Making stained glass mosaic mirrors
Stained Glass Mosaic Mirrors
Welcome! Like many folks, I worked for a very long period of time doing all sorts of things unrelated to art of any kind (and often times unrelated to anything enjoyable!) When a friend asked me to help her make small mosaic candleholders for the tables at an upcoming wedding, I quickly said "yes" and then quickly became hooked! Even though my candleholders looked anything but professional, I had so much fun putting tiny designs together that I decided I might give some thought to making a very simple mosaic mirror with ceramic tiles. That first mirror was harder than I expected and I quickly found I had lots to learn. So I read articles on the internet, looked through mosaic books, and played around on my own with mosaic materials. My love of stained glass and mosaics had begun!
After years of making many mosaic mirrors, I wondered if I could add my voice to the many mosaic "how-to's" out there in order to help other folks learn a bit about the ancient art of mosaics and how much fun it was to make something. This includes the basics of choosing (and using) stained glass and/or ceramic tiles and how to make a simple first project. If you think you might want to try your hand at mosaics, I would be happy to answer any questions you might have, direct you to helpful suppliers, assist you with your own project, and offer suggestions, etc. If you are ready to embark on a new hobby or want to make something special for your home or office, stained glass work just may be what you're looking for.
(Please note that all photos on this site are copyrighted designs by Pam Lackie)
Where to start in mosaics...keep it simple!
If you think you might like to try making a mosaic mirror at some point but have never tried the art of mosaics, here are a few tips to get you started. Prior to laying out specific info on making mosaic mirrors, let's start with a very simple project to get acquainted with the tools and materials necessary in mosaic work.
1. Either locate online or in a magazine a simple pattern you like. You might even be so talented as to draw your own original pattern or design! It's best to keep the design very simple since you will be placing it on a small piece of board. You might want to draw a simple tree, a flower, leaves, a sunset...anything you choose.
2. Choose the colors you want to use in your piece.
3. This next step is where you choose your materials, whether you want to use ready-made, already-cut stained glass pieces, or small ready-made ceramic tiles. I suggest to save the idea of glass cutting until later on, when you see if you truly enjoy making mosaics and want to take the craft to another level. You can find all sorts of online options for either of the above (already cut ceramic pieces or cut stained glass) by googling each or contact me and I can share the sites of online retailers I purchase from regularly. Pick the colors you want to use for your actual design, as well as enough pieces to fill in the background (which typically is just one color and enough of a contrast to your design to make it stand out). At the same time you make your purchase, you will want to include a pair of tile/glass nippers so you can snip the glass or ceramic tiles you've purchased in halves or quarters to make your pattern. You will also need a tube of Weld-Bond glue (which I have found works best for glass mosaics).
4. Have a small square or rectangular piece of MDO or 1/2" plywood cut according to the size of your piece. A good idea might be to start by making a trivet for the kitchen. If so, decide on the shape you want and the colors.
5. Mix a little of the Weld-Bond glue in a disposable cup with a tiny amount of water to dilute the glue somewhat. Using a small spatula or an old paint brush, brush the solution on the top, sides and bottom of your piece to seal in the grain of the wood and provide better adhesion of the tiles later on. Let dry thoroughly (usually 24 hours).
6. Use a sharp pencil to draw your chosen design on the MDO. This is the time to modify your pattern, if you need to. Decide what goes where as to colors, cut pieces, whole pieces, etc. Also decide what color you'll use for your background (see below).
7. Leave your small tiles intact, or cut into quarters or halves for your design. Apply a small amount of glue on the back of each piece and apply to the board. The best place to start is on the outside edge of your piece. (Alternatively, you could also simply paint the outside edge of your piece instead of tiling it, if you'd rather.) Fill in all the way around and let that dry before beginning the top of your piece. Keep checking (during drying) to make certain the tiles have not moved out of place. After drying, you can start on the face of your piece where the actual design will be. Continue until you've filled in your main design and are satisfied with it. Remember, this doesn't have to be perfect...this is simply your first exercise in mosaics!
