The decisions you make about your mosaic project will either ensure success or failure. There is a process that can help you be successful. This process is called DDM: Design, Display & Materials. If you use this process, you’ll be able to pick the right backer, adhesive, materials, and display options for a mosaic you will love for years and years.
1) Always try to start with your Design. Your design decisions help refine your display decisions and they in turn, refine your material decisions
2)This is the way your decisions should flow from beginning to end. Think of it sort of like a “sifter” – where you put lots of ideas in and then they will filter down while you are making certain decisions along the way.
Here are 3 examples:
The top tray is where your Design ideas go – some possibilities could be a design for a (A) functional mosaic, or a (B) 3-Dimensional mosaic, or (C) a 2D mosaic.
Let’s say for Functional we are making a mosaic trivet: for the 3 Dimensional we’ll mosaic a fishing hat: and for the 2 Dimensional let’s do a house address plaque.
Now your 3 Design decisions have refined your display decisions.
On your functional trivet – you want to display it indoors, in your kitchen or dining room table. The 3D fishing hat will be displayed indoors on a shelf or in a display stand. And the 2D outdoor address plaque will be installed outside on the wall on the front of my home.
Now these Display decisions help to refine your Material decisions.
What exactly are your Material decisions? This is where you need to know which backer goes with which adhesive and which tesserae works with the design, the backer, the adhesives and the display area or environment it will be in.
So for the functional Trivet (A) that is going on your kitchen counter, you’ll want to choose a backer that is waterproof since spills can occur. A foam core backer will work well. Your tesserae may need to be ceramic since you will put hot pots or pans on it; and your glue will need to withstand moisture as well, so thinset is a good choice.
For your indoor fishing hat (B), material decisions may be to buy a cotton hat that you will put coats of thinset on. Then your tesserae will need to go around the circular hat and into small areas, so you will need small tiles or small pieces of stained glass to go around the contours. You can use weldbond or something similar to glue your tiles to the hat, since it is an indoor piece. And sanded grout works well.
And then for your 2-dimensional outdoor address plaque (C), you need to use the appropriate hanging system to accommodate the weight of your piece, so you may want to use a very lightweight backer which is also weatherproof since it’s going outdoors. Again, foam core boards may be your best choice.
Also consider the size, because if it is really large, you may need to plan how to manipulate it in your studio. You might have to section it or even transport it. And, don’t forget, match the right adhesive to the environment. Thinset may be your best choice. Think about your tesserae choices and how they fit with the environment, the backer and the adhesive. A good tile for this could be vitreous tile and there are many more that would work well.
So, before you get too excited and just jump in and start a project, have a well-developed vision of a mosaic before you begin. DDM is a good process that will help you do this and will help you make the critical decisions before you start.
If you need help with what all your substrate and adhesive choices are, the “Book on Mosaic Backers” can help. What you’ll find in here is a comprehensive list of 33 backers that I categorized into 8 groups. I talk about their common uses, how to cut and shape them, what surface preparation is needed, what adhesives work with it, and details about the weight and grouting tips you might need to know. Click to request yours.
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