Category Archives: Material and Tool Information

Information about mosaic materials and tools.

Ceramic Tiles with Mottled Glazes

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.

Mottled Glazed Ceramic Tiles selection A

Mottled Glazed Ceramic Tiles selection A

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.

Mottled Glazed Ceramic Tiles selection B

Mottled Glazed Ceramic Tiles selection B

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.

Vacuum Attachment For Removing Dust From Small Parts

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 vacuum attachment

SPARDUSTER™  Small Parts Dust Remover Vacuum Attachment has a replaceable fiberglass mesh screen that prevents you from sucking up small pieces of tile and other parts.

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.

Simple Cleaning

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!

 

 

Blue and White China Print Porcelain Tiles

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”

Porcelain Tiles Blue and White China Print

Porcelain Tiles Blue and White China Print are made to look like pieces cut

“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.

Mottled Glazes

Porcelain Tiles Mottled Glazes

Porcelain tiles with mottled glazes have subtle variegated colors with golden yellow mixed with antique hues of red, blue, and cream.

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.

Real 24kt Gold Mosaic Glass For Art

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.

 

Real 24 kt Gold Mosaic Glass

Real 24 kt Gold Mosaic Glass

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!

Gold Mosaic Glass 10mm Wavy

Gold Mosaic Glass 10mm Wavy is real 24 kt gold fused into the surface of the glass.

Smooth Gold Mosaic Available Too

We have smooth gold glass in addition to wavy tiles. and we have them in both 3/8-inch and 3/4-inch sizes.

Gold Mosaic Glass 20mm Smooth

Gold Mosaic Glass 20mm Smooth is real 24 kt gold fused into the surface of the glass.

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.

Imitation Gold Mosaic Glass 20mm Wavy

Imitation Gold Mosaic Glass 20mm Wavy is brass leaf fused under glass.

 

Glass Beads for Mosaic Art

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

Small Glass Beads

Some of our Glass Bead Assortments are beads small enough to be glued beside thin mosaic tile and not stick out too far. The assortments are made from beads in the same color family as shown.

Larger Lampwork Beads For Pressing Into Mortar

Lampwork Glass Beads

We also sell assortments of larger Lampwork Glass Beads. These are best used in stepping stone molds or pressing into thinset 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:

Mosaic Art Supply Logo

The bird in the Mosaic Art Supply logo uses background tiles arranged in concentric rows to suggest motion.

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

Murano Millefiori Glass Beads

We have Glass Bead Assortments of various types of murano, millefiori, and lampwork.

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.

Improved Smalti

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.

smalti hand-cut mosaic glass

The new Mud-Turtle Mosaic brand of smalti comes in a wide range of colors for rendering complex images.

Cutting Pan For Mosaic Tile

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.

mosaic cutting pan

Plastic dish pans and litter boxes make great cutting pans, especially those that are fairly shallow and wide. The sides do not have to be high at all to contain flying pieces of tile. An old dish towel can be dampened and placed on the bottom of the pan to help trap dust and slivers. A spray bottle filled with water should be used to mist the pan periodically. The tile and cutter are held down in the pan or just over it when the cut is made.

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!

Mosaic Transfer Instructions

Yesterday I wrote up some recommendations and instructions for Outdoor School Mosaics that focused on a project where each child made a mosaic stepping stone on a paver to be arranged in a crazy quilt design. I forgot to clarify that those instructions were written for younger students and beginners needing to play around with tile and get some basic experience forming tile into patterns and shapes. After all, it doesn’t make sense to have young children trying to copy the work of an experienced mosaic artist before they have had the benefit of handling tile long enough to make a simple triangle or smiley face.

More Sophisticated Designs

If you wanted to use make a more sophisticated design with smaller pieces of tile or to render an image, you could adapt that same method and add just a few steps. I have the steps numbered below, but here is a summary of what would be different: Before you covered the cardboard square with contact paper (sticky side out), you would draw your pattern on the cardboard or tape the pattern to the cardboard. Once you position all your tile on the pattern covered in contact paper, you would use some mosaic mounting film to pick it up off the cardboard/contact paper. Then the mosaic could be pressed onto a paver or stepping stone coated with thinset. Once the thinset hardens, the mounting film is peeled off and the mosaic is grouted. This method allows you to lay up very complicated designs in advance of transferring it all at once to the cement.

Pavers vs. Molds

Note that here I am talking about using thinset mortar to attach a mosaic design to an existing stepping stone or paver or flagstone. If you need instructions for how to use a stepping stone mold to press tiles into wet concrete (or pour wet concrete over a mosaic design mounted on contact paper at the bottom of a mold), then read my article on Mosaic Stepping Stone Instructions.

