Basic Mosaic Materials
INEXPENSIVE BRIGHT COLOURS FROM BROKEN CROCKERY
The mosaic pieces used in making mosaic art works are usually called by the collective Latin name of tesserae (pl) or tessera (sing). These mosaic tiles or blocks come in many forms and are made from various materials. Only the most commonly used mosaic tiles are listed below.
GLASS MOSAIC TILES
The most common (and probably cheapest) glass mosaic tiles are the vitreous tesserae, which are commonly used by tilers in showers or swimming pools. They come in a wide range of colours and are usually sold in sheets, with a light fabric mesh or paper backer which can easily be dissolved of in warm water. Each vitreous mosaic tile is commonly 20mm square.
CLEAR GLASS TESSERAE
This mosaic tile can be expensive and so is usually reserved for special effects where the intention is to create exciting light effects, similar to stained glass.
These tesserae are made from imported Italian handmade opaque glass, which is still made by traditional methods and each mosaic tessera is cut to size by hand They are made from specially formulated glass, stained with minerals and consequently are very expensive, especially those that incorporate gold and silver leaf. Many expert mosaic artists would rate Smalti tesserae as unsurpassed for the richness of colours and the luminous quality of the reflected light they add to a mosaic.
Nowadays, it is possible to purchase sheets of mirror tiles, for use in mosaic work, which saves you the labour of cutting up your own, but the random shapes thrown out by simply shattering a mirror can be inspiring and more satisfying to the true artistic soul (notwithstanding the prospect of 7 years potential bad luck) . On the other hand, tile mosaics using panes of mirror glass, tinted in various colours, can give extremely spectacular results when executed on a grand scale and the light reflected back from these tile mosaics can have a striking effect in a large room or hall.
RAW STONE READY FOR CUTTING INTO TESSERAE
MARBLE OR STONE TESSERAE
Natural stone has been used since the earliest times for making tesserae blocks for use in mosaic art. It is hardwearing and the colours and texture never change. The Romans achieved wonders with a small palette of naturally coloured mosaic stone tesserae. Cut into 20mm blocks these ancient tesserae or mosaic tiles have endured the ages and today we can view centuries old masterpieces of mosaic art that still have all the freshness of recently completed work. Go to the webpage Roman Mosaics for further information on the craft of mosaics as it was at the time of Christ.
Often complete floors or flagstones are surfaced with hard wearing pebble mosaics, which can be of great interest and are especially suited for highly trafficked external areas.
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CERAMIC MOSAIC TILES
Like the vitreous mosaic tiles, these can be bought from craft shops or more cheaply from ordinary household tiling merchants and are sold loose or usually carded onto sheets for convenience. They are not expensive and are a good choice for a beginner, starting with mosaics, as they come in a huge variety of colours and textures. Alternatively it is always possible to cut your own tesserae from sample tiles, rejects or over runs.
OPUS PALLADIANUM USING SHATTERED CERAMIC TILES
For some techniques of mosaic work, porcelain tiles or china plates can simply be broken up and arranged randomly to create the effect called Opus Palladianum, a jigsaw effect that resembles crazy paving executed on a minature scale.