Stained Glass Mosaic Art

Artist and MAS employee Natalija Moss has recently completed a series of mosaics made from stained glass, and they are definitely worth seeing and discussing for several reasons. Natalija’s other artwork and video game plugins can be seen at her Lady Natalya website.

stained-glass-erza-600

“Erza” Stained Glass Mosaic by artist and MAS employee Natalija Moss. Note how the dark charcoal-colored grout line mimics the lead channel soldered joints of stained glass artwork. This piece is technically a mosaic (it is grouted “tile” on an opaque background), but it is aesthetically stained glass in terms of the sizes of the individual pieces of glass and how they are used to render details.

Stained glass can be used in mosaic artwork in two different ways. The stained glass can be cut up into small tesserae (pieces) just like glass mosaic tile in a typical mosaic approach, or it can be used in larger pieces similar to how it is used in stained glass artwork. This latter approach preserves the large swirls of color which cutting into smaller pieces tends to break up, and this allows “the glass to do the work” as stained glass artists often say as a maxim. What they mean by that expression is allowing the swirls in the stained glass to create visual interest and suggest details such as ripples in water instead of rendering each ripple individually as a separate piece of glass.

I tend to think of mosaic artwork in terms of the traditional mosaic approach and cut any stained glass I use into tiny tiles, but I was impressed by how successful Natalija’s mosaics were and how conspicuously different they were from my preconceptions.

Compare Natalija’s “Erza” mosaic to Doug and Carly’s “Van Gogh Self Portrait” mosaic. Notice how the flowing andamento so crucial to the the Van Gogh mosaic is COMPLETELY absent in Natalija’s work.

stained-glass-major-600

“The Major” Stained Glass Mosaic Artwork by Natalija Moss. Note the complete absence of flowing andamento (arrangement of tile in concentric rows to suggest motion) which is normally so crucial to mosaic art

On reflection, I can see that Natalija’s use of stained glass in larger pieces instead of many small tesserae is merely stained glass artwork as stained glass artwork is typically done, but there are two reasons that Natalija’s work still stands out. First, she didn’t give up the stained glass convention of larger piece sizes merely because she was mounting on an opaque background to make a mosaic.

The second reason Natalija’s work caught my notice was the freshness of her themes/subjects. As a rule, stained glass artwork tends to use some of the most cliche designs to be found in art and crafts marketing (which is saying quite a bit), so Natalija’s use of subjects from Japanimation is fairly novel for that medium. I think that grabbed my attention as much as the absence of andamento.

“Penguins” Stained Glass Mosaics

“Penguins” Stained Glass Mosaics by Natalija Moss demonstrate that it is possible to be cute without being saccharine sweet. Note how the background colors are warm and appealing instead of the cold blues that might be more naturally expected. To paraphrase the American painter James McNeill Whistler, “Nature must be corrected.” This is an important point to remember when designing compositions and when selecting colors. You can move a tree to the side to frame a scene. You can select a completely different background color quite easily when you aren’t attempting photographic realism.

 A Digression On The Failings of Stained Glass Retailers

It has been very easy for me to ignore stained glass artwork for the most part in the 13+ years I have been running Mosaic Art Supply because so much of it I came across by chance was so cliche and dated. The butterflies, bald eagles and tulips you see so much of now in stained glass catalogs appear to be the exact same patterns I saw 15 years ago and as a boy in the 1970’s.

I think the people who sell stained glass have done a disservice to their customers and to their own wallets by promoting their industry in such a tired way. Sure, there will always be people who want sappy stuff because they like sappy stuff or think it is easier to make, but I think that sort of approach tends to kill interest in the medium over time by not attracting younger people and people with more serious interests in art. This converging on the cliche by stained glass marketers has also meant that their patterns were more easily mass produced by countless Chinese competitors, which further destroys profit margins as everyone “races to the bottom” to compete solely on lowest price.

All of my product decisions at Mosaic Art Supply were made with one eye toward avoiding these traps, and this is why we have always avoided selling the mosaic craft kits we see on the market. I want to promote a serious interest in Art with a capital A because I think it is in the best interest of my industry, and because if I wanted to help distribute mass-produced junk, I could have stayed in the corporate world. In the sense of being something a person creates for deeply personal reasons, Art is one of the few intrinsically sacred things in a world where everything is increasingly profaned and commercialized. That is why the prevalence of cliche stained glass patterns has always struck me as being nothing less than a tragedy, a huge opportunity lost. Even if you prefer those particular subjects/themes, it should still strike you as conspicuously strange that you don’t often see alternatives to those themes being offered as patterns by stained glass retailers.

11 thoughts on “Stained Glass Mosaic Art

  1. Tindy

    I am working on a mosaic concrete birdbath (my third) using cut stained glass. I started gluing the glass on using MAC craft glue, then started using pre-mixed adhesive grout on the curves since the pieces wouldn’t stay. After reading your blog, I think I should be using thinset on the whole thing since it will be outdoors. Is that correct? I’ve done approximately 1/6 of the birdbath top with glue – will that need to be removed and redone, or can I keep going and just grout all over with the thinset? I hate the thought of removing all that glass and starting over (since I have a deadline for the piece), but will if you think it’s necessary. I’m so glad I found your website and blog! Thank you for the very useful information.

    Reply
    1. Joe Moorman

      The manufacturer of MAC says that it is water resistant, but that is different from being water proof. I would remove the tile and reattach them with thinset.
      I hope this helps,

      Reply
  2. Pingback: Stained Glass as Mosaic Tile: A Question of Styles | How To Mosaic

  3. Lynn

    Where do you find stained glass to use as mosaic tile or do you cut down other things? I’ve been considering using glass as the ‘backing’ for some ideas and stained glassed or translucent glass pieces would be perfect to carry the effect of the light into or around a room when light hits it. Thoughts? Is there a ‘mud’ that dries on clear?

    Reply
    1. Joe Moorman

      I would use transparent glass or plexiglass as the backing instead of stained glass because stained glass is too thin and often to weak to be used as a support. I think you may want regular opaque grout because stained glass artwork usually has lead channel dividing the different pieces of glass. I hope this helps!

      Reply
  4. Gail Frain

    I have been doing a lot of masaics using China shards and some stained glass. I find the stained glass slides all over the place when doing a vase . Is their a adhesive recommended to avoid this? when using shards or tiles it is thin set all the way. My stained. glass pieces go so slow I don’t enjoy the process. help Gail

    Reply
    1. Joe Moorman

      Gail,

      I understand completely. I have found that it helps to let the glue get a little extra tacky by pouring some out on a tray and letting it stand for about 5 to 10 minutes based on how dry your air is, and stirring it before use. The bottom of this page about grouting problems gives some tips for mosaic vases.

      I hope this helps!

      Reply
  5. Damon Smith

    I know that this is about 2 years late, but what I have been using very successfully is clear silicon caulk for windows and doors! I has a 50 year life, dries quickly, super tough, great for outdoor and sun exposure. Once dry almost impossible to remove glass from anythig that the glass is mounted on. It has an added benefit of being very inexpensive.

    Reply
    1. Joe Moorman Post author

      Hi Damon,

      I have been overly critical of silicon caulk in my blog because we got so many emails from people who used it in situations where they shouldn’t have. Instead of using thinset mortar (the recommended material for outdoor and wet mosaics on an opaque background), these people used caulk, which is flexible and compressible, which meant that their grout eventually cracked and fell out because it is inflexible.

      That being said, for glass on glass mosaics, silicon caulk is probably the best adhesive to use. Still, it is messy to work with and difficult to clean up.

      Thanks,

      Reply

Leave a Reply

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