People ask me about mosaic mannequins from time to time, and usually it is which adhesive to use for attaching tile to an old used mannequin they bought at a thift store. I also get questions about where to find a mannequin to use as a mosaic base, and I could only suggest eBay, garage sales, thrift stores and places the asker had already tried. Thankfully Judi Townsend at Mannequin Madness has let me know that they sell new and used mannequins online.
What Adhesive For A Mannequin?
There isn’t a straight answer because whatever you found could be made from anything from expanded polystyrene to painted plaster to wood to all of the above coated with plastics of different types.
A supplier might be able to give a general description of materials for a particular used mannequin, but even if it is something seemingly basic like wood, you still have to treat the surface as an unknown and test your adhesive and maybe do some scraping or sanding. That wood might be sealed with a oil-based varnish or a plastic of some kind, and neither Weldbond nor thinset mortar bond very well to plastics or paints or oil-based coatings.
A mannequin might be made from molded fiberglass fibers in resin, but it’s surface is a paint or a plastic coating of various sorts depending on the age and manufacturer and possible repainting by previous owners.
My old blog article discusses surface prep and testing an adhesive for an old mannequin and for other things with unknown surface composition. I try to avoid using silicon caulk and epoxies because they are messy, smelly, and have short working times, but some people swear by silicone caulk for mounting tiles on non-traditional backers.