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Creating 3-D Mosaics – A Case Study

fishing hat mosaic

Creating 3-D mosaics is different from flat surfaces normally associated with mosaics. There are some unique techniques (hey that rhymes!) that go with a 3-D surface. This is a case study on how I created "Gone Fishin.'"

I had a wild idea (again) to try and create a mosaic of a fisherman's hat just for the fun of it and because I'd never done anything like it before. Not knowing how to create a hat out of fabric or paper mache, I went into town on a quest and came home with a cheap fishing hat.

This fishing hat was made out of a lightweight canvas so I needed to harden the fabric in order to have a solid base to support the mosaic. I decided to use thinset as my hardening agent. I proceeded to mix up a batch of white thinset, but purposely made it thinner in consistency in order to be able to paint it on in several layers. After painting on my first layer, and while it was still wet, I used my hands to start shaping the wrinkles and indentions that I wanted my hat to have. I wanted it to look "worn."

When my first layer of thinset dried, I repeated the process of painting on another layer of thin, white thinset, shaping the hat as I went. This process was slow as I had to wait until each layer dried thoroughly before adding the next. After approximately 10 layers, and re-shaping each one, I was finally satisfied with my result. I then turned it over and painted several layers on the inside with the same thin, white thinset in order to encase the entire hat and make it as rigid as possible.

inside of fishing hat showing layers of thinset

The next step was to draw on my design which included a little fish and a thin band where a different colored row of tiles would go around the middle of the hat. I needed all my tesserae to be small since I was working on a round, uneven surface, and in and around wrinkles, etc., so I cut all my tiles to ¼". Some of the areas called for smaller tiles than that, too.

I started with the fish first since this is the main object on the hat. Then after that was finished, I began at the bottom of the hat, laying the rows of tiles; working my way up. This enabled me to build one row on top of the other – using gravity to my advantage. I used weldbond to glue my pieces directly to the hard thinset, since the hat is an indoor decorative piece.

Another helpful tool I used was my Lazy Susan so I could easily turn my hat as I worked. My Skeewpicks helped me a lot in positioning tiles and in keeping my tiles clean as I went by removing excess adhesive.

When I completed all the tiling, I grouted the entire hat gray so that my green tiles would contrast nicely with the grout. Then, in order to finish off the very bottom edge of the hat, I found some white cord and glued it all around the base, and this worked perfectly.

So next time you get a wild idea to make a mosaic you've never made before, don't be afraid - go for it. You'll learn a lot and have tons of fun, too.

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