor. I always add bonding liquid to it to make it waterproof and stronger as well.
Now that you have your design, and your pieces, you just have to start on one side and work methodically to the other side. If you have an assistant at this stage, it really helps - Artist positions the pieces, helper glues down.
Use a stick or spatula of sorts to apply just enough glue to the back of the piece. You don't want adhesive squishing out messily from under the piece as that will mean cleaning later to prepare for the grout. Not too little either. It must cover the back of the piece and be pressed down firmly.
You will have a little while to adjust its position before it sets. If there is old adhesive or a scrap of broken tile under your piece, it will stick up above the other pieces and look and feel wrong, so make sure it is a clean flat surface you are sticking your piece onto. You can get away with applying the glue to the surface in one long strip and then applying your pieces, but do it the hard way when you first start mosaic tiling, until you are accustomed to the glue you are using and its drying time etc.
Have a damp sponge handy and clean your hands and then the mosaic gently. Some glues are awful to clean afterwards when they are dry, so try not to be too messy and use a matchstick or whatever, to clean off excess adhesive from between the pieces as you go.
Once you are satisfied you have glued everything down, clean it one more time and leave it to dry for 12 hours or so.
The next stage in mosaic tiling will be the grouting stage.
For part two of Marylou Newdigate's series on how to make mosaics, please see the article How to Make Mosaics - Grouting.
Craig and Ruth Renwick of Renwick Tiles and guest author Marylou Newdigate of Earthmaid - A mosaic crafts blog work together sharing skills and ideas to create a platform for all ceramic artists, professional and amateur, to exhibit, hold workshops, purchase bisqueware and materials or design their own creations.
Our main business is handmade tiles, basins, platters, commissions. etc. Products include handmade tiles, mosaics, platters, bowls, bisqueware, and anything ceramic made to order in any colour. If we can't make it, we know someone who can.