Madre de Guadelupe Mosaic by first-time-mosaicist Irene Clifford detail

Well-Executed First-Time Mosaic

One of the most well-executed mosaics I have ever seen in terms fine details wrought in slivers of glass came to me in photos in an email last week from artist Irene Clifford.

As Natalija pointed out, ” Most people would throw away tiny pieces like that as scraps.”

The mosaic is excellent work in several ways.

The andamento of the mosaic as a whole is instinctive, and it fits the details and curves being rendered naturally (instead of being rows to cover space without much regard for the shape of the color field).

The size of details relative to tile size is optimal for creating visual interest. That and the andamento impress me more than the exceptionally well-executed details with glass slivers.

Most people could make multiple mosaics without ever coming close to this level of instinctive andamento or being able to work with tesserae that small, being more or less a sliver.

Madre de Guadelupe Mosaic by first-time-mosaicist Irene Clifford
Madre de Guadelupe Mosaic by first-time-mosaicist Irene Clifford

Emails from Hell

Here is another thing about the Madre de Guadelupe mosaic:

When people ask me what I do for a living. I sometimes tell them, “I send and receive emails.” I can get a little burnt out during tax and inventory season, and some of the CS emails can be draining, to make an understatement.

But some days you get the good ones, the good emails that make you think you might be helping people find and express passion or learn something new or actually be accomplishing something.

Here is the one I received with the pictures of the Madre de Guadelupe Mosaic:

Hello there,

I can not tell you how grateful I am for your blog and website. I ordered tile and nippers three or four weeks ago to try to make a mosaic for my children’s school crab feed auction, and it turned out so much better than I hoped it would.

I have never done a mosaic before, but thanks to your amazing site and blog, I was given the information and inspiration I needed to complete it. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

May you be blessed ten fold for helping people create amazing art. I could never have done it without your detailed instructions every step of the way.

Here are a couple pictures of it. Not the best, but not bad for my first go.

Irene Clifford

My favorite line is, “Not the best, but not bad for my first go.

Natalija knew I was out on projects, and so she was monitoring emails that day. Natalija’s response as an experienced mosaicist says it best:

Wow Irene! 

You say this is your first?  It looks amazing!  I’m impressed that you were able to get the really fine details such as her eyebrows and nose if you’ve never done this before! 

You also did great with the rays radiating behind her — having them slowly narrow like that takes patience to get them cut in consecutively smaller pieces.  Also the use of the tiny curved reflective pieces around her hands.  Most people would throw away tiny pieces like that as scraps.


When I finally found the time to catch up on emails, seeing these mosaics and hearing that they were made for a school auction by a parent doing a first-time project made me laugh out loud.

Over the past 17 years we have gotten countless emails from people making mosaics for school auctions, and some were quite good, but if you were to create a gallery of only those made by first-time-mosaic-artist parents a few weeks before the auction, I think this one would stick out like Michael Jordan would in a pick-up game of basketball down at the park.

Materials Used

This mosaic is made from Morjo™ brand Vitreous Glass Mosaic Tile and Imitation Gold Mosaic Glass. That’s another thing about this mosaic that makes it impressive: It was made with some of our most ordinary and affordable materials.

Madre de Guadelupe Mosaic by first-time-mosaicist Irene Clifford daylight photo
Madre de Guadelupe Mosaic by first-time-mosaicist Irene Clifford daylight photo







11 responses to “Well-Executed First-Time Mosaic”

  1. Marilyn Figueroa Rivera Avatar
    Marilyn Figueroa Rivera

    Absolutely wonderful!

  2. Lorie Beercheck Avatar

    That mosaic is AMAZING! I am ting to do a glass on glass piece, but I’m not sure how to proceed. I have a piece of clear glass and stained glass pieces. Do I cut and glue as if I was gluing to a board with Weldbond? And do I grout like normal? Thank you.

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      Hi Lorie. We use GE Silicone II for glass-on-glass mosaics because water-based PVAs like Weldbond can’t fully cure when sandwiched thinly between pieces of glass. Grouting is done with the usual method used for regular mosaics on opaque backers.

  3. Catherine Avatar

    This is so beautiful, and I am new to doing mosaic and I try to do my best to make some pieces that look nice but this one is just WOW so great. I am glad I found you Joe you have been a big help to me. I am a 24/7 care giver for my mother and my husbands brother that is handicap and they both live with us, I have a stressful life but when I can I go down to my little room and try to put something together and it helps with my mind and I thank you Joe for your help because you have helped be . May God bless you and keep you safe.

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      Thanks Catherine! I can so relate to your situation. Back when I worked as an engineer, I would go on business trips to factories and travel with art supplies in my suitcase and make small mosaics and sculptures in my hotel room at night. I disliked my stressful career and felt like I was trapped in a bad situation, but I had enough independence of mind to do original things like travel with mosaic tile and do art on the floor of an airport Holiday Inn hotel room. It definitely saved me!

  4. Anne BENDER Avatar
    Anne BENDER

    This is gorgeous! Thank you so much for your wonderful website. I’m learning so much! My husband and I plan to mosaic our backyard grapevine arbor support beams similar to what was done at the Dickeyville Grotto in Wisconsin. (Are you familiar with it?)

    I’m trying to learn and research as much as I can before we start such an ambitious project and your posts help a lot! If you have any advice regarding materials to use, etc, I would appreciate it. We would be building 5 support beams about 7 feet in height and want to mosaic all of them.

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      Hi Anne,

      Thanks for the kind words! If you made the arbor from wood, then you would have to line it with concrete backer board and you would still have slight problems because of the swelling and shifting of the wood underneath. If I were making an a mosaic arbor, it would be of reinforced concrete similar to a mosaic sculpture.

      Please send us pics if you pursue this project!

  5. Joan Avatar

    Thank you so much for your expertise. My second mosaic is underway on a 34” round fiberglass table. I have spaced the glass tiles tight leaving little space. The table will be outside in Florida weather. What grout would be best? I am going to use black. Have many more hours before grout ! Where do I send a pic? Thanks again for the best blog 👌

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      Email them to us by going to the contact page of the website.

  6. Christel Rung Avatar
    Christel Rung

    Can I ever get good at mosaics if I can’t draw exceptionally well? So far most of my practice beginning pieces are random. I also am having a hard time cutting glass pieces into shapes. Thank you for such extensive examples to inspire people like me.

    1. Joe Moorman Avatar
      Joe Moorman

      By playing around with tiles and thinking in terms of shaped areas instead of lines, you can get surprisingly good at rendering in spite of not much confidence in your ability to draw.

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