Monumental Mosaic Sculpture

Artist Valerie Theberge recently installed an outdoor mosaic sculpture in Washington, DC, and like much of her work, the sculpture is monumental in scale.

I recommend taking a look at Valerie’s website or Instagram, especially if you are planning a large mosaic mural or sculpture.


Materials and Methods

Valerie makes the sculptural bases for her mosaics from expanded polystyrene (EPS) covered in eight layers of fiberglass mesh and mortar, similar to this method for making an outdoor mosaic backer.


Valerie carves and sands the EPS to shape it. Blocks for carving can be made by laminating sheets of EPS using a white PVA adhesive such as Weldbond.

EPS foam is lightweight yet relatively strong, hard, and fracture tough (impact resistant). With a hard shell of mortar and fiberglass mesh, these sculptures should be as durable as anything made from much heavier materials.


Monumental Mosaics

Size matters, and changes is scale mean qualitative differences.

You can’t simply use more of the same methods and tools as you used on a much smaller project.

Material handling equipment such as cranes and lifts might be needed, and not just for jobs as large as these projects by Valerie.

In my experience, it’s the slightly-larger-than-usual projects that tend to be under-planned because the need for for more scalable methods isn’t as obvious.

We also kid ourselves into thinking we can do things the same way as in the studio with the small projects.

Ignore the temptation to just try to wing it with studio methods if you are tackling a larger installation for the first time.

Take the time to think through all the tasks, even basic stuff such as carrying all the materials from loading zone to the installation site. Think about the weight that can be carried at once, the number of trips required, the time it will take. The devil dwells in the details.

Plan for helpers. Keep your team small and focused and remember that some “help” can be a source of distraction.

TIP: Volunteer organizations can sometimes overload you with help that is mostly there to socialize. Use these people for laying up the design, but keep the installation team small, especially when there are safety concerns or heavy equipment.


My Favorites

I like ancient marbles made from banded agates. Valerie has made some mosaic sculptures that are reminiscent of these hand-made marbles, only a lot larger and flattened at the poles. These are my favorites.

Valerie made these “celestial orbs” for the Hyattsville Library, but I think these would make great garden benches/centerpieces.

I imagine these poking out of overgrown flower gardens like easter eggs.







2 responses to “Monumental Mosaic Sculpture”

  1. Jan Campbell Avatar
    Jan Campbell

    Wow!! Your work is so good that you don’t want to look it once you want to have near so you can see again and again.

  2. Julia Avatar

    Oh wow, these might be my all time favorites. I love, LOVE the orbs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.