Archives for posts with tag: mosaic

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.




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.

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.

How do I love thee, let me count the ways…

When I think of love, I think of all the ways, all the possibilities available to me for creating love in my life.  I am creating a series of hearts from one design pattern and exploring how many ways I might create it.  Here are four from the series: One Heart, Immeasurable Ways: FLORENCE, VENICE,  ROME and PALESTRINA.