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This blog will be continued on my new website.  There are many things I have to learn, such as how to have you subscribe from there.  Thank you for your interest.

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Folks, once again, I let circumstances get in the way of writing this blog.  So, from now on, no more promises and no excuses.  What you get is what you get.  So many of you have written to tell me this tutorial makes a difference for you.  Thank you for all your kind words and enthusiasm.  Please note that what you create inspires me too.  I am looking forward to seeing what you make from my notes.

Our topic today is cutting styles.  In my last post I mentioned that triangles are a no-no in traditional mosaic methods.  It is appropriate to use traingles if you are drawn to them, however notice how all the points can converge to a single point that attracts the eye.  If you do not intend for the eye to be drawn to that place in your mosaic, then avoid the triangle.  I have used triangles in some of my works, especially when in a hurry to fill something in (see pink flamingo).  I find the style reminds me of taking the easy way out and as such it is not my favorite.  I have seen works by other artists who use triangles as fill areas to great effect.  Work this out for yourself as you go along.

Detailed area showing triangle shapes.

Styles of mosaic workings are referred to as OPUS.  There are regulated, patterned OPERA (plural of opus) and random, crazy-styled OPERA.  Each working gives the mosaic its ANDAMENTO, the movement or flow of the work.

My examples in the drawing show the talavera design I am working using various opus styles.  I’ve mixed them up as an example only and am afraid it does not read well.  For more information on cutting styles, there are many mosaic books out there that illustrate the techniques.

Drawing showing a mish mash of styles.

I have decided to make this flower sculpture as an indoor piece using smalti as my material.  I carried the armature around with me for weeks looking at it in different positions and settings, even hanging it upside down and considering the possibility of adding lights!  After a while, I settled on a simple setting appropriate for display on a table or pedestal.

Play with different opera.

Study the works of other artists you admire.

Study historical mosaics and identify the various opera.

Choose a material or set of materials for your flower.  Use only high-fire, frost-proof materials for outdoor works.

Consider whether you will work one side or both of the flower petals.  Remember, adding the glass or stone makes the piece heavier and you will need to make certain your petals can sustain the weight of the materials you choose.


How does one go about creating a design?  For me, I pick something I am interested in (talavera pottery), add a touch of something I’ve recently seen (the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit), follow a bit of history (Mexican folk art, Greek motifs in pottery and mosaic), and mix it all up.  I often do a search-engine look at images and after many pages of images, I create my own design.  Other searches include research through books and periodicals as  there is still nothing quite like the feel of a good book in my hands.

The shape of my sculpture influences the pattern I choose for my design.  The long, tulip-like petals of this sculpture are similar to a pattern I often see on talavera pottery.  As I was drawing my design, I realized the pattern also looked very much like flower motifs I had seen on Greek pottery and in mosaic floors.  In doing research on the Greek flower motif, I could then see the connection to other cultural designs and before I knew it, I had traveled the world through a flower motif.

On Tuesday, I had the great joy of viewing the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art and still being in the after-glow of his work, I am using stripes in my design.  

You can see, in the image below, that I have left a hole in the flower.  I plan to add a pistol/stamen by threading glass beads onto aluminum wire and inserting this into the cluster of wires that are part of the stem.  Aluminum wire can be found in many craft stores in the jewelry section.  It comes in many assorted colors and guages.  As I have not quite determined my color scheme, I will leave the choosing of the wire color toward the last.

Choose the type of material for your project based on where it will be located.  If  indoors, you may use low or high-fired materials.  If outdoors, only high-fired, vitreous, and natural stone materials will do.  I recommend choosing a mosaic material that is thin.  If your material is too thick it might be too heavy for this particular sculpture design.  Vitreous glass, stained glass, mirrored glass, porcelain dishware (particularly the teacups and saucers), and a thin porcelain tile like Cinca are all good choices.

Choose your adhesive for indoors or out.  For indoors, I recommend Weldbond glue.  For outdoors, use thinset.

Consider how you will place your materials on the design.  There are several traditional methods of laying tesserae (I will write a separate post on some of these methods).  To begin, consider working a central motif first, if you have one.  Next, begin an outline of that motif and of the edges of each petal.  In most traditional mosaic forms, we are often trained to avoid the use of triangles.  If you are inclined to create work in the traditional manner, by all means, avoid triangle tessera in your work!

