• Mosaic Flower Pot Planters

    Mosaic Flower Pot Planters

    Artist Morgan Halford‘s mosaic flower pot planters are colorful geometric abstracts executed with a spooky level of precision.

    I like that they are exceptions to my general recommendation to work in a looser fashion in the uniformity of the sizing, shaping, and orienting of tiles.

    TIP: Most people find that they can render images more effectively if they tolerate a little error in each of the pieces. By effectively, I mean they can render an image that is truer to the model while working faster at the same time. Instead of requiring each piece fit exactly, let slight errors be your grout gap. That approach is easier than planning a larger and more uniform grout gap.

    Morgan wasn’t rendering an image. She was making abstract geometric patterns, and the uniformity of the spacing was an important part of the design for her. The effect is striking.

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  • Inspiration Versus Reproduction

    Inspiration Versus Reproduction

    I once had an employee-artist who became angry with me for encouraging people who didn’t think they could draw to trace artwork or photos to make patterns.

    I explained that we wanted to reach all skill levels and that included some people who would be attempting mosaic or even art for the first time.

    I explained that it was a learning exercise that had value in itself and wouldn’t necessarily dull people’s imagination.

    Chagall was the most imaginative of all the painters of the early 20th century, and his introduction to art as a school boy began by copying illustrations from books.

    I can safely say that I’m not against people making exact copies of existing artwork on principle.

    But why would you want to do that with a mosaic?

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  • White Grout Mosaics

    White Grout Mosaics

    Artist Jill Gatwood sent me some photos of mosaics made by her and her students as examples where white grout was used with good results.

    Jill says she didn’t used to offer white grout as an option for grouting in her class, but has since done so with some surprising discoveries.

    The featured mosaic for this article is a backsplash Jill made with different panels, some grouted in black and some in white.

    Craft Aesthetic

    At one point, we sold white grout, and I put a caveat in the product description about using white grout in mosaic artwork:

    “White grout makes most mosaics look like a summer camp project, and that probably isn’t the look you are going for in your project.”

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  • Glass-On-Glass Mosaic Grout Color

    Glass-On-Glass Mosaic Grout Color

    Artist Laura Adams emailed me for advice on selecting a grout color for her glass-on-glass mosaic, and it is a good case study for several reasons.

    First, the sky of the mosaic is a whitish gray.

    Second, Laura made sure to photograph the mosaic with two different lighting regimes: backlit from behind and regular lighting from the front.

    Given that a glass-on-glass mosaic looks very different when backlit, it wouldn’t be possible to make an informed choice without taking both situations into account.

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  • Knight Park Mosaic Sculpture

    Knight Park Mosaic Sculpture

    Artists Angela Bortone and Natalija Moss have discovered a new way to do huge amounts of extreme physical labor in an unheated loading dock. They call this latest folly the Knight Park Mosaic Sculpture.

    I know from past experiences with my own large sculptural projects that Angela and Natalija have doubted their own rationality if not sanity many times while working on this.

    The Agony and the Ecstasy

    Why do we as artists gladly do massive amounts of labor in conditions normally experienced only by construction workers and farm laborers?

    Artist Angela Borton with Sculpture Base Pre Mosaic

    By angels led, by demons driven. We are the lucky ones. We experience purpose at all levels in our creative process.

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  • Natalija the Mosaic Russian Doll

    Natalija the Mosaic Russian Doll

    Most artists are aware of how much personality a work of art can assume during the process of creation, especially when the piece of art requires a long period to complete. Artist Peter Vogelaar says he often spoke to his “Rebirth” mosaic matryoshka sculpture while working on her and referred to her as Natalija.

    A matryoshka (“little mother”) is a traditional Russian doll made from painted wood and hollowed out for a series of smaller wooden dolls inside with the same design. These recursively-nested dolls symbolize fertility and the continuity of life and the family.

    Peter made his mosaic sculpture Rebirth in the shape and styling of matryoshka dolls but clothed her in illustrations of the forest’s power of renewal instead of traditional costume.

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  • Texture and a Sense of Space: the Mosaics of Terry Nicholls

    Texture and a Sense of Space: the Mosaics of Terry Nicholls

    For those of readers who were asking for inspiring examples of no-grout mosaics, I give you the mosaics of Canadian artist Terry Nicholls.

    I am amazed by Terry’s work and its continuity. It is a very focused exploration of the mosaic medium as a fine art.

