Archives for posts with tag: mosaic sculpture

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.



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!

The flowers are in brilliant full bloom at the Arboretum.  Today, I taught a workshop called Ladybugs – on- a – stick: Mosaic garden sculptures.  The workshop is a fun way to learn simple sculpture assembly and mosaic application, perfect for beginners and fun for those more advanced in their mosaic skills.