Because I have not kept a regular schedule for these posts, I will post again in the next few days and will cover some tradtional opus patterns and designs. 

Here is an interesting  link to ceramic designs:

Thank you for all your inquiries and interest.  Due to lots of work, the next steps for the flower how-to will show up on Thursday of this week.  I will also answer all of your personal questions at that time.  Enjoy the day!

I am back to regular posts and while this post is the 4th Tuesday of the month, my next posts will resume on the 2nd Tuesday of each month.

Today we fortify the form for your mosaic flower.  Begin by cutting the plaster tape into small (2-3 inch) triangles and rectangles.  Prepare a pan/bowl of warm water.

Have all your materials and supplies at hand and begin by dipping one piece of plaster tape into the water.  Take care to not drip water onto the dry plaster cut pieces or it will ruin them.  Wet the piece thoroughly yet do not get it too wet.  With practice you will discover the right amount.  Now apply the wet plaster tape to the flower armature.  Overlap the tape as you go and make certain to press firmly into the wire mesh for good adhesion.


Continue to wrap the armature in plaster tape, inside and out until your entire form is covered.  Add a second layer.  Be neat.

Let the plaster cure until it is all the way dry to the touch.  Check for flexibility.  If the form is too flexible, the mosaic will crack.  Reinforce seams and petals, if neeeded.

Now, decide whether your flower is for the indoors or out.   Proceed accordingly:


Seal the plaster tape with a solution of Weldbond Glue and water (1:4).  Let dry.  Mosaic using Weldbond Glue as your adhesive.


Mix thinset according to directions on bag and to a consistency like peanut butter.  Apply thinset neatly to the plastered form using a pallet knife.  Smooth ridges and bumps with a gloved finger dipped in water.  Do not add too much water, just enough to smooth the surface.  Let cure overnight.

Optional Step:  Use a waterproofing membrane.

Waterproofing membrane is sold at your local hardware store in the tile and flooring department.  It is a paintable medium that provides a waterproof barrier and flexible membrane to your substrate.  Paint it on according to the directions on the bucket.  Two coats are required for most products.  The one I use is pink when wet and dries to red.

For outdoor flowers use thinset as your adhesive.  Thinset can be applied directly to the waterproofing membrane.

Let the mosaicking begin!  Here is a flower in progress by Leta.

Pink mosaic flower (WIP) by Leta.

 Why plaster the wire mesh?  We plaster the wireform mesh because it is made of aluminum and I have heard that aluminum and cement do not work well together.  The plaster cloth creates a barrier between the two substances and also provides some strength to the structure.

Why use a waterproofing membrane?  The waterproofing membrane adds an additional protective and flexible layer to your flower armature.  I am not sure it is necessary.

The next post will cover mosaic design, grouting and the finishing of the works.  I am looking forward to seeing your flowers and will post pictures from some of my students as well.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

I will be posting the next steps for the flower designs late.  Thank you for following along.  The next steps will take you right up to the point where you can begin to mosaic your armature.


Let’s begin our flower design by drawing out the shape of one petal onto a sheet of paper.  The maximum length of a petal is 15 inches.  Stay in the 11 – 15 inch range for a petal as anything larger is not suited to these materials, and anything smaller is slightly more challenging to mosaic.

How many petals does your flower have?  I am choosing five petals for my imaginary flower.  Yours may be based on a real flower.  If so, study the design of your flower and count how many petals it has.  Make only one pattern for the petal shape.

The size of each petal is 11-15 inches long.  To this we add another 6-7 inches for a stem.  I like to measure about 6 inches of wire (14  gauge), make a mark, and then begin laying and shaping the wire to my pattern.  As I come around the pattern to the end of the petal design, I add another 6 inches.  Repeat this process until all the petals are formed.  The petals will not be identical.  Allow this to be OK as it follows the natural design of Mother Nature.  Set the formed wires aside.



Return to your pattern and add a 1/2 inch seam allowance to the outside edge of the petal drawing. 

Unroll a section of aluminum mesh, double the width of the petal design.  Fold in half along the length of the petal and trace the pattern onto the mesh using a permanent marker.  Cut out the shape.  This gives us two petals!  Now repeat this process until you have cut out all the petals needed for your project.

