Patios are excellent locations for mosaics, but the patio floor itself is not as good a surface for a mosaic as a surrounding wall or brick planter would be. The main reason is simple: metal patio furniture will crack and crush glass tile, and glass is the preferred material because it is frost proof, economical, and comes in many colors. Also, the floor of the patio is not as visible as a nearby vertical surface is likely to be, especially when furniture, grills, and the usual patio accessories are present.
Recently artist Lisa Jones emailed me some photos of her patio mosaic, and I was taken with it in spite of my preference for designs that use free-form placement of pieces of tile instead of gridded patterns of whole tile.
Lisa’s composition is strong, visually engaging, and garden themed. The composition includes different sized figures interacting with each other, and they are arranged so that the fill the space evenly without clustering or gaps that would look odd in a long narrow frieze such as this. The mosaic is visually engaging because the artist used contrasting colors, and the figures include sufficient internal detail. (Note the petals of the roses and daffodils and how they include internal shading.) The floral and insect motifs in the design are appropriate for a backyard garden and provide color during winter months when flowers aren’t in bloom.
Waste Not, Want Not
I also liked Lisa’s mosaic project because she didn’t rip up an antique brick patio to install it. Design and art are important, but so is not filling up the landfill. And how much of an artist or designer are you if you are blind to what strong elements you already have in place or don’t take the time to incorporate them into your project?
Old reclaimed bricks are often very old (1800s) and hand made. Something shouldn’t have to feature in a home gardening magazine before people see its intrinsic value, but all too often, that is the case. Look at the materials that end up in the construction dumpster when an old home is being renovated, and you will see what I mean: old-growth hardwoods, vintage tile, and other scarce resources going straight to the landfill.
Instead of going through all the wasteful effort of taking up the antique bricks or paving over them, Lisa decided to put her mosaic on the plain concrete foundation of her house. Other possible locations for a mosaic include brick walls and planters, which can be plastered smooth with thinset mortar a few days or more before the mosaic is mounted on them. This plastering must be done in advance to allow the mortar to fully contract as it hardens and ensure that underlying voids and cracks don’t need additional filling.
Materials and Methods
Lisa used 3/8-inch glass mosaic tile for this mosaic and laid out her design in a mounting grid and then used mounting tape to pick up the design and transfer it to the wall. The entire design is laid up in a series of sheets of tile, and when the mosaic is finally mounted, thinset mortar is spread onto the wall using a notched trowel, and the sheets are pressed into the mortar. Once the mortar has hardened, the clear plastic mounting tape is peeled off, and the mosaic is grouted.
I often grout using thinset because it is harder and tougher than ordinary grout, and it will match any thinset used to mount the tiles. This matching is important if some of the mounting thinset presses up between the tiles in places, which happens with mosaics made from small cut pieces but less often with mosaic made from whole tile. Lisa used Versabond Thinset with Quickrete cement dye in charcoal color mixed in because she wanted a darker “grout.”