You might think that setting yourself up to start mosaicing is going to be an expensive job what with all the tools and tiles, grouting and glazing, making and mosaicing (okay that is enough alliteration right there!), but you might be surprised at how many of the tools you need you already have. Here are some ideas of things to look for around the house.
- Tweezers . These are an essential but whether you go out and buy some or just use the household tweezers is up to you. If you are just starting you do not want to be buying so much until you are sure you like it, so make do to start off with. Eventually you may want to invest in purpose built tweezers for the task you are doing and you can find plenty of choice. Before starting this job I thought tweezers were just tweezers but oh boy that is not the case. For the micro mosaicing that I do I use tweezers that come to a really sharp point, quite painful if you drop them on your foot...! I also have bent tweezers, flat end tweezers, bent tweezers that come to a point, pliers and all sorts, but to start off any pair of tweezers will be your friend.
- Orange Sticks. Those are the little sticks us women use to sort out our cuticles with. They are just the best thing, I am an experienced mosaic artist now and I use orange sticks every day. They stir my glue, hold tiles down, scrape glue spill off... so many things I use these babies for.
- Nail Files. On the subject of nail care, the emery board nail files are great for sanding down the edges of wooden pieces that are rough. They can even help smooth down lumpy grout. They also help you to keep your nails neat when grouting does a number on them!
- Sand Paper. Of course not everyone will have emery boards at home, although they are great as they are small and can get into smaller places. If you don’t have them though, you may well have some sandpaper in your tool shed and this can be used just the same way.
- Scissors. Any scissors will do to start off although you may wish to invest in others as time goes on. I use scissors for cutting out templates in paper or card but I also have invested in some haberdashery scissors. I have a big pair which are good but my next investment will be in some small haberdashery scissors. I use these scissors to cut out the felt that lines the bases of my work. The way I do this is by sticking a larger piece of felt directly to the base. When this has dried I then trim around the edge of the piece with the scissors. The scissors I use are actually too big to cut around the complicated shapes with any accuracy. They are great for things like the coasters, but for trimming the edge of the flower tea lights for example they are a bit rubbish. But that is a problem for another day. As I said household scissors will be great to start with. One thing I will advise though, is when you choose your scissors, be them household ones or new ones keep them safe and do not let anyone use them for anything else. Trust me on this!
- Tupperware And Plastic Tubs. My work storage shelves are covered with Tupperware and small tubs, ranging from free tubs from the local Chinese takeaway to tiny tubs specially bought. I use these tubs for so many things, the small one to store small beads, tiles and gemstone chips, the larger ones hold everything from larger beads, to finished pieces of work, to unsorted beads, to tubs to store grout and everything in between. Now I started off raiding my kitchen for any Tupperware type container that I owned. I am a bit addicted to Tupperware I have to say and so have had to replace my kitchen supplies more than once! The other way I use plastic tubs or at least the lids of them is to pour out my beads into once I start working. I am currently using the lid from a tub of M&S sushi! So raid your kitchen and if you can afford to raid your local poundland, cheap shop for all of its small tubs!
- Baking Trays For Cooling Racks. I am a bit of a kitchen stuff addict to be honest, it isn’t just limited to Tupperware. I have a load of cooling racks that stack on top of each other, you can get either individual ones or a triple layer one if that is easy. Now how these stacking racks help is by making your drying space increase upwards without increasing outwards. I left one of my cooling racks in the kitchen on the off chance that I ever have time and opportunity to bake and bought the other three upstairs to my room where I work. Now I tend to micro mosaic in shifts which may sound a bit strange. I don’t mean a day or night shift though so much as drying shifts. I will do a set amount of work on a piece and then put it onto my triple decker cooling rack to dry. I then do another piece of work and rinse and repeat as the saying goes. Eventually the piece that I was working on will be dry and then I do then next piece on that and so on. So my kitchen cooling racks have a whole new and very busy life as a drying rack. The fold quite flat for storage too so if you do not have anything drying you can store them easily.
- Tissue Paper Or Some Kind Of Absorbent Cloth. Now I get myself into a bit of a carbon quandary about this. At the moment I use very cheap toilet roll for the uses that are needed tissue for but I feel a bit guilty about the waste of resources that this is using. Mostly I use tissue for drying my glue brush when it comes out of the cleaning water. This is important because if you take it out of the water and straight into the glue you will end up with watered down glue that nothing sticks too. I also use the tissue for wiping up spills and cleaning my work space and so could you while you are just starting out. I am however, going to be investing in some microfibre cloths in the future so I do not waste much. Any spare cloth, flannel, material though could be repurposed for this job.
- Spare Material For Backing. If you like to finish off your pieces so that they are more professional then you will need something to cover the back/base of your work. I use felt for the most part but any material will do as long as it sticks well, looks good and fits in with the design of your piece. If you do not have a rag bag of old clothes to turn to, contemplate going to a charity shop / thrift store and getting some second hand curtains or bedding. This will give you a large piece of strong backing material for a fraction of what you would pay for the material if you bought it new by the meter. If all else fails, raid your tee-shirt drawer for an old tee-shirt that you no longer wear, make sure it is clean and stain free and use that. There really is not point in going out and investing in backing material until you are sure that this is a hobby you want to continue with.
- A Camera/SmartPhone. So after raiding your household for the above items and then finished your first piece of work you may want to photograph the end result. Especially if you are either intending to sell the piece or you want to show your end result to people that you don’t see often. We will be doing a separate article about photographing work, especially if you do intend to sell it but for right now, you can just use whatever camera or smartphone you own. Experiment with the camera in different settings and lighting until you find a picture that fits your purpose.
So these are the top ten household objects that you may have around your home to get started but there are others. Check your tool box for tile snips, pliers, glass cutters for example. Wet wipes make great quick clean up supplies but again you may prefer re-usable things such as sponge scourers or dish cloths. The thing you mostly need to be able to do is make do and use your imagination. I really do think that if you can keep your initial costs down while you work out whether you like the craft, you are far more likely to get an all round better experience and mosaicing is the one craft that you can really improvise more or less anything you need for this job.
Check out our article about all the things you need to start mosaicing to get started.