Place a wire petal outline on top of one aluminum mesh petal and carefully fold the seam over the edges.  Repeat for each petal.

Arrange petals, face down, and bend stems at a 90 degree angle.  Tape stems together for ease in handling.  The petals will be loose at this point so you can arrange them to suit your flower design.

Flip the flower over and begin to arrange and shape the petals.  Remember, the wire is malleable and you can create just about anything.  Do be careful and know the aluminum mesh can tear.  If so, it can be mended.  Once you have something close to what you are wanting to create, cut off some of the smaller gauge wire (2-3 inches) and begin sewing the seams of your petals together.  I find needle nose pliers useful for pulling the wire threads through the mesh.  The goal is to bind the petals together for a supported structure.  Take your time and try to design your flower such that the lower parts of the petals can support one another.  Make adjustments as needed.

My fantasy flower is looking like a tulip.  If you are a beginner in mosaics, I recommend creating your flower with petals that are more open.  This will be easier to mosaic than the flower I am creating here.

Take the time and care to reinforce the seams of your flower by stitching it together along the lines of the heavier gauge wire.  Shape the petals, study your design in different lighting, and make sure the flower sculpture looks good to you.  We will continue with the process on the 2nd Tuesday of next month.

Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

I have had so many requests from artists who want to learn how to make a mosaic flower sculpture.  The large sculptures we did last year are complex and difficult to write out instructions for.  Thus, I created a smaller flower that is easier to construct and a lot less expensive.  This process can be used for any flower design you like.  I will set about giving you all the instructions bit by bit.  If you have questions as I go, please feel free to comment and I will assist you along the way.  

Look at images of flowers for inspiration and choose a flower with simple petals.  I have been making lilies and hibiscus blossoms.  Also, consider creating an art flower made from your imagination.  I will create an art flower to serve as a tutorial work as we go along.

This blog post serves as the first in a series on how-tos for the flower sculptures.  Follow along each posting (2nd Tuesdays of the month) to create your own work and let me know how you are doing.


14 gauge steel galvanized wire.  This is available at your local hardware store in rolls of 100 ft. or more.

 24 gauge steel galvanized wire.  Also available at the hardware store in a 250 ft. roll.

AMACO brand aluminum wireform mesh 1/16″, 10 ft roll.  Available at some hobby stores or on-line.

1 large package plaster wrap (Rigid Wrap is one brand name).  Available on-line or at hobby stores.

1 roll epoxy putty for metal.  Available at your local hardware store.

a flexible thinset – check with your hardware store or supplier for a thinset with additive.  In the US, Home Depot sells FLEXBOND in white or grey.  MAPEI also makes a very good product available at Lowes. And, Laticrete is always an excellent choice.


wire cutters

scissors suitable for cutting aluminum mesh

disposable plastic gloves

pallet or putty knife

needle nose pliers


Gather your materials and we will begin construction on the next posting!

In an attempt to create room for all I do, I am learning how to schedule my time.  I have spent my life pretending to be a free spirit, one who is unencumbered by time, schedules or obligations.  However, as an artist who is up to making a difference in the world, free spirit can only exist in the domain of structure.  My blog is one structure that allows me to share what I create and the how-tos of my creations.  The blog won’t make any difference to anyone unless I write it.  I dream about writing it, I write it in my head all the time.  The writing in my head is most likely impossible for you to read.  And now, I realize, it is time to schedule writing and posting my blog on a regular basis.  To begin, I am choosing the 2nd Tuesday of each month.  To remember beyond the recording of the date on a calendar, I created a mnemonic device I call my 2nd Tuesday Tessellations.

Why use the word tessellations?

1. The T goes with the T in Tuesday.

2. I am a mosaic artist and each piece of my mosaic is referred to as a tessera.

3. According to Wikipedia, the Latin word tessera comes from the word tessella, meaning small square.

 Mosaic is often like working a puzzle of small squares, finding where each piece fits such that a bigger picture is formed.  This blog has me distinguish the pieces of what I do so I may see a bigger picture, and how what I do in the space of my own studio relates to the world beyond what I think I know. 

How do you piece it all together in your own life?

For fun, check out this website and play a while with creating tessellated designs.