"In the Garden" Mosaic

How To Add Texture To Mosaic Art

Mosaic artwork can include rough textural elements that would be impractical in architectural tiling such as a shower wall, which needs to be smooth for cleaning and safety. Note that smooth does not mean flat. You can have textural elements in an architectural surface, but they need to be rounded and not jagged. (Cheese-grater walls in the shower or even your hallway would be problematic.)


For the past few months or more, I have been meaning to create a mosaic which uses cut pieces of tile mounted on their side so that I could demonstrate how a “hand-cut” smalti look and feel could be created with ordinary molded mosaic tile, which is significantly cheaper than smalti. But work and other art projects kept getting in the way, until finally one day out of the blue artist Dee Ruff emails me some pictures of her work, and they illustrate exactly what I had in mind!

We Are Stardust Mosaic Side View
“We Are Stardust” Mosaic Side View by Artist Dee Ruff shows the beautiful texture and hand-cleaved look that can be had from ordinary molded tile.
We Are Stardust Mosaic
“We Are Stardust Mosaic” by Artist Dee Ruff includes a “portal” (glass panel painted on the reverse side).

Mixed Media and Texture

"In the Garden" Mosaic
“In the Garden” Mosaic by Dee Ruff features ceramic figures by Atlanta-based artist Martha Coursey.
"Nature" Mosaic by Dee Ruff
“Nature” Mosaic by Dee Ruff includes a stained glass inset that matches the “color wash” gradient of the tile.

Dee’s “In the Garden” mosaic really caught my eye because I have always been drawn to mixed-media mosaics and mosaics where the work lines of the background interact with figurative elements in the foreground. This mosaic has both. Plus as a subtle color wash gradient in the background. Plus a hand-cleaved texture made from molded recycled glass tile that was cut and mounted on edge. (It was almost as if this mosaic were made to order for me. Imagine my surprise when Dee emailed it to me.)

Dee says “in the Garden” is one of her favorite pieces. Note that the flowers are made from ceramic figures by Atlanta-based artist Martha Coursey, who does amazing work. I like how the smooth glazed ceramic pieces contrast with the rough cleaved texture of the sky.

Backers, Substrates, and Mounting

Dee makes her panels from recycled expanded polystyrene (Styrofoam)  covered in alkali-resistant fiberglass mesh and multiple coats of thinset mortar colored with concrete dye. The “hollow” core makes the substrates lightweight, and the skin of thinset and mesh makes them strong and tough (impact resistant). Dee says that she builds the mounting hardware directly into the skin so that it is anchored by layers of thinset reinforced by fiberglass mesh.

Dee uses the Wedi brand of hardware, but brass picture hanging rings sold by building material stores should work, provided you use the heavier gauges. Note that no mounting hardware will be strong enough if you hang them on a nail in drywall, which is weak and fails easily. Nails or screws for mosaics and paintings of any size should go through the drywall and into the stud inside the wall (use a stud finder) or in the crown molding at the top of the wall with a hooked rod hanging down.

Note the safest and most robust mounting system is probably the French cleat. See Natalija’s Instructions for French Cleat Mounting.

More Of Dee Ruff’s Art

Dee Ruff currently has work available at the The Mosaic Love Gallery in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Dee’s website is Black Cat Mosaics, and she has some interesting multimedia mosaics and collaborations online there.








6 responses to “How To Add Texture To Mosaic Art”

  1. Hollis Hildebrand-Mills Avatar

    Congratulations, Dee. Very nice. Good to see your work being recognized!

    1. Dee Avatar

      Thanks so much, Hollis! I just saw your kind message today. Mosaic Art Supply is a great resource for artists (including painters who use mixed media styles in their artwork) and it’s right here in Atlanta. I was thrilled to have my art featured here. 🙂

  2. lisa Avatar

    Beautiful work! I was wondering if I could use mosaic mounting tape with irregular height and shape items like rocks, etc, to assemble elements off-site?

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      Hi Lisa,
      That might be problematic for two reasons. First, rounded and irregular shapes aren’t likely to stick well. Second, face mounting on tape means that all the difference in height will need to be hidden in a thick bed of mortar, and the surface of the mosaic will look like it was made from materials all the same thickness.

      1. lisa mullin Avatar
        lisa mullin

        Thanks, Joe. I do want height differences in the finished piece. I wonder if I will have to go to cheesecloth and rabbit skin glue or do you have any other suggestions?
        Thanks so much,
        Lisa Mullin

        1. Joe Moorman Avatar
          Joe Moorman

          Hi Lisa,

          Switching to traditional manufacturing aids won’t really change the situation. The only way I have found to work with irregular artifacts is to mount them directly to the surface one at a time.

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