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Decorating boxes with mosaic is fun and easy. View it as a chance to use all the things you already know about collage and color
theory in an exciting new way. The materials are easy to find. If you love to shop flea markets or tag
sales this art form is for you! Once you master mosaic techniques on a box or other small item, use your new skills to mosaic garden pots, table tops, walls, counters or fire places. Try your hand at applying mosaic to album covers, altered book covers (or pages), jewelry items, candle holders, trays, mirror or picture frames. Actually if you end up liking this fun
craft you will find yourself looking at surfaces with a calculating eye. Be careful in
museums, itís tempting to consider how antique china would look broken and pieced onto a table top. Or pottery from the
Anasazi - wow, what a look on a backyard garden pot - and those pieces are already broken!
- Sturdy box with (preferably) an unsealed surface. I like to mosaic the box before finishing the rest. If you want to add mosaic to a finished box be sure to mask all other areas by using painters tape or some other masking material.
- China or pottery shards, broken or cut tiles, mirror glass, shells, stones, stained glass, small toys, pieces of jewelry, or other small materials that can be embedded in the grout
- Tile nippers
- Sand paper or a grinder
- PVA glue for adhering the mosaic pieces
- Grout - the color of choice
- Acrylic paint for coloring the grout if you want to color your own
- liquid floor cleaner
- Gloves to wear when breaking or cutting mosaics pieces
- Rubber or latex gloves to wear when grouting
- Sponge (cheap kitchen type)
- Flexible rubber spatula
- Drop cloth to protect work area
Steps for creating a mosaic topped wooden box.
- Prepare work surface by covering completely with a drop cloth or newspaper.
- For the first step of gluing down the mosaic pieces be sure to have your PVA glue available, sandpaper and your nippers (just in case you need to clip off an edge).
- Set out pieces of tile, broken pottery or china. Keep your pattern and color choices in mind when you do this because once you start gluing itís nice to have everything ready.
- A pattern may be drawn on your box if you want to make a specific design. Or you may begin your pattern with a special piece as a focal point and then fill in your design.
- Begin by applying glue to a piece of pottery. Use enough so that the pieces of pottery will adhere but not squish the glue above the surface. Fit the pieces together like a puzzle but leave a small gap to allow for grout. The more even the space between mosaic pieces, the more pleasing the resulting appearance. PVA glue does not dry instantly so you have time to play with your design a bit. After you are pleased with what you have let it dry completely. I try to wait overnight but usually donít.
- Tip: Think of the dishes that have dates on them - a nice gift would be a box with a personís birth year included in the design.
- When the pieces of pottery are safely adhered to the surface and the glue is dry itís time to grout.
- I use paper cups or tin cans to mix grout. It may also be mixed on a board.
- Do not mix large quantities at once. For the boxes, you probably will mix enough at first to finish. But for large areas, smaller quantities are better so you donít end up wasting a lot of grout because it hardened too much.
- Put dry grout in container and add acrylic or tempera paint if you are coloring your own. Add a small quantity of water and blend till itís like soft butter. I use various implements to mix grout including a pottery knife and my fingers. Use something that can be rinsed clean and is fairly stiff. A trowel is traditionally used . This is much like making cake dough - add liquid in small quantities and get the lumps out. You want to be able to trowel this stuff on the surface of your mosaic, so it should not be runny or too stiff.
- Apply grout to the dried mosaic with a trowel or your fingers. Push it into all the crevices and scrape off the excess. Make the edges look nice by troweling a beveled edge. Do small areas carefully and make sure you scrape off the excess. After you are finished let the grout dry for ten minutes and then sponge off with a damp sponge.
WARNING: DO NOT LET THE GROUT DRY ON TOP OF THE TILES! IT IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO CHIP OFF WHEN ITíS DRY WITHOUT DISLODGING A TILE.
- Let the grout dry for twenty-four hours and polish with liquid floor cleaner.
The above method is fine for inside projects that will not be soaked with water. For garden items, bathroom walls, etc. follow the same procedure but use a waterproof base for your mosaic and lay tiles on with waterproof mastic. All the products plus instructions on how to use them are available at tile home improvement stores.
Tip: To break dishes for mosaic keep these things in mind:
1. China and stoneware produce very sharp splinters when broken. On the other hand, pottery for Mexico and Italy is much more porous, breaks easily and (usually) does not splinter. Use gloves and wear some sort of eye protection. Place dish on hard surface, cover with a towel and using a
hammer gently hit until it shatters.
2. You may also use tile nippers to break plates. Grasp edge of plate with nippers and apply pressure until a crack is made. The plate will fall apart or a chunk will come out. The use of nippers allows a more precise break. After practicing a short time it is possible to "cut out" special areas: e.g. flowers, the logo on the underside, words, borders from plates and cups ... etc.
3. Tiles may be cut the same way as dishes but because they are usually square and flat it is easy to create a border for your pieces. Simply use nippers to cut the tile into squares. These will not be perfect and thatís the idea! If you want perfect then itís much easier to use
pre-made tiny tiles.
***Glass pieces should be cut with a glass cutter and the edges should be sanded before applying. Edges of broken china, stoneware and pottery pieces may also be sanded or ground smooth. This allows a closer fit but is not necessary.
A wonderful book for instruction and inspiration: The Mosaic Book, Ideas, Projects and Techniques by Peggy Vance and Celia Goodbrick-Clarke. At amazon.com for $15.96. There are a lot of new books on Mosaic - check your local store. Look for "pique assiette" on the web or do a search for mosaic artwork. From time to time check Ebay for listings of incredible "pique assiette" pieces. These are good ways to see what artists are doing with the craft and to gather ideas for your own work.
Additional Note: The crosses and small pins were done on a copper sheet base. I cut the shape and bent up sides for the support. The edges of the pins were soldered when the pins were finished much like the edges of copper foiled stain glass pieces. For these small pieces I used liquid metal as the grout and added a bit of glitter overtop to a couple.
For the sea glass jar, I used silicone rather than PVA to adhere the
pieces of glass to the base.
Vivian lives in Nevada City, California which is Northeast of Sacramento, in the
foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. She was happily married to Jack
eight years ago and between them they have six children, all of whom are grown.
Jack and Vivian own a motor-home and love to travel with friends, especially to
the Oregon coast. Having retired from a job she loved, because of back problems,
Vivian was very happy to discover rubberstamping and especially carving her own
stamps. Rubberstampmadness has published Vivian's work a number of times
and she had pieces in The Studio and Vamp Stamp News. With no
formal training in the arts, she feels privileged to meet such wonderful and
talented people through the mail.
Vivian started mosaic work one night about four years ago and has loved it ever
since. She believes that the entire process is exciting: collecting china
at flea markets to deciding on a pattern and applying the pieces to
the base. She compares it to collage, which is another love. Right
now Vivian is working on a large surface which will include collage (of old
family pictures) and mosaic. Discovering new ways to use mosaic is
and rewarding. Two of her friends, who also love to do broken china
mosaic, have gorgeous outdoor tables that they created. The tables are
weathering the snow, wind and rain, which demonstrates that this craft can
produce durable and practical results. Vivian hopes to tile an area in her
bathroom this year.