8. Let your main design dry overnight. The next day, fill in the background using one color of ceramic or glass tiles in a random pattern. Remember to choose a color with enough contrast to bring out the design you've created.
9. After these pieces have fully dried, you're ready to grout, which I will discuss in the next capsule.
Learning how to grout your mosaic!
The first step, of course, is to obtain the materials you'll need to grout (e.g. cement) your mosaic together. Grout not only holds the glass and/or ceramics together, but it also acts as part of the art. Changing grout colors can make a huge difference in how you want your piece to look. For instance, if you want your mosaic pieces to really stand out, you might choose a white grout, or another light color. If you want a nice blend to your piece where the grout intermingles with the mosaic work and gives a very uniform look, you might want to consider a black grout. For most mosaic pieces I have found over time that mid to dark gray grout (and black) work the very best. I like it because it tends to blend into the background and cause the glass and/or ceramic work to "pop".
You can purchase grout at a home improvement store, at a crafts store, or buy it online. Personally, I have never used non-sanded grout, although I realize other folks may favor it. Generally speaking, if your mosaics are set up more than 1/8" apart in your artwork, it's a good idea to use sanded grout for the best adhesion. If your tiles or glass are set apart 1/8" or smaller, then it's fine to use non-sanded grout.
The tools you'll need include an old tray or plastic pan or bowl to mix your grout in. I re-use clean peanut cans for this purpose, or a large, clean cottage cheese container, depending on the size of the piece I'm grouting. Feel free to use anything you can later easily discard.
You'll also need rubber gloves, a tile sponge, a mixing stick (a paint stick works very well here). Plus a clean spot to grout in! A great idea is to have an old vinyl shower curtain to place over any surface to protect grout from flying all over the place and making clean-up tougher. If a curtain is not handy, you could also use a large plastic garbage bag.
Now that you have your tools collected and a clean space to work in, it's time to mix the grout! Use a small amount of dry grout in your container, being careful not to breathe in any of the grout dust (wearing a dust mask is always a good idea here). Slowly add a small amount of water and mix together thoroughly. Your goal here is to have a medium grout consistency...not too runny and not too hard and stiff. Generally speaking, the consistency should be similar to a medium-thick dough, still pliable, and without lumps. After you've completed 1 or 2 projects, the needed ratio of water to grout becomes very simple. At first, just take it slow until the mixture is good enough to be able to move around the mosaic with your hands and get into the grout lines easily and fluidly; but again, not runny.
Now, apply a portion of your grout mixture to your piece and move it around into the seams (grout lines) with your gloved hand, making sure grout fills all the seams evenly. Push the grout down and in as you move along. Repeat this step around your entire piece until you are confident all joints have been filled in.
Next, let your mosaic piece sit until the grout turns slightly powdery and a lighter shade on top, but not dry. This may take 20-30 minutes depending on the room temperature and humidity. Then, dampen your grout sponge and wipe off the majority of excess grout. HINT: Try to wipe your mosaic piece as evenly as possible, not dislodging grout in joints or carving into edges before it has set up properly. You will be sponging your piece several times as the grout progressively dries. (This is mentioned just to let you know you shouldn't expect to clean your piece with just one sponge wiping; this is not recommended). You will need to dip your sponge into clean water and wipe every so often to keep the mosaic pieces clean.
Recheck the condition of your grout again about 60 to 90 minutes after the initial wipe-down to make sure the grout joints are even and you're pleased with the overall result. Again, the time frame can vary depending on room temperature and humidity levels. You can always add a bit more grout here and there at this point, if needed. Then leave it to completely set up overnight.
How to use wheeled glass nippers
Below are some of the mosaic mirrors I've made over the years. I started doing mosaics (using tiny ceramic pieces at first, 1/4" squares), just the same way I listed in the capsule, above. My very first project was a trivet. Later on I bought some cut stained glass pieces and introduced those into the designs, applying mosaics over a small, clear candle holder. Before too long I bought a glass cutter and started trying to cut circles, squares, triangles and other forms and made some mosaic mirrors for my home. Eventually I took some of the better ones to a small boutique shop in my hometown and learned new things about glass as I went and I managed to sell a few mirrors besides! Hope you enjoy taking a look.
