People ask me about mosaic mannequins from time to time, and usually it is which adhesive to use for attaching tile to an old used mannequin they bought at a thift store. I also get questions about where to find a mannequin to use as a mosaic base, and I could only suggest eBay, garage sales, thrift stores and places the asker had already tried. Thankfully Judi Townsend at Mannequin Madness has let me know that they sell new and used mannequins online.
Ceramic tile can be used for outdoor mosaic patio tables provided you live someplace warm year round, but otherwise glass tile should be used because it is impervious to moisture and freeze damage. There are other reasons to use glass tile explained later in this article.
Concrete Patio Table Set
Artist Naomi Haas recently completed a mosaic patio table set that included concrete benches, and I really liked it for several reasons. For starters, the table base and benches she had were sturdy and stable and appropriate for an outdoor mosaic (and not wood or rusted light-gauge metal or some of the other junk people email us about using).
I also like the color scheme. Naomi colored the un-mosaiced surfaces black and used black grout to make the bright festive colors of the Mexican Talavera tile stand out. To make the concrete black, Naomi used a product called Flex Seal, but black spray paint could have been used. Another thing that draws me to this project is that Naomi made a different design for each bench instead of making them the same.
The following picture of 24kt Gold Leaf Mosaic Glass Tiles mixed with Faceted Glass Jewels is the best evidence I can point to for our renewed commitment to finding exciting new products for use in mosaic artwork:
This stuff is pure treasure. It is hard to look at it without thinking of old kings and dragons and pirates and chests and treasures hidden in the earth. The look and feel is that of a jewel-encrusted relic like a Byzantine crown or a medieval book cover or an icon looted by Vikings.
I can’t wait to see the great pictures of customer art that are sure to come in!
Our new Colored Glass Mirror Tile is architectural quality because it is colored glass (for non metallic colors), and it has silver bonded onto the bottom of the glass. The manufactured certifies these for indoor use in mosaics not subjected to chlorine or sulfur. You can cut these into small pieces because the silver does NOT fall off when nipped by a Mosaic Glass Cutter.
What’s Wrong With Competitor’s Mirror Tile
The metal plates on the bottoms of the cheap crafting mirror tiles sold by our competitors falls off the glass when you cut them. There is another type of cheap colored mirror tile on the market, the type cut by hand from colored mirror stock, but they are no better. The thin silver on the back of these is the same as ordinary mirror stock, and so those products require special mirror adhesive to avoid oxidation, and the glass is probably clear with a thin layer of plastic color.
Good Old Blue and Gold
This blue and gold color scheme is the cover of a 1970’s Book of Mormon and the blue and gold of my high school mascot all in one. I want to use these to do some mosaic-encrusted mosaic chairs or cabinets that blends traditional pique assiette (china dinnerware mosaic) with veins of gold and other gold elements.
The Emotional Significance of These Beautiful Things
I was not able to focus on my mosaic supply business for about two years because I had several family members pass away in rapid succession. Of course I kept the business operating, but I could barely keep up with the day-to-day tasks of my employees because all my time was taken up by estate issues. I had no time to find and add new products or even pay attention to what was was going on with my competitors and their products.
When I finally got my head back above water, I started looking around the Internet at online mosaic retailers, and was angered by what I saw. I felt like unscrupulous people had been kicking me while I was down:
Competitor’s Cheapo Crap
To the west, I saw that I had a competitor selling cheap clear glass that is colored with thin coatings that scratch easily and age quickly and terribly. Would I have to introduce a cheapo product line of my own just to stay competitive? The angriest emails I received in over 13 years of business came from people who used poorly-made tiles like that, and so I couldn’t even consider selling them as a budget or cut-rate product. (No coincidence that this is the competitor that now sells their brand at Mallfart.)
Rape o’ the Sea Tile
To the east, I saw that I had another competitor selling natural mother-of-pearl tiles produced in Asia, where the sea is not harvested but instead is strip mined in the most unsustainable way possible, nothing less than environmental rape. Why would anyone with even the least amount of social or environmental awareness use that in their art?
That competitor is also selling powdered metal-oxide paint pigments for tinting grout, which is one of the last things I would want to sell to the general public or send in the mail as far as the potential for health hazards and lawsuits from improper handling. I was so shocked by what all the cheap questionable products and what they might do to our share of the market, that I even considered selling these powdered pigments for a while before coming to my senses.
