Saturday, November 10, 2018

Mosaic Madness

Wow, time sure has flown by since my last post. The knee surgery I had in August was a life altering experience...I didn't recover from it nearly as quickly as I thought I would, and I was in a lot of pain right up until starting physical therapy last week. Hobbling up the slight incline between my house and the studio was too painful to attempt most days. But if I'm not creating something, I go stir crazy. So I looked around for an art project I could do here at the house, and came up with the idea to create a mosaic top for my coffee table. Here's a peek at what is still very much a work in progress:

The mosaic pieces aren't affixed directly to the coffee table; I hedged my bets and used a piece of quarter inch MDF cut to the exact same dimensions of the coffee table top. I figured that if I didn't like the results, or wanted the option of changing out the design, using the MDF would allow me to do so if I skirted the MDF with pieces of trim that would hold it in place over the original table top. The photo above shows the 19x40" piece of MDF laying on our kitchen table, with approximately half of the tiles in place. 


They're not your usual mosaic tiles

My mosaic pieces aren't glass or ceramic tiles --- they're made from 300 lb. watercolor paper. Originally I thought I would use glass tiles, but the more I thought about the mess that grouting tiles produces, the less inclined I was to go that route. Ditto for using broken china. Painting my own "tiles" would not generate the sloppy mess that's inevitable when using grout. Instead I could use glue and apply it to the back of each tile with a brush. No muss, no fuss.

Unanticipated consequences

Well, that part proved to be true. But I hadn't reckoned on the incredibly tedious business of having to paint the edges of every single tile after it was cut and before it was glued into place. If I left the edges unpainted, the white of the watercolor paper would show and spoil the effect.

In the photo, note the gold-color tiles laid out on wax paper. They're in the process of having their edges painted. Totaling 90 in all, they will fill in the area encircling the round motif when finished. Then it's on to the next part of the design, then another and another until it's finally done -- which I figure ought to be around this same time next year, at the rate I'm going. (Just kidding.)

The process

You wouldn't think this process would be so time consuming, but it is. Here's why: first you have to paint the watercolor paper, then cut out the individual tiles from it, fitting them into the design you've sketched out on your surface. This can take a fair amount of time in and of itself. Once each tile is the size and shape you want it, you have to paint the edges. Then you must lay all the loose tiles out in your chosen design, outline each individual tile with a fine lead mechanical pencil, and number its position on both the MDF and on the back of the corresponding tile.

After you've laid all the tiles out so that there are no overlaps and have made sure everything is in its proper place, then you apply glue and tweezer each tile into position. A word of caution: if you're hyper-impatient, take up some other activity or you'll go stark raving mad working on a project of this size. The mind numbing tedium of painting and positioning several hundred paper tiles won't do a thing for your disposition. But if you have the patience and willpower to stick with it, you'll have something unique and remarkable in the end. If you want to explore paper mosaics further, obtain a copy of Perfect Paper Mosaics by Susan Seymour. This book was the inspiration for my coffee table top, and is full of great advice and how-to info.

Text and image ©2018 Lynn Edwards