Mosaics

Above is a table the Kelly and I made many years ago with glass mosaic tile. We copied a portion of an ancient Roman mosaic depicting sea life. It took about 40 hours of painstaking work.

We still have a box of glass tile sitting in the garage and I’m thinking about breaking up the ugly concrete patio in the back yard and doing some mosaics. Kelly is less than enthused about this for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it will take me away from more pressing matters such as a back door that doesn’t open and a non-functioning computer network.

Nevertheless I was inspired to return to mosaic work after seeing the stunning garden designs of Portland, Oregon based pebble mosaic master Jeffrey Bale.

A pebble mosaic from Jeffrey Bale’s blog

You can view Bale’s work on his blog and read a great how-to article Bale wrote for Fine Gardening Magazine.

Our squid table was made by gluing the tiles directly to the wood and grouting once all the tiles were in place. This would not work for exterior mosaics. Instead, for my patio I would glue the tiles to a piece of paper and then set them into a mortar mix in place (the indirect method).

Using pebbles as opposed to glass mosaic tile, by the way, cuts costs way down. Should I get permission to do the back patio I’m thinking of combining pebbles with small areas of glass tile. In fact, I may just stop answering emails so that I’ll have the time to do this!

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14 Comments

  1. Your table is just beautiful! A mosaic right in front of where you step out of the shower would be pretty cool, assuming you have a tile floor.

    I’m very fond of mosaics.

  2. How timely! I am plotting to create some botanical tile designs on our retaining wall. What do you think would be the best way/best glue to affix small tiles to old vertical exterior concrete? No grouting, because the design won’t be solid tile. Gorgeous squid, btw.

  3. The table is a really lovely recreation of a mosaic I’ve seen Pictures of many times. And Bale’s work is inspiring – thanks for the link.

    If you do decide to break up the concrete patio, I can only recommend that you properly assess the job before getting started. I suspect you don’t actually know what’s under the surface, which could result in a LOT more miserable work than you are imagining. Make sure you figure out whether or not the bed was leveled before the pour – in other words, check that it’s not 4 inches thick on one corner and 14 on the facing edge. Digging several small test holes around the perimeter will clear that up pretty quickly.

    Probably it’s not filled with rebar, but if it is, that would make the job a lot worse, as you can undoubtedly imagine.

    And finally, you might want to consider renting a jackhammer. I can cheerfully tell you that this kind of work takes a long time with an 8 lb sledge and a tire iron. Not to mention the fact that you might not feel yourself after a couple of days smashing it up (and moving it to wherever you plan to put the rubble… Though it can be used for a nice stemwall if you’re planning on building something out of cob.)

    Best of luck! Giant slabs of concrete are hideous, industrial, and sterile. I put in a side bed full of plants next to the house where I took out the concrete and it went from an ugly dead space to a peaceful, green one.

    Cheers,

    Zeke

  4. You did not ask, but fix the door, at least!

    I have an antique dealer friend who often accidentally buys a chipped or broken piece of china. Sometimes she chips it herself, making it not fit to display/sell. She collects broken china/pottery for another woman who makes mosaics on tables and such. Would working with this medium work for outdoors? If not, it is a less-costly way to work with mosaic designs for inside or porch use. Old or unsightly or uninspired tables are soon a work of art and sought by others. I see those kinds of tables on the side of the road, discarded because of their total ick factor.

    Hmmm, could I set paper with designs into concrete in molds to make stepping stones? Once again, will broken China or pottery stand up to water and freezing, anything the outdoors has to offer?

    Since I don’t email you, it won’t matter. Just please, don’t stop posting and show us the work as it goes. If Kelly found out about the black cat on the white embroidered pillow and the clawed embroidery, maybe you should do the computer work, too. But, the back door would bug me to no end.

  5. Hey Lyanda,

    I’ve only done interior mosaics on wood, so I don’t know. What I would do is go into a nice tile supply place and ask. It’s important to get the right adhesives and mortars for exterior tile work. And good luck–trust we’ll see the results on your blog.

  6. That table is beautiful! Every time I’m back home (Portland, OR) and visit Lan Su Chinese Garden I’m blown away by the amazing rock mosaics and pathways.

    Someday…

  7. When I built my first stone mosaic patio I integrated tile in to it and after a short time went strictly to pebbles as I didn’t really like the combination of the two different materials together as much as pure rock mosaic. Where it has worked for me is when the design is formalized in a less organic pattern, using tile or glass or cut marble and limestone as a geometric accent. As always, I would recommend laying something out on the ground and just looking at it and fine tuning it before you make any commitments to setting it permanently. Your table is gorgeous! I love squid, and I love Roman mosaic, which I have seen a lot of in the last few years traveling in the Mediterranean region.

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