But here is the worst of it:
Pretending to Be Mosaic Art Supply
Not content to ruin their own business reputations, these and other competitors had started taking out paid advertisements in Google that used “Mosaic art supply” in the headline of their ads. This was obviously a deliberate attempt to create confusion between brands and fool unwary shoppers into thinking they were at the right website. If these ads weren’t an attempt at deception, they would have used a more searched for phrase like “mosaic tile” or perhaps their own business name.
Delayed by Website Work
My competitors’ unethical practices made the need to find new and exciting products more urgent than it already was, but when I finally found time to focus on Mosaic Art Supply, I learned that the work most urgently needed was to rebuild the website in a new type of software that was mobile-ready. The rebuild was a large project that would take at least 6 months of intense work, but it was absolutely necessary to avoid losing rank in the coming Google updates. Our content and product names were way out of date too, and so it would require rewriting at the same time.
Even if I wanted to throw a lot of money I didn’t have at the problem, no web developer could write the content that I could, not after 13 years of consulting on hundreds of public mosaic art projects and answering a gazillion customer emails about projects and products and what confuses them on the website. Either I would have to talk with the developers so much that I might as well do it myself, or leave them alone and then be furious at how wrong their “expert” decisions were. I couldn’t get out of the website work even if I wanted to burn money. Yuck.
Finally Fighting Back
The website update delayed me in finding new products for a few months, and then there were the two months required for the goods to be delivered by sea freight, but when the first wave of new products arrived, I knew I was finally fighting back. The knock-out looks and the quality of the products I had found make me feel confident, downright righteous even!
Tell Gog and Magog that my house is set against them…
We have an exciting new type of tile that fills a void in our product offering and not just because it is glazed ceramic. The glazes on these tiles are mottled with random splashes of different colors that makes them absolutely beautiful.
Yes, we have great colors in glass mosaic tile, but except for the stained glass, all of the glass products are solid colors, and that means there isn’t much visual interest when they are used in monochromatic color fields.
These new mottled glazed ceramic tiles on the other hand can be used to cover areas without being monotonous. In fact, they are a great way to add visual interest to your mosaic project, especially when multiple patterns are mixed and matched. I foresee these being used as borders on mosaic mirrors and picture frames and in mixed-media mosaic art. I am eager to receive pictures of your projects made with these.
Snap Apart By Hand
These tiles don’t come as individual tiles. Instead, they come as one piece, a sheet that is embossed with lines so that it can be snapped apart by hand to yield individual tiles of irregular shape. We snap these by laying a ruler under the sheet along one of the lines and pressing down on both sides with a gloved hand. Sometimes the sheet doesn’t break quite as desired, and a little scrap is created. BUT, even if a piece doesn’t break as intended, the pieces could still be trimmed with a tile nipper and used.
A Little Thicker Than Glass
Most of our glass tile is 4mm (1/8 inch) thick, and these ceramic tiles are a little thicker, about 3/16 inch.
The new SPARDUSTER™ Small Parts Dust Remover looks like a simple vacuum attachment, but it is actually nothing less than a revolution in studio and workshop cleanup. With this simple tool, cleaning up a work surface covered in mosaic tile goes from 45 minutes of tedious sorting to a few minutes of casual effort. You can remove the glass dust from all your storage jars in a matter of a few seconds per jar –without sucking up and loosing any pieces.
SPARDUSTER™ Small Parts Dust Remover Vacuum Attachment
I had to clean up a room full of Legos and kept putting it off because it would take hours and hours to wash all the cat hair and dust out of it. I created a small prototype that eventually became the SPARDUSTER™, and with that simple tool, I was able to clean all of those boxes and boxes of Legos in less than 30 minutes and did not suck up a single piece!
Fits Most Vacuum Cleaners
This attachment works on household vacuum cleaners and shop vac with hoses 2 inches in diameter or less. The only restriction is that the attachment’s 1-inch diameter insert tube must be able to fit inside the hose.
For Tiny Parts
The openings in the mesh screen are 2mm, and the mesh is double ply, so you can clean some very small parts with this.
You can also pick up spilled containers of beads and screws and similar items quickly with this attachments.
Durable Construction / Replaceable Screen
These are made from heavy duty PVC plastic for long life. The fiberglass mesh screen is replaceable, and the unit ships with enough spare mesh to make 10 screens.