    There is a sense of space that Terry creates by keeping landscapes wide open and compensating for the absence of figurative detail with increased texture and pattern.

    These patterned and textured areas suggest fine repetitive detail in landscape elements seen at a distance: waves on the ocean, grass-covered hills, etc.

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  • Agonizing Over Mosaic Icons

    Agonizing Over Mosaic Icons

    Artist Sue Hague’s mosaic icons are reproductions of medieval, byzantine, and early Christian icons, and some are mosaic interpretations of icons that were originally paintings. The mosaics Sue produced from these paintings were made with authentic andamento and look as if ancient mosaics were copied tile by tile.

    Sue describes herself as a beginner still coming to terms with the learning curve, but I don’t think most artists would be able to do that type of cross-media interpretation while maintaining a particular style, at least not as well as Sue has done.

    Mosaic Icon of Mary by Sue Hague after 12th century Russian icon. Left image is the mosaic after grouted with a light sandy beige grout. Right image is the mosaic after the grout was painted with an umber to increase color intensity.

    Sue wasn’t happy with how the light sandy beige reduced the color intensity of the mosaic, and so she stained the grout with acrylic paint in an umber color. This increased color intensity but left the mosaic darker than Sue desired.

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  • Epoxy Grout vs. Archival Quality Materials

    Epoxy Grout vs. Archival Quality Materials

    Epoxy grout is preferred for pools because it is more resistant to pool chemicals and staining, but it shouldn’t be used on art object or plaques that might be around for decades or centuries as heirlooms.

    Epoxy is a resin of long carbon compounds. Long carbon molecules are prone to breaking overtime because they contain stored chemical energy. They are vulnerable to things like oxygen radicals and UV radiation.

    On the other hand, traditional grouts and mortars are made from kiln-fired sand and limestone and clay, which are all basic mineral substances with little stored chemical energy, all materials that last for geologic ages.

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  • Bas-Relief Plaques and Mosaic Stones

    Bas-Relief Plaques and Mosaic Stones

    Artist Sandra Arkin’s bas-relief mosaic sign “Art Can’t Hurt You” makes me laugh.

    Anyone who has ever made a glass mosaic with tiny details has anointed their work multiple times with blood. Am I right, or am I right?

    Sandra says doesn’t draw or make representations of physical objects in her heart usually, but she is pretty adept at making patterns with her printer when she does want an actual image.

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  • Grout Color and Variegated Mosaic Backgrounds

    Grout Color and Variegated Mosaic Backgrounds

    I have examples throughout this blog illustrating why darker grouts work much better for mosaic artwork than light colored grouts do. I also have examples of using complex color fields of related hues and explanations why they provide more visual interest than monochromatic color fields.

    I repeat these two points so often because they are easy ways to make your mosaics look much better.

    Artist Kat Hammer recently started making mosaics, and her first two mosaics of sunflowers are great examples of both points. Actually, her second mosaic of sunflowers is a great teaching example of when NOT to use a complex color field for the background and when a simple monochromatic background is preferred.

    That last detail is very important, and I haven’t talked enough about it.

    First I need to point out how darn good a darker grout looks:

    Kat Hammer Mosaic Sunflowers dark grout

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  • Best Grout Gap For Mosaic Artwork

    Best Grout Gap For Mosaic Artwork

    The best grout gap for mosaic artwork depends on whether or not the mosaic will be outdoors or in a potentially wet location such as a backsplash.

    When Do You Need A Grout Gap?

    If the mosaic might get wet or exposed to humid air, you can’t have the tiles touch each other. You need a gap for the grout to fit into to seal out moisture.

    Tiles that touch can never touch close enough to seal out moisture.

    If the mosaic is a small indoor icon or plaque, you don’t have to worry about sealing out moisture, and so you can fit the tiles tightly together and skip grouting.

    TIP: You might want to grout anyway to fill in any small incidental gaps left by imperfectly shaped tesserae, especially if your mosaic is a “dry” tabletop or architectural surface. (If those surfaces are in the kitchen or bathroom, you should consider them “wet” and use a grout gap.)

    Smaller Gaps Preferred

    Smaller gaps are preferred because they make grouting easier, and they minimize the color impact of grouting.

    A grout gap only needs to be large enough to ensure that grout can fill the gap all the way to the bottom and not just a smear across the top and hide a void underneath.

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Got any book recommendations?