Designing Mosaic Out of Stone
The Beauty of Stone
Hello creative people everywhere. This hub is about the virtues of stone. I love stone. It doesn't matter whether it is polished to a high shine or unpolished. It is one of my favorite materials to work with. Working a composition in stone is a refreshing change from working in paints, pastel or photography. I really enjoy the feel of stone in my hands. Cool and smooth, they hold an unique energy all their own. Combine them with different elements and you can come up with a wonderful design. The principals of design remain the same. You are working with tone, color and value (the lightness or darkness of a color) to make a composition.
The Fun Begins
The fun part of working with stone is how compositions emerge. Sometimes I just drop the stones onto a surface and watch how they land and that gives me ideas. Play and play and play some more until you think you have a workable composition. For those who are new to art, the term composition simply means how elements in a painting, mosaic, drawing or mixed media piece are put together. Once you are happy with your composition, start gluing the stones down. The surface that you are working on (if it's wood) can have one or two coats of acrylic gesso, or you can skip that part if you wish. My preference is to work with a gessoed piece of substrate (your base). The mosaic shown in this hub was done on an old woodblock plate (which means it was carved into for a printmaking design). Stone can be a little tricky if you are laying it into flat surface. It needs to be sunk into the surface if you don't already have a surface with valleys in it. If you are going to be laying your stone into a surface that has not been cut into, use premixed acrylic mastic and lay down a medium thickness layer on your piece of wood. If you are working larger than 6" x 6", I would work in sections. You don't want the mastic dried out before you get the stones placed where you want them. After you are completely finished laying out the stones, let the stone mastic layout dry completely. It might take a couple of days.
Next you will be grouting your mosaic. There are different types of grout to use. I just wouldn't use pre-mixed grout for this project, it could potentially pull up stones as you are laying it over and around the stones because it is very thick and not that easy to work with. Hand mix your grout and you will have full control over the consistency of the grout. Grout is available in two forms; sanded and un-sanded. Sanded grout has sand mixed into the cement powder which you then mix with water. Un-sanded grout does not. I like un-sanded grout because it is smoother and that's the look I am after. I've tried it both ways. The second mosaic shown is done with sanded grout, the first is un-sanded grout. It is said the grout with the sand added is better for 1/8" grout lines or larger. I feel it is a matter of personal preference. To avoid air pockets in either types of grout, tap your mosaic very gently to remove the air pockets. When I am working on a stone mosaic, I like my grout in a slightly pourable state. Don't put too much water in the grout; it won't have enough body to hold together. I like to be able to pour the grout around the rocks. The grout should be the consistency of very thick soup for this purpose. Let the grout dry completely, usually 24-48 hours, Wipe the excess grout off with a damp sponge. Let the mosaic dry again. Polish the mosaic with a very soft cloth. Now you have a truly unique design!
Glossary of Terms
- Tesserae: Small pieces of glass or other material, usually about 1/4" or about 1/2 cm square and about 1/16" thick. Some tesserae are very beautiful with molten minerals (copper) poured into the glass before it is cooled. Some glass is opaque and some of the colors are more clear. The word tesserae is a greek derivative meaning four sided or square.
- Smalti: Opaque very colorful glass. There is a wide selection of colors to choose from. These are very brightly colored glass tiles.
- Filati: Smalti which has been heated and stretched into very thin long rods. May be cut to any size as needed.
- Vitreous glass: Small 1/4" squares of colorful glass with a smooth topside and a notched underside for good adhesion.
- Float (you will not need this when making a stone mosaic): A float is simply a flat 4" to 6" oblong tool with a a rubber spreading side to help you spread the grout over flat tiles or tesserae tile.
- Mastic: This is a pre-mixed acrylic based adhesive which is very strong and easy to use.
- Grout: A powdered form of cement which is mixed with water in variable consistencies to produce grout which strengthens the spaces between the mosaic pieces of your design; pulling the whole design together. Wider grout lines (curved or straight) produces a looser design. Tighter grout lines produce a more "readable" design.
- Direct Method: Your design is drawn directly on the support and then your mosaic pieces (stone, smalti, tesserae) are glued down. When dry, grout is then applied, with the excess wiped off.
- Glass cutter: This is a small hand tool made of brass with a miniature wheel blade at the ball end of the tool. This is used to cut glass or stained glass. The other end of the tool is used to tap next to the scored line so that the glass can break apart cleanly.
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