Pet hair and lint will accumulate on the screen. To clean it off, simply pull the attachment out of your vacuum hose and vacuum it off. You will be surprised how quickly the filth builds up. The good news is that this attachment will have you living and working a lot cleaner because it takes so much of the tedious labor out of cleaning up after a studio session.
I still can’t figure out how managed to work in my mosaic studio without it. This simple attachment makes clean up so much easier!
We just added three different types of glazed porcelain tile for use as accents in mixed media mosaic art projects, and the most exciting of these are the blue and white floral china patterns.
“Blue and Whites”
“Blue and whites” are what I always called the china shards that I would find when walking fields and creeks. More so than the other things that I found (pipe stems, bottle necks, glass marbles, china doll parts), these blue and whites made me think of making mosaics, but I’ve noticed that over the years since I started making mosaics, I haven’t used these as often as I would have expected. I think it was because no matter how many I found, I never found enough that I didn’t think of each one as a unique treasure that needed to be the centerpiece of some work of art and not just one of many tiles.
But that’s only part of the reason why I found myself using fewer blue and whites than I would have thought. What really put them out of reach for me is that I couldn’t stomach the amount of waste that is created when old china is cut up for mosaic tile. Most of what you get from some plates is waste. And then there is the issue of the plate breaking in ways that splits the pattern up and the problem with many pieces not being flat.
These glazed porcelain tiles with floral china patterns are the perfect solution: None of the waste of cutting your own, a perfect glossy glaze. a great floral print.
I see these being used as borders around mosaic images and mosaic mirrors. The ones with mottled glazes could be used for that as well.
I think the 1-inch porcelain tiles with mottled glazes are going to be popular as well because they have subtle antique colors in blotchy patterns that you just don’t get in glass tile other than stained glass. Unlike stained glass, the variegated colors of these are done on a smaller scale so that each 1-inch tile has an interesting pattern.
We now sell 24kt gold mosaic glass, and it really is gold and not the brass alloy imitation products that some competitors are rather shamefully selling as gold. We also sell the imitation gold brass foil glass. but we have it correctly labeled and appropriately priced.
The real 24 kt gold glass is molded tiles and have the bevels on the sides like vitreous glass tile, while the imitation brass foil tiles are hand cut and have flat sides. The real gold mosaic is superior to most of what I see on the market because the our gold leaf is fused into the FACES of the glass instead of being laminated on the bottom of a piece of glass. Our gold is inside the glass, but is close to the top surface and makes the tiles look AMAZING!
Mini 3/8-Inch Gold Mosaic
We also have these in the 3/8-inch MINI size. They look like little jewels, maybe earrings missing their studs!
Smooth Gold Mosaic Available Too
An Economical Alternative
We carry the Imitation Gold Mosaic Glass at competitive prices, but unlike some of our competitors, we sell them as what the really are and do not try to pass them off as counterfeits. They are a great material in their own right.
We now sell glass beads for use in mosaic artwork. We have several types including murano, lampwork, millefiori, etc., but for practical purposes, glass bead are best divided into two groups: those small enough to be glued next to glass mosaic tile without sticking out too far, and those so large that they are best used by pressing into a bed of thinset mortar. In either method, glass beads are a great way to give a mosaic texture and dimension and an eclectic look and feel.
Small Beads For Gluing On Surfaces
Larger Lampwork Beads For Pressing Into Mortar
Stepping Stone Molds are used to make mosaic stepping stones by pressing tile, stone, glass gems and other durable objects into wet concrete. Our large lampwork glass beads are perfect for decorative art were pieces are pressed into mortar or concrete. As always, you have to be careful with stepping stones and make sure you don’t create a slip hazard or position glass pieces in such a way that they can get broken off and leave sharp edges exposed.
Ideas For Using Glass Beads
It’s easy to come up with ideas for how to use glass beads in found-object mosaics: just combine them with other items made from glass, porcelain, stone, thicker seashells, and other durable materials. But beads can also be used in figurative mosaic images. Consider the following:
Mosaic tile can be arranged in curved rows to suggest motion, such as when tiles in the background are laid out in concentric rows around the figures in the foreground. The mosaic bird image in our logo is an example of how this works:
Rows of glass beads could be alternated with rows of flat glass mosaic tile to increase the contrast and make each row stand out more and heighten the effect of the concentric rows, especially if the rows of glass beads were placed more randomly and intermittently instead of every other row.