Stepping Stone Transfer Instructions

  1. Cut out a square of cardboard the same size as your stepping stone or paver. If you want to use an irregularly shaped piece of flagstone as your mosaic base, you can cut out a piece of cardboard in the same shape as the flagstone. Just lay the flagstone on the cardboard and trace around it.
  2. Draw your mosaic pattern on the cardboard or on a piece of paper taped to the cardboard.
  3. Wrap the cardboard pattern with clear contact paper with the STICKY SIDE OUT. The sticky contact paper keeps the tiles from sliding around as you position them on the pattern.
  4. Use mosaic mounting tape (or clear packing tape) to pick the mosaic up off the cardboard pattern.
  5. Coat the paver or stepping stone or flagstone with a thin layer of thinset mortar. Smear it around to make sure the surface is wetted thoroughly and then scrape off the excess. You only need a layer about 1/16 inch thick. A little more won’t hurt, and it doesn’t have to be exact, but too much can be a little messy if you press down of the mosaic and squeeze it out the sides.
  6. Press the mosaic into the thinset. It may be easier to lay the mosaic on a table (with the mounting tape side down) and lower the thinset-covered stone onto the sheet of tile.
  7. Allow the thinset to harden for 24+ hours.
  8. Peel off the mosaic mounting tape.
  9. Grout the mosaic with additional thinset if needed. It is better to use more thinset instead of grout because it will match the color of any thinset that pressed up between the tiles when you mounted the mosaic. If you use grout, then the color probably won’t be exactly the same, and your mosaic will look like you grouted it with two different types of concrete. Often no additional grout is needed because enough thinset squeezes up between the tiles during mounting.
  10. Clean any grout residue or haze from the face of the mosaic by buffing with a clean cloth.
  11. Allow the grout to cure for 2 or 3 days and then seal the finished mosaic with a tile and grout sealer purchased from a local building material store.

For more information on using clear contact paper and mosaic mounting tape to lay up and transfer mosaic designs, read my article on Mounting A Mosaic On Clear Adhesive Film. If the cost of mosaic mounting tape is too high, or if you don’t need a whole roll, then you can use clear packing tape as a substitute.

Mosaic Coasters

Our shipment of hardwood bases for making mosaic coaster recently arrived, and I just now added them to our website. We have bases for making square mosaic coasters and round mosaic coasters, and these are great project ideas for someone wanting to make a mosaic miniature.

The coaster bases are made in the USA from cherry hardwood that has been cut out with a laser so that the sides have an attractive burnt wood finish.

mosaic coaster skull bases

The mosaic coasters are a great project idea because they are small and require less time and material. I made this skull mosaic the night before Halloween.

In the product descriptions for these, I included some instructions for how to make your own mosaic design on them. My instructions emphasize the need to evaluate your design to make sure you don’t have any details smaller than the smallest piece of tile you can cut. To do this, I always find the smallest detail in my design and cut up some tile and arrange it to form the detail. If I discover that it is too difficult to cut the tile that small, then I know I need to change the scale of my design by cropping it or simplifying it in some way. This is important for creating mosaic art in general, but it is particularly important when you start trying to make mosaic miniatures like this. It just doesn’t make sense to invest a lot of time in the rest of the mosaic only to get to the most detailed part (which is often a key focal point in the design) and discover that you can’t render it very well because it is too small.

Here is my mosaic skull coaster again. I am reluctant to describe it as micro mosaic because this is really nothing compared to the insanely detailed work that the micro artists turn out. After all, this is a coaster, not a design on a pinky ring!

mosaic-skull-coaster

Boo! In my painting and other mediums, I have been focusing on a series of small works as a means developing skills and experimenting with variations side by side. I can now see the advantages of using miniatures to develop skills in mosaic as well. It really does help to complete a piece with less time and materials so that you can try different approaches faster than you would if making full-sized works.

Mosaic Christmas Tree Ornaments

Please email us pictures of your Christmas tree ornaments made from our mosaic ornament bases. I would really like to receive a picture of one made to look like a globe of the Earth. I think a globe ornament would look spectacular, especially in mosaic, but I haven’t had the time to make one myself due to all my other art projects.

Remember to order your mosaic ornament bases early because we often get large orders from groups that completely exhaust our supply of hard polystyrene spheres.

mosaic ornaments

Mosaic Christmans tree ornaments made by artist Natalija Moss using our ornament bases.

Each ornament base is only 29 square inches (or 0.2 square feet) of surface area, so it doesn’t take too much tile to cover one. Just one bag of the 12mm Elementile Recycled Glass Mosaic Tile is more than enough to make an ornament. Depending on how you cut and space the tile, you only need between 100 and 125 tiles to cover one ornament, and each bag of 12mm Elementile contains about 185 tiles.