Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of coloured glass, stone, or other materials. It may be technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral.
Small pieces, normally roughly cubic, of stone or glass of different colours, known as tesserae, are used to create a pattern or picture.
The earliest known examples of mosaics made of different materials were found at a temple building in Ubaid, Mesopotamia, and are dated to the second half of the 3rd millennium BC.
A tesserae is an individual tile in a mosaic, usually formed in the shape of cube.
A ceramic is an inorganic, non-metallic solid prepared by the action of heat and subsequent cooling.
Grout is generally composed of a mixture of water, sand and cement. Sometimes colour tint is applied as a thick liquid and hardens over time, much like mortar.
It is also a component of mosaics. Although ungrouted mosaics do exist, most have grout between the tesserae.
Sand is added to reduce the chance of the grout cracking if the gaps between the Tesserae exceed approximately 3.0mm
The term stained glass can refer to coloured glass as a material or to works made from it. Throughout its thousand year history, the term has been applied almost exclusively to the windows of the churches and other significant buildings.
As a material stained glass is glass that has been coloured by adding metallic salts during its manufacture.
Ceramic tile is usually the most commonly used material in the mosaic craft. Ceramic tiles are inexpensive and can be used just about anywhere.
Ceramic tile can be cut with the nippers or broken under a towel with a hammer. This depends on whether you want order or chaos in your mosaic. The smashed tile will have uneven edges and odd shapes and naturally the tiles cut with the nippers will have straight edges or a set shape to them depending on what you are after.
When choosing ceramic tile for a piece of mosaic craft that will be subjected to extreme conditions such as frost or heat, please check before you start as to whether that particular tile is able to withstand the desired areas temperature or pressure. These tiles are generally not suitable for floor mosaics (e.g. bathroom floor or welcome mats)
Ceramic tile tesserae are usually 20-25mm (¾ - 1 inch) square and are available glazed and unglazed. They are hardwearing and very versatile.
Most ceramic tiles can be cut to be used in mosaics however there are some that have a bevelled edge which will make pieces look different or will create a larger gap than planned between the tiles when grouting.
When cutting glass or ceramic tiles tesserae or hitting with a hammer through a towel, be very wary that the tiles may shatter and cause splinters to fly off in all directions. For this reason it is highly recommended that you use appropriate gloves and safety goggles when working with all the types of glass.
Vitreous Glass Tiles
Vitreous glass tiles are usually 20mm (1 inch) square with a flat upper surface and bevelled underneath. They are relatively cheap and are heat and frost resistant which makes them ideal for both indoor and outdoor mosaic use.
Vitreous Glass Tiles are thin, flat and easy to use and cut with tile nippers. They are good for walls, ceilings and three dimensional objects, but are not strong enough for floors.
Vitreous glass tiles are manufactured with intensely bright colours and tend to be more expensive than the muted soft, grainy colours that contain more sand. Some suppliers will sell them loose and in smaller quantities. When cutting the tiles for a particular pattern or design you must always allow for wastage.
Stained Glass Tiles
Coloured glass tiles are obtained by painting layers of transparent colour with a suitable colour. You can buy these tiles or attempt to make them yourself.
Seashells are a beautiful and very natural material to use in a mosaic. Seashells come in so many different shapes and sizes that you would never run out of options!
Starfish also make beautiful tesserae that can either add a little something to a mosaic or can be a fantastic feature when creating a beach scene.
Shell are usually be found on the beach and also some river beds. Many of these places are protected and often little sea creatures are still living in shells when people take them from the waters.
The best way to use shells is to buy them from a shell shop or a distributor who washed and cleaned them, making sure there are not little animal surprises inside.
Shimmer & Mirror Glass Tiles
Pieces of mirror and glass make a fantastic bit of ‘sparkle’ to any mosaic. The reflective qualities found in mirror can really transform any piece.
Mirror should be used sparingly and works very well to add light to a pieces that would otherwise be dark. Garden mosaics look fantastic with little pieces of mirror and reflective glass as they will capture the natural sunlight and will also attract birds who like to come down to the mosaic and look at themselves. For this reason a mosaic birdbath and mosaic garden mobile are absolutely fantastic projects!