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Mosaic Artist

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Mosaic art is an ancient art form enjoying a renewed popularity in the U.S. and Canada. The mass-produced kind of mosaics are already a hot item at gift and specialty shops, but serious artists and craftspersons are choosing mosaics more and more to express their creativity.

"Interest is definitely up!" says Sonia King of the Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA).

A mosaic artist pieces together a picture or design out of small bits of material. That material is usually tiles (called tesserae) or broken china and porcelain (called pique assiette). Then the artist seals it in a cement or plaster base for display as a work of art or to use as a household item, such as a table.

Someone with a background in art will create her own designs. Computer software can be useful for laying out the pattern on to which the tiles are placed.

Beginners and those who don't have the time or desire to do their own artwork can purchase patterns, kits, and other tools and materials from tile and mosaic supply stores online or locally.

Throughout history, mosaics have been an important art form. In ancient Greece and Italy, they were generally made out of pebbles and used to decorate buildings.

Today, a wide variety of materials are used, including glass, stone, beads, china, tile, and gemstones. Modern developments in adhesives and synthetic resins have allowed artists to be even more creative.

Mosaicists decorate a wide variety of items with mosaics. Tables, chairs, clocks, mirrors, birdhouses, trivets, boxes, and vases represent some types of movable items.

Others decorate buildings, subways, and public fountains. Some artists specialize in themes, such as tributes to nature, or create remembrances of their genealogy by using the family china for pique assiette.

Mosaic techniques include the following: direct, indirect (reverse), or double reverse. These describe how the mosaic patterns are placed or transferred onto the desired objects.

In the traditional direct method, the tiles are placed directly on to the setting material. To learn more about the techniques, visit the Mosaic Matters website.

Mosaic artist Faunus says, "The most difficult part is cutting consistent sizes of desired shapes and the flow of the design. One is limited only by one's imagination.

"Glass can be very dangerous to work with. I recommend cutting it rather than simply shattering it. Minute pieces are often left scattered about, so one must be very careful to limit his or her work to a specific area so as to make cleanup easier and less of a hazard. Protective eyewear is a must!"

If you want to make a career out of being a mosaic artist, King warns that "it's very difficult to make a good living at it here, although in England there are quite a lot of full-time mosaicists. It's not a career path yet."

If you're really serious, some art training and a couple years of experience will get you on your way, she says.

Matt Hickerson and Jennifer Kent, however, have made quite a success of their mosaic business, which focuses primarily on mirrors. Their website was so successful in attracting customers that they had to phase it out, except as an archive.

"We started selling and advertising and marketing online because we wanted to get our work exposed outside of [our area]," they explain.

Since developing the site, "we have literally been selling them all over the world -- North America, South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and the Middle East. The website is directly responsible for that. It's working out quite nicely."

Some people have also set up businesses that sell mosaic supplies. If you're accomplished at mosaic art, you can do workshops.

Artist Bas Degroot says, "I used to teach a lot, at first to provide for some stability in a fickle profession, but more and more because I just wanted to share and help people find an enriching hobby, sometimes the start to a new profession. Eventually, I felt I needed more time for myself."

Getting Started

A mosaic box that is anything but square.
Courtesy of: Faunus

You don't need a lot of expensive tools and materials in the beginning. If you start with a workshop, these are usually supplied. Basic equipment includes a tile or glass cutter, scissors, craft knives, safety goggles, mixing bowls for the mortar and grout, and the tiles or broken china you will place on your base.

If you want to pursue mosaics as a hobby, it isn't difficult to learn. "Anyone can get some tiles or smash some china and grout it -- that part can be learned quickly," says King. "But if you want to be a serious artist, a background in fine art really helps."

Faunus learned the craft through an apprenticeship with a local artist. "He taught me the basics of cutting the glass and applying it to a base, usually made of wood, glass or concrete," explains Faunus.

"It takes a lot of practice to become good at it. I started with simple designs, and then through observation of my mentor and the natural flow of nature learned how to place pieces together to form more elaborate designs."

According to King, "There is a dearth of information on mosaic art." That's something the SAMA hopes to change.

In the meantime, you can try to find workshops through a local arts organization or one of the websites. King also recommends teaching yourself through one of the books available.


Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA)
P.O. Box 624
Ligonier , PA   15658-0624


Mosaic Matters
As well as technical help, it offers links to workshops, exhibitions, and suppliers

Mosaic Network
Links to mosaic artists, associations, suppliers, and workshops in other countries

History of Mosaic Art
Hickerson and Kent's business site

Mike Mosaic's Studio
Great site showcasing samples of work and links to courses

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