koi-mosaic-table-backlit

Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Table

Artist Melanie Squires recently completed a stained-glass mosaic table, and I wanted to show it off for several reasons, and not just because it looks so good. There are some materials and methods to discuss, and there is the use of impressionism for the koi, which I thought was particularly effective.

The Table

Melanie made the table from a metal patio table with a glass top and attached the stained glass to it using silicone adhesive.

Warning: If you use a glass patio table for a mosaic, make sure the glass is thick enough to support the weight of the mosaic. It is possible to find glass patio tables at thrift shops where the original thick glass has broken and been replaced with something thinner. It is also possible to come across cheaply-made tables with thin glass, especially end tables and coffee tables.

Never use a table for an outdoor mosaic merely because that is the table you happen to have. Before you invest time, money, and materials, make sure it will last.

If the table will be outside, make sure the material isn’t wood or plywood or MDF. Wood of all types swells and contracts with changes in humidity, and tiles start popping off relatively quickly in all but desert climates. Even in the desert, a single rain can destroy a mosaic with a wooden backer, especially if the back and sides aren’t painted very well with exterior paint.

Make sure the table can support the weight of a mosaic and that you aren’t making the table top heavy and unstable. This last concern is particularly important for tall and narrow bistro tables.

Most bistro tables are fine with glass mosaic (4mm thick), but thicker stone and ceramic tiles are likely to be too much. All that being said, bistro tables should always be anchored or blocked in by other furniture such as chairs, in my opinion, because they are prone to getting knocked over even with plain lightweight tops.

Koi Mosaic Stained Glass Table by Melanie Squires.
Koi Mosaic Stained Glass Table by Melanie Squires.

Silicone Adhesive

For years, I discouraged silicone adhesive for use in mosaic because people used it for outdoor projects like mosaic bird houses hoping that the silicone would compensate for mounting the mosaic on plywood (it can’t), and we try to discourage any mosaic work that is destined to age poorly.

But silicone has its uses, especially for glass-on-glass mosaics where water-based PVAs such as Weldbond cannot fully dry and turn clear but remain white between the glass for months.

It took me a while to accept silicone because I disliked the short working time and the fact that it cannot be cleaned up easily with water.

Then my employees started making their mosaics using stained glass more and more, and eventually Natalija started doing glass-on-glass mosaics that could be backlit the way Melanie’s table is. For these glass on glass mosaics, Natalija used GE Silicone II, and she found that it worked very well, even though she works by gluing down one tile at a time, which is intrinsically messy compared to laying up the mosaic in advance on Mosaic Mounting Paper or Mounting Tape and then gluing it down all at once.

If you do decide to make a glass-on-glass mosaic using silicone adhesive, read my blog article about how to lay up a mosaic on mounting tape.

It’s fairly simple to do, and it is so much easier than gluing down one tile at a time, especially when you are using an adhesive that isn’t water soluble. If you do decide to glue down one tile at a time, have plenty of old rags available for wiping your fingertips.

Koi Detail Mosaic Stained Glass Table by Melanie Squires.
Koi Detail Mosaic Stained Glass Table by Melanie Squires.

Impressionistic Fish

The mottled colors and variegations of stained glass make it arguably the best material for photorealistic and impressionistic mosaics. That is why I was very impressed with Melanie’s koi fish in the center of the mosaic. Although Melanie renders these fish with simple uncut glass mosaic tile, they look perfectly at home with the stained glass. Even though they may look coarse and chunky when viewed close up, they are the detailed focus of the mosaic at a natural viewing distance. Very good work!

11 thoughts on “Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Table

  1. Karen Brow-Meier

    Oh the beauty of glass mosaics! I love her use of varigated cool colors for the background against the oranges and yellows of the fish. The combination of both square tiles and irregular cut glass pieces is really dramatic when done well, as it is here. Question: is the grout black or grey? The colors in the photos look different even though the fish appear to be the same. Is this just a difference in lighting or did she like the first table so much, she was inspired to do another….

    Reply
    1. Julia

      I think the grout looks darker on top because that’s showing the table with backlighting.

      I’ve wanted to make stained glass mosaic light fixtures for years – could that be done with these materials?

      Reply
      1. Joe Moorman Post author

        Hi Julia,

        Yes, with backlighting the grout line is totally opaque, just like a stained glass window viewed from outside a church at night. It really is impressive.

        You can definitely make stained glass light shades using stained glass and silicone. However, I would avoid making anything small or likely to contain heat and cause the wiring in the lamp to overheat. I would take obvious safety precautions like feeling the inside of the shade after the light had been on for a while, and I would copy factory-made designs in terms of size and shape (but not mosaic pattern).

        Please send us pics if you end up making one.

        Reply
  2. Susan Reiter

    I have also done 4 different stained Glass mosaic tables. I used Loctite clear or Gorilla glue clear to adhere my glass. These are all interior use tables. I would be happy to share photos if you could give me photo credit, please.

    Reply
    1. Joe Moorman Post author

      Hi Susan,

      Please email us pics directly at the website. I don’t think attachments are possible via this comment section. We would love to see your mosaics!

      A word about cyanoacrylate glues such as Gorilla Glue. Those “super glues” are very strong initially, but they break down over time and aren’t archival the way PVA adhesives are. I’m not sure how long silicone can last under glass, but maybe very long (maybe even archival) because even when exposed to UV radiation, weather, and abrasion, silicone caulk has an expected adhesion life of 20+ years on exposed building fascia.

      Thanks

      Reply
    1. Joe Moorman Post author

      It really is! The part that got me was how well the impressionistic fish worked in the design. Any novice can painfully over-render detail that isn’t relevant, but it takes an artist to suggest or “paint” instead of “draw.”

      Reply
  3. Carolyn

    How thick should the glass be? I have some glass tables I’d like to try, but as you stated, I don’t want to do all of that work if it can’t be safely supported. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Joe Moorman Post author

      Hi Carolyn,

      Unfortunately I don’t have a simple definitive answer because there are different sizes of tables, and the many different manufacturers are using different types of glass. From what I see in different product specs, A table 24″ in diameter or larger should be at least 1/4″ thick.

      The best recommendation I can make remotely is to avoid glass that seems obviously too thin and to buy a replacement top if there is any doubt. They are sold online, and local glass shops can make them. TIP: You can compare the thickness of your glass table top to what you are seeing online for its size and shape by searching Google for “glass patio table top replacement.”

      I hope this helps!

      Reply
  4. Melanie Squires

    Thank you for featuring my table Joe – it was a joy to make. The grout is black, but looks grey in the pics. I also (since I have the table outside- have sealed it with an outdoor tile sealer and it has weathered fine. )
    Thanks for all the kudos!
    Melanie

    Reply

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