To illustrate how to mosaic onto mesh, I am working on a small mosaic on mesh and taking photos as I go. The cat was a glass piece that someone fused and it wound up at a Goodwill thrift store. I cut it into pieces, head, collar, body, haunch, and two front legs, using my Taurus 3 ring saw. I added a background including a butterfly, using stained glass, and a border of tiles (see the finished picture).
Scroll to the bottom of the article to see my current work-in-progress, a space mosaic.
Here’s how to create a mesh mosaic. First we have an old wooden cutting board. Any hard, flat surface will do. Cover that with a large baggie (trimmed and opened up so that it is one flat layer). Tape the baggie securely to the board. Under the baggie I slid a white piece of paper the size I want the finished mosaic to be. I’m using that as a guide. On top of the baggie, I have laid a piece of mesh. I select a tile and butter it with a dab of glue and attach it to the mesh. The goal here is to apply the glue sparingly – instead of spreading it to completely cover the back of the tile, you want to apply in dabs, leaving some surface without glue. This is so that during the second stage of gluing, there will be enough bare surface for the final glue to adhere to. I used Weldbond glue on this project.
When it’s all done, I will wait until the glue is dry and then carefully peel up the entire mesh mosaic from the baggie. Voila , I have a mosaic that is ready to be glued to a surface and then grouted.
This mosaic will be installed at the J.H. Messina Children’s Center in Fort Myers, Florida. The Center is transforming their outdoor environment into a Natural Playscape and several outdoor walls will be covered with mosaic work (of which this will be a tiny piece).
The little kitty cat is all done and ready to be mailed today. I wish I could go to Florida too!
I finished gluing the tiles last night, waited several hours, then s-l-o-w-l-y peeled the mosaic up and away from the plastic-covered cutting board. It works best to peel at an angle; start at one corner and peel upward toward the opposite corner. Then I laid it upside down for the night to make sure the glue dried thoroughly.
Now I am ready to package and mail. I have cut two pieces of heavy cardboard a little larger all the way around than the mosaic, and I will place him between the cardboard pieces and tape securely. Then he goes into a flat rate mailing envelope and off to the post office.
This little cat is only one example of why we sometimes use mesh. He is part of a much larger installation. He is shipped ungrouted and the artist on the other end installs him onto a wall along with many other mosaics. After they are all glued to the wall, then the entire installation is grouted.
Here is another example of when a mosaic on mesh would be helpful. I was commissioned to mosaic a large fireplace surround. I mosaiced many 12 inch squares onto mesh, dried thoroughly, and then stacked them up and loaded the back of my van with them and drove to the job site. This enabled me to mosaic comfortably sitting at a table in my home.
At the job site, I glued them to the vertical surface surrounding the fireplace, held and pressed for a few minutes, and then used a strip of blue painter’s tape to attach them temporarily. Every few minutes I would go back and press until they were firmly attached. When working with a random pattern, I like to leave the edges of each mesh square irregular, and install them an inch or so apart. Then fill in the gaps. This method saves you hours of work and especially saves time and effort when working on a vertical surface. Your back and knees will thank you.
I learned this technique from Elaine M. Goodwin’s book, Classic Mosaic . On Page 58 she describes a bird, made of various mosaic tile glued onto netting, grouted, and then set on a courtyard wall. I love this idea.
Another thing you can do with mesh (netting) is to curve it slightly. For example, you want to mosaic a vase. You can create the mosaic as a flat piece on mesh, and then install it onto the curved surface of the vase! How cool is that?
Here is one last example of mosaic on mesh. Let us say that you have a large photograph or a design that you would like to use as a guide for a mosaic piece. Set up as follows: First, a large flat hard surface. On top of that, place your design. Next, add the clear plastic or cellophane. Finally, the mesh. Now you can see the design and you can use it as a guide, yet the design is protected by the plastic.
Note: you can use several pieces of mesh to make one large piece. Simply lay the pieces out, overlapping the edges, and dot glue along the seams. Mesh is sold in 12-inch squares and by the roll.
What if you have a huge mural that you want to create in your studio and transport to an installation? This is easy to do but may be difficult to explain. I will use a 3 ft. x 3 ft. scene as an example but the same principle can be expanded as needed.
I would set up a card table, draw out my design on a large piece of paper and and tape it securely to the table top. Then cover that with clear plastic. You can split open large Ziplock bags and tape them together to make one large piece. Lay that over the paper design and tape it down securely on the edges. Now lay your mesh over all. A continuous roll of mesh would be good to use, but let’s make it a little more difficult and say that all you have are the 12 inch by 12 inch squares. When you lay out the mesh, overlap the squares by one-half inch and dot the edges with glue (such as Weldbond). The mesh effectively becomes one large piece of mesh. Now you can see your design (on paper) through the mesh and the plastic.
Begin gluing your tesserae, applying enough glue to secure it to the mesh, but still allowing gaps so that when you glue your mesh pieces to your substrate, there will be spaces where the glue will contact the tesserae and the substrate. Wait until the glue dries and then carefully peel up your 3 ft x 3 ft design from the plastic.
Let’s say that your design consists of large leaves and flowers. With a sharp scissors, begin to carefully trim pieces, following your design. Your pieces should resemble a jigsaw puzzle. You can lay out large sections and stack one section on top of another with a piece of cardboard in between and transport it that way to the destination. The key to this method is that you don’t have sharply defined square edges; rather, you have curved organic shapes that fit seamlessly together when you apply the design to your substrate. You could expand this method to even larger installations as long as you are careful to keep the pieces in order.
And finally, to illustrate just how flexible the mesh method is, looking back at the little cat mosaic, imagine that when he gets to his destination, there’s only room in the overall mosaic for the cat and not enough room for the border. The artist can cut the border off. Or she might want to separate the cat and the butterfly, in which case, she can just trim the mesh into pieces.
Mosaic on mesh; I love this method!
For some basic mosaic instructions, see my hubpage http://hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Create-Mosaic-Art-A-Guide-for-Beginners
Added note: December 27, 2010:
An artist on the Mosaic Artist Organization forum told me about heated mesh – you lay your tile on top of the dry coated mesh, then heat with a heat gun, and your tiles are glued to the mesh. I haven’t tried it yet but I will and then I will report the results. Just wanted you to be aware of this new method.
Added note: June 28, 2011:
Eve Lynch of Kraken Mosaics is planning a wonderful community project, a cloud of butterflies to be installed at the Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium. Scroll down to view three bright butterflies of ascending sizes on mesh; I described the progress on my blog, www.mosaicroad.blogspot.com.
Her website is www.krakenmosaics.com.
Note added 8/21/11: Here’s another method that I read about and comes highly recommended, although I myself have not tried it yet: front mount adhesive film: http://MeshMountPaper.com/tile-tape.html. I do intend to order some of this and give it a try.