Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Mosaic Project

Student piece, titled "Toast"
I honestly don't know why I was so afraid to try this assignment. I put it off for years, having never made a mosaic before myself, but it turns out they are not very intimidating once you decide that doing it wrong is better than not doing it at all. I introduced my students to ancient mosaics from Greece and Pompei contrasting the difference between geometric and organic designs and making inferences about what life must have been like based on the images made of tiny tiles.

Some students used tiny mosaic tiles that they glued to wood or adhered with caulk. The caulk, when piped too thickly oozed out the sides of each thin tile, filling in the cracks as a messy, make-shift grout.
White grout provides high contrast for black tiled background and the greenish-gray number seventeen.

Older students put on eye protection and therapeutically hammered donated tiles into smaller pieces. Then they puzzled the shards together into shapes drawn onto wooden ovals and rectangles. Once each broken tile piece was adhered with tile glue, we let it set overnight before we began grouting. White, premixed grout was very easy to use. Since many of my students don't have any vision, they just used gloves and pushed it into cracks, trying to wipe the surfaces and polish the tiles almost immediately.

Gray, cement based grout was a little trickier since it had to be mixed in a 3 part powder to 1 part water mixture and used before it became too thick.  Dust masks are essential for this process. The texture wasn't nearly as pleasant to work with, but in the end, the gray, middle ground gave a really nice aesthetic. Most of the students who used white grout, later wished they had used gray.

Younger students used sticky backed craft foam, cut into squares and rectangles. These were arranged onto pieces of paper or painted cardboard.
foam "tiles" on painted cardboard bases make for a primer mosaic lesson.

A piece sign made from colored tiles glued to wood and filled with white grout, was much neater than using caulk

Whether you are doing a table top or stepping stones, mosaics are a great way to let yourself go to pieces and then pull it all together again.

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