Silver Strands Mosaic Mirror
Bird of Paradise Mosaic Mirror
Tropical Rays Mosaic Mirror
"Wild Thing" design mosaic mirror
Clematis Vine Mosaic Mirror
Variation on "Fiesta" Mosaic Mirror
The Grapevine Mirror
"Full Circle" stained glass mosaic mirror
Full Circle mirror
Full circle is a brand new design using only round pieces of hand-nipped stained glass which are then ground into circular shapes. Predominant colors are hues of green, iridescent glass and mirror glass, as well as copper. Accents of copper beads, including Swarovski crystal beads. Outside edge finished with real cork edging. CR 2015
This bright & bold stained glass mirror was made using just one color of stained glass with a very streaky texture, thus creating the look of various colors. All pieces have been hand-tapered to conform to the round mirror. Outside edge is covered in cut stained glass.
Peaceful Waters Mosaic Mirror
The "Golden Rays" Mosaic Mirror
This mirror was created entirely of iridized stained glass in 2 shades of light beige. When in direct light, the glass casts a rainbow of colors. The stained glass is interspersed with tiny chips of gold mirror glass for added sparkle. CR2012
Black Contemporary Mirror with iridized insets
This was a fun mirror to create, even though there were lots of little details, i.e. placement of all the tiny 1/4" pieces of iridized black glass to cut and place! Outside edge is formed with all iridescent black squares.
Bird of Paradise design; colorful and fun!
Bamboo Forest Mirror
Bamboo Mirror (made just for fun) utilizes all vertical cuts of stained art glass to mimic a bamboo "forest".
Copyrighted design 2012
"Shades of green" designed stained glass mosaic mirror
The outside edges of this 25 x 31" beveled edged mosaic mirror are emerald green cut class and the mosaic design forms a "plaid" pattern, with 3 different sizes of glass pieces and 7 different green shades of glass. Iridescent pieces were interspersed in the pattern for sparkle.
Iridescent purple in "shades of green" design
This colorful and fun 20 x 30" mosaic mirror is made in the "shades of green" design utilizing 3 different sizes of hand-cut stained glass, much of it in iridescent finishes, giving a metallic look to the glass in direct light. CR2010
Ruby Red Mosaic Mirror
This large 33 x 33" mosaic mirror was created using Iridescent glass throughout to give intensity and sparkle to this piece. The mirror has a 1/2" beveled edge and the outside of the frame is edged in hand-cut ruby glass. CR2011
Wild thing mirrors
I call these next four mirrors the "wild thing" design because of the random placement of various sizes and shapes (and colors) of stained glass throughout the pattern. Sometimes I add beads and buttons and shells & pebbles. These mirrors are great fun to make.
Oval "wild thing" designed mirror
Aqua and orange "wild thing" mirror
"Wild Thing" Mosaic Mirror...This is one of the first mirrors I ever made.
"Wild Thing" Mirror using darker colors
Oval Vine Mirror
I used vivid orange art glass to make this mirror, interspersed with oceana white glass and vine shapes & colors.
Bohemian Vine Mosaic Mirror
This large (22-1/2") circular mirror is made from various colors of stained art glass as well as beads, shells, buttons and sea spines. This special mirror will really brighten up a wall.
Fantasy Vine in White
Similar to the black Bohemian vine mirror, except with white background.
Various southwestern colors of stained art glass were used in the making of this vibrant mirror (including orange, teal, brown, and mixtures of all). Outlined in light oak stained glass.
Lotus Blossom Stained Glass Mosaic Mirror
This original design features 4 lotus blossoms made from stained art glass. Straight glass pieces were cut from mottled art glass to complement the lotus colors.
Larger beveled mirror lotus mirror
How to cut stained glass for mosaics
A place to see every mirror I've ever created
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