Piecing it all together

Books are available for people who want to lay their own mosaic

Summer is a time for color, creativity and do-it-yourself
projects
– a fitting description for mosaic works of art.
From birdhouses and picture frames to entire walkways and
countertops, mosaics
– patchwork designs of broken-up pieces of colored glass or
stone – can add a splash of modernity and originality to homes and
gardens.
Summer is a time for color, creativity and do-it-yourself projects – a fitting description for mosaic works of art.

From birdhouses and picture frames to entire walkways and countertops, mosaics – patchwork designs of broken-up pieces of colored glass or stone – can add a splash of modernity and originality to homes and gardens.

According to “Ancient Mosaics,” a history of mosaic work by scholar Robert Ling, the colorful art got its start in Greece in the fifth century B.C. as carpenters inset pebbles into pavement to give paths more durability.

After becoming a hallmark of luxury in Roman times, mosaic décor evolved into a classy touch for walls and ceilings, characterizing the interiors of many early Christian churches in Rome and Constantinople.

Eventually, mosaic art spread from the Greco-Roman world to Britain, Egypt, Spain and Syria, picking up a variety of application techniques and stylistic influences along the way.

Some of the work incorporated thousands and even millions of pieces of colored stone or glass to create intricate patterns and picturesque scenes.

When it comes to creating your own mosaics, there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is that a quick glance at almost any of the classical pieces of mosaic art bestows doubt that a novice could replicate such work.

But the good news is that there are hundreds of simple, do-it-yourself kits and how-to books that provide everything you need to complete a mosaic project – down to the exact placement of the stones in a pre-designed pattern.

Granted, the end result might not be considered classical art, but the creations still can add a personal touch to your home or make a unique gift.

Depending on how much time and money you want to spend, mosaic projects can take a couple of hours or several weeks and can run up a bill or cost under $10. Some of the more expensive and labor-intensive mosaic projects include outdoor walkways, indoor hallways and kitchen and bathroom countertops and backsplashes.

At Home Depot in Morgan Hill, most specialty mosaic tiles for the larger projects are sold by in 4-inch-by-4-inch squares and range roughly between $13.75 and $20.75 – about two dollars more per piece than traditional tile flooring, said Teri Campos, a Home Depot flooring specialist.

The tiles come in several different colors as well as materials, including granite, marble and tumble stone, which is a rustic stone made to look slightly weathered or worn.

If you want to design your own pattern, Campos suggested sketching a few possibilities on graph paper, then working in small spaces to lay the tiles without adhesive or grout.

“It’s actually pretty easy to do,” she said. “You need to have a good subfloor. A lot of the newer homes have concrete subfloors, which is what you want. Once you’ve made sure the design looks good, make sure there’s good coverage (of tile adhesive) on the back of the tiles, and then you can start laying them using spacers.”

The tiles will take between five and 10 hours to dry depending on the type of adhesive used, Campos said. After the tiles have set, take out the spacers and apply grout in between tiles.

Although the final look of mosaic tiles is original and often eye-catching, Campos said the style isn’t as popular as traditional flooring.

“Most people are doing their floors in big, 18-inch-by-18-inch pieces,” she said. “I think mosaics are more of a decorative thing.”

Campos’ hunch can be confirmed with a trip to local arts-and-crafts stores such as Michaels in Gilroy or Joann Fabric and Craft store in Morgan Hill, which carry an array of mosaic project kits including picture frames, candle holders, birdhouses, flower pots, food-serving trays and small tables.

The projects start as low $5.99 and go up to about $25. Kits are equipped with small, multi-colored pieces of stone or glass, glue, paintbrushes and sample designs.

Starting small with the kits is a good way to get ideas for designs for larger projects, such as bathroom inlays or countertops and backsplashes.

Some of the more creative ideas Campos said she’s seen customers undertake are designing a turtle-themed bathroom – with green turtles laid into dark blue countertops and shower floors and walls – or citrus-colored sunburst designs laced throughout kitchen walls and floors.

Several home-and-garden magazines and books also are available to help spur creativity, said Steven Fung, an employee at Gilroy Tile and Stone. The store sells mosaic tiles made of ceramic, stone and glass, the latter two being more expensive at $8 to $20 per square foot and $10 to $30 per square foot respectively, depending on the style.

“The stone and glass mosaics are more high end. They’re not incredibly common unless people want a particular look,” Fung said. “The mosaics are good if you’re looking for more of a contemporary, modern look.”

To make your own mosaic on a budget, consider rummaging around yard sales to find old tiles in a variety of colors, materials and styles. With a sledge hammer and goggles, smash the tiles into several pieces, and you’re on your way to designing a truly one-of-a-kind mosaic.

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