This week Cyndi Barnes and I worked with children at the Dallas Day School.  Working with small children on mosaics requires a good plan, an easy design and organized steps. The process was delightful with these things in place.  Here’s an overview of how we work with the little ones.

Our project was a mosaic bench that could be auctioned off at the school fundraiser.  The concrete bench was purchased by the school for us to work on.

We supplied the design, materials and experience.

Step 1: create a paper template of the bench surface to be mosaicked.

Step 2: create a design.

The children were ages three to four and a half so we created the design for them in order to make the process as easy as possible.  There were 45 children in three separate classes so we divided the design, also known as a cartoon, into three sections.

Step 3: Measure how many tiles you need by placing them across the cartoon.  Add extra.

Step 4: Incorporate interesting shapes.

We knew we might be working with some children who are sight impaired.  Special butterfly shapes and leaf shapes were cut out on the Taurus Ring Saw. 

Step 5: Organize!  Colors of precut tiles were set up in divided containers for each classroom.  Each section of the cartoon was cut and placed on a separate board.  Each section of the cartoon was covered in contact paper, sticky side up.

Step 6: Show up early to the school and let the mosaickin’ begin!  Each child working on this mosaic placed one gold tile in the sky, representing their work on the project and symbolizing them as stars in the sky.  The children were handed small amounts of pre-cut tiles that they placed on the sticky contact paper.  No glue, no cuts, no mess, just fun.

Step 7:  Adjust the mosaic as needed.  It is easier to turn over the upside-down tiles than to complicate the process for this age group. Do this in the privacy of your own studio.  Cover each section with a mosaic mount film.

Step 8: Day 2 at the school.  Have the children watch while you thinset their work to the bench.  Go over the process step-by-step so they learn.  Remember to remove the contact paper from the bottom of the mosaicked design! These children were very excited to see us work.

Step 9: Cover the mosaic to protect it from the heat, if outdoors.  Let the thinset cure overnight.

Step 10: Day 3 at the school.  Begin the project by having the children watch.  Remove the mosaic mount film.  Re-set any loose tiles.  Mix up grout, describe the process and apply the grout to the mosaic.  Ask the children to assist  in cleaning the mosaic.  Two children at a time were given the opportunity to clean using paper towels.  They lined up and took turns until the mosaic was bright and clean.

Final steps: After the children have gone off to other activities, grind off any sharp edges.  Wait a few days and come back with a sealer.  The mosaic bench project is now ready for the fundraising event.

This project was part of the Creative Arts Center of Dallas’ community outreach program.

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