Mosaic as Thoughtful Art Experience

Ros Edmonds of Art Docents teaches art interpretation and technique to children ages kindergarten through eighth grade, which is the most important age range for teaching art and science and “planting seeds” that change lives.

Ros emailed me some photos of her Mosaic Coaster Project with fifth graders, and I am happy to announce that she “gets it.”

Part of Ros’s project was for the children to write a museum description or art review of their work.

Thoughtful Project

The students writing their own reviews puzzled me at first because we spend so much time teaching that visual art must succeed without explanation, but then I realized how important the writing part of the project was.

The review writing helps the students think in terms of what they are trying to communicate with their visual image and the purpose of their design, which I thought was spot-on for that age level.

Thinking in terms of theme drives creativity at the emotional level. Having a purpose beyond visual beauty also informs the composition by suggesting details to include.

As a teaching technique, the writing also helps solve the practical problem of helping less-creatively-minded students come up with designs.


Only a small percentage of students will continue making visual artwork after this class, but every student at that age can benefit from a chance to be creative and expressive in a hands-on visual medium.


Art Experience

Mosaic murals might be appropriate class projects for high-school students or students of a certain level of focus and skill, but is the mosaic medium a thoughtful art experience for younger children?

Well, a mosaic mural might seem like an obvious no in most cases, but that isn’t the only way to make mosaic artwork as a class project.

Consider a collage of individual projects if a mural is needed, even when the students aren’t small children.

A real art experience for children must involve imagination and individual design by definition.

Otherwise the lesson is merely craft and technique, something that is studied for the rest of an artist’s career, something that is often used for utilitarian purposes.


Age Appropriate

The Mosaic Coaster Project was done by fifth graders, and so it was vital that the project be something that could be completed with a 5th-grade attention span.

If I were doing a similar project with older 8th-grade students, I would consider a larger backer with smaller tiles, which would allow more sophisticated designs.

I would consider an 8 inch or 10 inch backer and use 8mm glass tiles. I would also show the students how to make more complex designs with a limited number of cuts.

If time is limited, students can stick to a grid design with only an occasional cell occupied by two rectangular or triangular pieces instead on one whole tile.

If more time is available for more advanced students, they can abandon the grid entirely and make a mosaic entirely from cut pieces


Perfect Fit

A square coaster 100mm in size is the perfect fit for 10mm glass tiles in a 10 x 10 grid of exactly 100 tiles.

Ros cut 100mm squares from 1/4-inch plywood and made a stamp to ink the grid on the backers.

She also gave her students sheets of paper with grids printed on them so that the students could first lay out their designs and play around.

TIP: It is difficult to lay out a full design on a back because tiles fall off the edge. Lay your design out on a temporary surface and then transfer the mosaic to the backer, preferably using Mosaic Mounting Tape if your design is elaborate.

Ros’s students transferred their tiles to the backer one tile at a time.

I’m not sure that the inked grids on the backers are needed because students can work from one edge of the backer to the other and keep things straight using the edges.

BUT I am certain that the papers printed with grids were indispensable for laying out the full designs and for playing around and coming up with the early stages of a design.



The 4-Inch Bamboo Coasters we sell are actually 100mm (3.93 inches) in width, but the corners are rounded, and so there would be issues at the corner if using whole tiles like Ros’s students used.

I used our Bamboo Mosaic Coaster Bases for the inserts for my Mosaic Door project.






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