Sunday, 15 October 2017

How To; Get Started With Mosaics

Right my friends! So this is the first article about mosaicing in the How To section and it's going to be a general quick run down of the processes you go through when you want to create a stunning mosaic be it big or small. I am not going to deep in this article into the tools and suchlike as there will be a separate set of articles for that, this is just a run down to get you started.

Mosaicing is a series of processes that need to be completed in order. These processes are often separated by drying times so that even the most basic of designs can take about a week to finish. Here is a quick checklist so you can see the schedule better.

Priming Your Substrate.

Prime the substrate you will be working on, with a mixture of about half and half PVC glue and water. leave to dry. Fortunately on most substrates this doesn't take very long.

While the primer is drying plan out the design you want to do on paper. This can be square graph paper for the more structured items such as this coaster below. Or freehand drawing for more intricate unstructured work.

Available in my Etsy shop
Available on Etsy.
Creating Your Design.
Once your priming is dry you then decide whether you are going to use the pattern you made as a guide, or whether you want to transfer the design straight onto the substrate so you can work within the lines. Tracing or parchment (grease proof) is your best friend for this job.

Placing Your Tesserae.

When your design is ready to be made and the primer is dry you can start gluing your tiles into the design. Depending on your substrate you can either use professional grade PVC glue (the one you get from D.I.Y. stores rather than the one you get from the Early Learning Center for example). You can buy this in huge 2 liter tubs for about a tenner in the UK. This glue will be great if you are working on wood, mdf, cardboard or chip board. If you are decorating glass or ceramic you will need a specialist glue such as epoxy resin. To be perfectly frank I wouldn't recommend you start with these substrates first of all as they are quite fiddly to do and can be really frustrating.
So on a regular base and this can be a flat surface or something like a box or even a cardboard peacock if you prefer (my daughter is into decoupage and got a cardboard peacock for her birthday recently!) you begin setting your tesserae whatever that may be. I find it helps to glue an area and then tile that, then glue another area and so on. some people prefer to glue individual tiles or materials and then stick them on, but personally I find that an extremely slow process and it doesn't work if you are using 1-3 mm pieces of crystal I can tell you.

Pictured; Red and blue heart shaped mosaic tea light holder. The substrate is a very thin wood around a metal candle insert with a cork bottom. Notice how even with stone tiles you can achieve great color and a glossy shine with a clear varnish.

Depending on the size of the piece you are working on this can take days or even weeks and months to finish a project. Like I said before though it is far better to start small and easy and there are some excellent starter kits available on my A-Store which come with the substrate, grout, glue and tiles.

One you have finished gluing on your tesserae you need to put it to one side over night to dry completely. This can take up to 24 hours depending on the glue and substrate and it is a good idea to keep checking the piece to see if any tesserae are falling off or anything.

Waiting And Patience.

When your piece is completely dry and any loose tesserae have been re-glued (again 24 hours from the last tesserae replaced) you can go onto the next stage. The drying process is very important because if it isn't completely dry, the glue can become softened by the grouting process and the tiles can fall off again. Trust me this is a frustration you don't want.

Grouting Your Piece.

So you need to prepare the grout that you are using next. You can get ready mixed grout and this is recommended for the more plain colors of white, black, grey and brown. This grout comes in tubs of various sizes in a whole range of prices so really look around and find the one you are most comfortable with. You can also get grout in powder form and this is the best one to use if you wish to add color by pigments or acrylic paint. If you are using the paint, put it in with the powder before you add the water,the acrylic paints can make it too sloppy to work with if used afterwards.  To make up the grout it is important to follow the manufacturers instructions for mixing and you have to remember if you mix your own you are on the clock.

Another problem with mixing your own color grout is that you have to make enough of that exact color to grout the whole piece. It will be very hard to color match it if you run out and this kind of grout only stays good for about 4 hours.

When your piece is all completely grouted this then needs to be left for a further 24 hours for that to dry before you carry on with the next process.

Painting The Grout.

The next process I often do is to carefully paint over the white grout with acrylic paint. This is obviously optional and if you have used pre-colored grout you can skip this part completely. Be very careful if you are painting though because you can end up in a real mess otherwise. When I started out and was using this technique (before I was a bit more experienced) I found that I kept painting over the tesserae as well. Acrylic paint is water soluble so you can wash it of, but I kept finding that I was taking the paint from the grout as well and would then need to start the whole process again. In this situation the humble cotton bud dipped into water and then gently squeezed out is your best friend. You need to let this dry for 24 hours again before continuing.

Pictured; An example of a Minecraft Creeper I have in my shop right now. Because I needed a very deep black grout for the facial features and a green for the rest I grouted in plain white and then used acrylic paint to pull the piece together.


 The next sticky and messy process is the varnishing. Now do you not have to varnish the piece if it is for indoor use but I find the clear varnish gives a lovely sheen to an end product. Items that are likely to come into contact with water or are to be used outside will definitely need to be varnished to protect them. You have water soluble glue, grout and possibly paint on there and it needs to be protected from the piece ever getting wet. Varnishing the piece is a messy, smelly process but it really makes a difference to the end result.

Finishing off. 

On all my pieces that will sit on a flat surface I back them with felt and sometimes edge them with ribbon. This is the time where you check for any last minute finishing items, for example attaching the piece to a bigger board, arranging the backs of picture frames so they hold the picture in, adding mirrors and so on. I make key hooks and Christmas stocking holders so they are both backed and have hooks pushed into them. For jewellery boxes and trinket and altar boxes I also like to put felt, ribbon or material in side as well as it gives a really professional look to the end piece.

These pictures show a pair of little trinket boxes made to look like heart shaped bags, perfect to put an engagement ring or a nice little gift in. These have been lined with felt on the bottoms as you can see and the insides and handles painted gold. I then finished them off by gluing organza materiel over the gold paint on the inside. Feel free to browse the gallery on this site or visit my Etsy shop to see other examples of finished pieces of work. 


So that is the long of short of it in a long, but also short post. I mean there is a lot of information crammed here so it seems like a long post but none of the information goes into much detail. More on that later.

So if there is anything I missed out, didn't explain properly or you would like to know more in depth information about, pop a comment in the box below and I will do my best to sort that out for you. 

I hope this helps with the basics and look forward to hearing about your own first attempts.

Merry Mosaicing, Nici xxx

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Micro Mosaics - Then And Now

I have had ambitions to become the most famous artist of micro mosaics of the 21st century  (you have to have a dream right?). This dream was shaken on it's foundations recently when I did a Google search of micro mosaics and found that not even on the first page of the search, I wasn't able to search far enough to find my work on their at all. This was a bit of a surprise because I know that there are not many people doing the kind of work that I do now, so I figured that I needed to do two things. 1; I need to get more of my own work out on the internet so people could see it and 2; I needed to investigate all of these other micro mosaic sites to find out what was going on.
This is a piece of my mosaicing, please do not copy the
picture without linking back to the page!

I discovered to my astonishment that micro mosaicing had actually been around for centuries.
Not the way that I do it of course, as you can see from the photo above, I use glass beads of various shapes and sizes for my work.