Similarly, you could use single-file lines of beads to outline figures, render letters and numbers, or draw smaller figures.
Millefiori and Murano Glass Beads
Most of our more elaborate varieties of glass beads are larger than what could be easily glued on a flat surface next to glass tile –but not all of them! The millefiori glass beads are the exception. They are relatively thin and could be used to suggest smaller flowers in a mosaic bouquet.
The new Mud Turtle Mosaic brand of smalti was selected based on how well the material cuts, and it is competitively priced. The material appears to be more homogenized and have fewer cold seams than most art glass products because it tends to break more predictably and produces fewer useless shards.
Smalti is hand-cut mosaic glass that is made according to traditional formulas of sand, lime and mineral pigments. Our smalti is hand cut, and the composition is more or less the same as other brands of smaltis. The critical difference is that we have it produced in a factory that makes modern molded glass tile, which means the smalti is made in slightly larger batches and handled more consistently to avoid cold seams when the molten glass is poured on the cooling slab.
Cold seams are where two wrinkles or bulges of glass came together but didn’t fully fuse. You encounter them a lot in stained glass from when the different colors are swirled together. That is why stained glass (and a lot of smalti) shatters so unpredictably when you attempt to cut it small. I am eager to get feedback on this new product.
Cutting glass tile with a mosaic glass cutter is a relatively quiet and gentle process because not much force is required to make the cut. However, glass is a brittle material, and cutting it with a compression tool causes pieces to snap off and bounce across the room. In addition to usable pieces of tile, tiny slivers of glass are also produced and traces of dust. While this waste isn’t produced in large quantities, it does need to be contained, especially when the work is being done at home, because the slivers are extremely sharp and dusts of all type should not be breathed (including generic materials like sand and sawdust).
Fortunately, the wastes from the cutting process can be contained easily using ordinary household items such as a shallow plastic tray or pan and a damp dish towel.
Glass Slivers and Old Towels
Pricked fingertips are a common injury, especially when you attempt to pick up a freshly cut piece of tile with a sharp triangular point instead of using a pair of tweezers as recommended. While virtually every injury I had of this type over a 15+ year period was superficial, it can be annoying especially if you work with mosaic on a daily basis like I do for long periods.
But pricked fingertips aren’t the real problem, at least in my experience. The most common form of injury experienced when working with glass mosaic are cuts from tiny glass slivers that lie hidden on work surfaces until you run your hand over them or rest your forearm. Fortunately, cuts from stray slivers can be completely avoided by common sense practices such as cutting over a pan lined with an old hand towel or dish towel and using a vacuum to periodically clean up the surrounding worksurface.
The dish towel at the bottom of the cutting pan helps prevent cuts when you pick up pieces of tile because the slivers resting on the soft terry cloth material of the towel don’t have a hard surface to push them into your skin.
Make sure you don’t reuse the old dish towel for other purposes because slivers can become tangled or embedded in the fabric. Also make sure don’t shake it out in a way that creates dust of flings slivers around. I prefer to rinse mine out in a basin of water. If I do have to shake out crumbs, I do it by holding the towel INSIDE a large trash can. I also mist the towel thoroughly beforehand to make sure the shaking doesn’t make dust fly.
Humidity and Dust
Dust can be controlled by humidity. While dry air allows tiny dust particles to become airborne more easily and stay in the air longer, moist air tends to make dust precipitate out of the air faster and helps keep dust stuck to surfaces. That is why factories often have misting sprinklers running in the ceilings, especially at times of the year when the AC or heat is running continuously.
You can do similarly by using a spray bottle to occasionally mist over your cutting area and keeping your dish towel moist inside your pan. The damp dish towel serves as a reservoir of moisture that keeps the air above it relatively humid. The humid air helps any trace amounts of dust created by cutting fall out of the air and onto the towel. The terry cloth fabric of the towel helps trap the dust once it settles.
Cutting Pans And Stray Pieces
While the safety issues mentioned above are usually ignored as a nuisance, the problem of having to chase down a loose piece every time one shoots across the worktable and onto the floor is a lot harder to ignore. Stray pieces of tile are sometimes sharp, and they can scratch floors or cut bare feet if walked on. A cutting pan made from a shallow litter box (purchased new) or plastic tote can help contain these useful pieces in addition to any waste that is created. I keep my mosaic and glue right beside my cutting pan so that I can transfer the cut pieces directly to the mosaic -without having to get up every few minutes to find strays!