Porch Mosaics series by art therapist Ellis Eisener, photo collage

Art Therapy Projects

Art Therapist Ellis Eisner sent me some photos of her client’s mosaics and her own work, and I wanted to share them with you and use them to illustrate several points.

Mosaic the Gateway Medium

Mosaic holds a special place in art education and art therapy in my opinion.

Often all that is required to get that process started is let people play with some tiles and a backer.

People who say they have no artistic ability will suddenly find that they are sliding tiles around to form simple pictures and shapes and designs.

Sorting a pile of small colorful objects is even more elemental than doodling with pen. It’s something animals do.

Handling objects is less abstract than drawing. It matters that the tiles are objects with weight and not paper-thin, not merely 2-D shapes.

Mosaic Floor Medallion Insert by art therapist Ellis Eisener
Mosaic Floor Medallion Insert by art therapist Ellis Eisner

Can’t Draw?

People who say they have zero ability to draw sometimes find they have a gift to render better than they thought if they become serial mosaicists. By the time they have completed three mosaics they will have resorted to making rough lines on the backer to help plan things or line something up.

And it’s a slippery slope from there if the “can’t-draw” student attempts more and more sophisticated mosaic designs.

Drawing a pattern is faster than making the mosaic, and using a pencil to mark critical lines of tiles evolves into sketching the whole pattern if the person keeps at it over time.

I have seen “can’t draw” students progress to the point where to the point where they routinely draw multiple versions of a pattern before they place the first tile.

Mosaic Plaques by student of art therapist Ellis Eisener, displayed on bookshelf
Mosaic Plaques by client of art therapist Ellis Eisner, displayed on bookshelf


Mosaic (and collage) CAN be options for people dealing with aging issues or impairments of some kind that make drawing difficult or impractical. Rendering with whole tile can be possible when controlling a pencil isn’t.

Mosaic Quilt

Porch Mosaics series by art therapist Ellis Eisener, photo collage
Porch Mosaics series by art therapist Ellis Eisner, photo collage

Art education and art therapy should always be about the experience more than the results.

That means small projects and simple designs are probably best, but that doesn’t mean the results can’t be impressive.

Many small mosaics displayed together in a “crazy quilt” is hard to beat in terms of guaranteed success because a collage of panels made by many different artists is intrinsically multicolored and filled with visual interest

I recommend school mosaic projects where each child gets to design their own mosaic plaque or stepping stone for a crazy quilt instead of working on one large group project.

I think this quilt approach lets children experience art more fully, and the results displayed together are multicolored and filled with visual interest.

I also though this was worth sharing:

Glass-On-Glass Mosaic

We recommend GE Silicone II for glass-on-glass mosaic. GE Silicone II is available at most building material and hardware stores. Black grout can be used to mimic the lead channel used in stained glass windows.

Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Window by art therapist Ellis Eisener installed
Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Window by art therapist Ellis Eisner installed

I like how frosty cool the winter panel looks:

Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Window by art therapist Ellis Eisener pre-installation
Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Window by art therapist Ellis Eisner pre-installation, photographed on opaque surface







13 responses to “Art Therapy Projects”

  1. Audrey Moeller Avatar
    Audrey Moeller

    As an art educator, I love that she said that art education “should always be about the experience more than the result.” I couldn’t agree more. I also agree that the “crazy quilt” project would be more valuable to the students than a group mural type project.

  2. Vicki Allen Avatar
    Vicki Allen

    I appreciate the post’ it gave me some ideas

  3. Janet Gouldman Avatar
    Janet Gouldman

    I especially liked this email, Joe, as not only a novice at any form of mosaics and sketching but as an aging person with some health issues. I stumbled onto mosaics a couple of years ago and only recently realized that I could sketch a bit. This is an inspiring and encouraging post with lovely art. Thanks so much to you, Ellis, and all the students. So nice to know that in a world so full of negativity and confusion enlightenment can come at any time. Warm wishes of health and peace to you all!

    1. Ellis A Eisner Avatar

      Thank you for Janet for your kind comment. Keep up with your artwork. I have found over the years that making art and sharing in this process with others has always provided support and healing when I needed it.

  4. Beth Keats Avatar
    Beth Keats

    Absolutely wonderful!
    I wish I had had these ideas for my autistic kids in the classroom. Combining their view with a way to function in the mainstreamed classroom with the “normal” spectrum and gifted students breaks so many barriers.
    I was always trying to find a way to communicate with all my students through art. We drove the administration crazy!

    1. Ellis A Eisner Avatar

      Hi Beth,
      I have worked with children and adults with autism spectrum disorder. Mosaics will work with these individuals if they are in a middling-high level of functioning on the spectrum. The pieces may be small, or sometimes sharp and we certainly don’t want any accidents to happen.
      An inexpensive way to get the backers is, in Home Depot they sell open-stock wall tiles at usually between 85 cents to 1.50 each. For instance, the “mosaic quilt” above was done on 4″x4″ white wall tiles. The client’s tiles were all made on wall/floor tiles of various sizes. I think the most I paid for a large tile was $2.00.
      Thank you for your comments and best of luck in your work.

  5. Kristina Avatar

    I have been using mosaic in a community project following a natural disaster. People donate their broken and burned objects to incorporate into the design and I also hold public workshops for folks to come help build it.
    It has been an incredibly healing experience for the participants. I feel so lifted when I work with people who do not consider themselves artists (or even remotely creative) and am able to provide a space for them to play and process. I have seen first hand how mosaic offers so many ways for people to slow down and engage on a deeper, fundamental level with themselves.

    1. Ellis A Eisner Avatar

      I would love to see pictures of your project. Please feel free to use my email below.
      Thanks for the comments.

    2. Ellis Eisner Avatar

      Hi Kristina,
      Community projects are a great way to use mosaics. I once had a workshop in a local community fair. I had purchased a bunch of 4×4″ white tiles cheaply at Home Depot. These served as the backings for trivets that were made by pasting mosaic tiles to them. Even though they were made by individual children who visited my table with their parents, I couldn’t help but think how well they would have looked if displayed together.
      Thanks for your comments.

  6. David Oliver Avatar
    David Oliver

    Hello, i wanted to ask a question in regards to a glass mosaic project i am currently working on. The glass i’m having issues with is a foil backed type of glass called Van Gogh glass. I’m using thinset on a backer board with a coat of redgard underneath. I’ve had one tile completely de-laminate, and most are “fogging”. I’ve got some advice to paint the back of the glass with high heat resistent paint and to glue it with Lexell silicone adhesive. I purchased both of these materials and did a sample, looks good so far but silicone says it takes one to two weeks to cure. So, i cannot pry on the sample tile to see if it will de-laminate for another couple weeks but this is a comission so i can’t wait. Does it sound like this new method should resolve the issues to you?
    Great blog by the way, and thanks so much!

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      Hi David,
      I’ve not used Van Gogh glass because I prefer materials that are more archival and traditional, but the color in VGG is a type of metallic automotive paint, and silicone should bond to that without affecting the paint itself. I hope it works well for you.

  7. Pao Avatar

    very beautiful reminds me a lot of talavera, I really like the colors and patterns

  8. Gloria Campos Avatar

    Great points. I agree with all of it.

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