The Complete Mosaic Handbook: Projects, Techniques, Designs

The Complete Mosaic Handbook: Projects, Techniques, Designs


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781552977743
Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
Publication date: 10/02/2004
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 457,869
Product dimensions: 10.25(w) x 10.25(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Sarah Kelly is an award-winning professional mosaic artist and author of Mosaic Crazy.

Table of Contents

Equipment and materials

Demonstrated through Step-by-step Photographs

  • Cutting
  • Adhesion
  • Laying the tesserae
  • Grouting
  • Direct method
  • Indirect method
  • Finishing and fixing

With Projects Demonstrating the Elements of Design

  • Finding inspiration
  • Size and location
  • Color
  • Elements of design
    • Exploring line
    • Shape and form
    • Contrast
    • Composition
    • Opus
    • Mixing media
    • Producing designs
    • Computers and design


  • Place mats and coasters
  • Beaded picture frame
  • Direct method house number
  • Indirect method house number
  • Wall hook
  • Stone garden decoration
  • Buttoned jewelry box
  • Shell plant pot


  • Fossil platter
  • Glass Lizard
  • White and bronze mirror
  • Slate birdbath
  • Decorative panels
  • Stained-glass chameleon
  • Glass clock
  • Pique assiette fish
  • Outdoor container
  • Amethyst mirror
  • Slate-effect lamp table


  • Small portrait
  • Mixed-media peacock
  • Large circular mirror
  • Trash goddess statue
  • X's and O's game
  • Cast-marble paving slab
  • Permanent garden path

Author and artist biographies



Mosaics have fascinated people for centuries. Intricate designs created from many tiny gleaming pieces immediately capture the eye and give the viewer a dual pleasure — the image itself and the beauty of its constituent parts. Mosaics are both a functional form and a decorative art, making them endlessly versatile and appealing. When you begin to design and make your own mosaics, the pleasure of creating something out of something else is an intriguing process and quickly becomes addictive. Each tessera seems precious and has a charm of its own, whether it is a fragment of broken pottery, a shimmering glass tile, a richly colored piece of smalti or a pebble of subtle natural beauty. The anguish of breaking a much-loved piece of ceramic is eased by the knowledge that it can be reincarnated in a wonderful mosaic creation. Nothing is wasted: mosaic can find a use for almost anything. For those with magpie tendencies, mosaic provides the perfect outlet for carefully hoarded treasures that are just too pretty to throw away, or it can provide an excuse for acquiring even more bright and sparkly things... sheer indulgence!

Everyday examples of mosaic art and decoration exist in a variety of forms in many places, just waiting to be noticed. Stores may yield tiled doorsteps of Victorian or Art Deco origin with elaborate lettering and floral patterns or strong geometric designs. Some underpasses, urban areas and underground train stations feature decorated walls or murals, sometimes designed and executed with the help of the local community. In the U.K., the London Underground contains many fine examples of decorated walls, including Edward Paolozzi's fiesta of shape and color atTottenham Court Road station. Shopping centers, museums, galleries and other buildings may feature specially commissioned works on floors or walls. Swimming pools may display mosaic designs beyond the usual fate of rows and rows of aquamarine-colored tiles. Mosaic often features in astonishingly beautiful images and decoration in churches, mosques and other places of worship, as well as appearing on sculptures, works of public art, decorated columns and in gardens, parks and grottoes.

These, of course, are in addition to the places throughout the world where you are likely to find particularly famous examples of the mosaic genre.

Any country that was part of the Roman Empire will possess a treasure trove of examples of the decorated floors and walls that formed parts of villas and other buildings. Churches from the Byzantine and Christian periods contain stunning examples of pictorial mosaic mixing the vivid, realistic colors of smalti with gold. In Ravenna, northern Italy, the church of San Vitale is one of many buildings whose interiors feature lushly colored images, executed in glass smalti, gold and precious and semi-precious stones.

Modern-day Istanbul, in Turkey, formerly the city of Constantinople, was a thriving and wealthy meeting place of European and Asian cultures, which is reflected in the heady mix of art and architecture that exists in the city today. The 14th-century mosaics in the Kariye Camii (Saint Savior in Chora) are considered by some to be the finest of their kind, with their sensitive rendering of the subjects and sense of vitality . Th fabulous Hagia Sophia (see picture overleaf) — once a church, then a mosque and now a museum — also contains beautiful examples of religious imagery. In the ceiling mosaic, believed to be one of the largest mosaics ever made, 150 million gold tesserae were used — the equivalent of 1,000 of mosaic tons of glass! Remarkable mosaics from this period can be also found in Rome and Venice, and across Sicily and Greece.

The Spanish city of Barcelona is home to the unique and exuberant mosaic and architectural designs of Antoni Gaudí. These include the organic-looking Casa Batlló, with its curving, scaly roof reminiscent of the back of a gigantic dragon, the contorted roof towers of Casa Milá (also known as La Pedrera), the soaring towers of the truly awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia and the charming and eccentric Parc Güell, with its mosaic-encrusted pavilions, lizard staircase and undulating benches. All of Parc Güell's features are decorated with a mixture of broken tiles, reconstituted smashed plates, specially made ceramic pieces and shards of glass, varying from shades of white and cream to a riot of color and pattern.

Barcelona is definitely a "must visit" for the mosaic enthusiast, because the city also boasts a number of elaborate modernista (Art Nouveau) buildings, often liberally and beautifully adorned with mosaic. La Palau de la Música Catalana is a particularly breathtaking example, combining sculpture,
stained glass and mosaic. Delicately sculpted figures of musicians burst out from a mosaic wall in the concert hall, and an exterior balcony is home to an avenue of slender pillars decorated with stylized floral designs.

Remaining in Spain, the southern region of Andalucia contains many mosaics in the Moorish style — known as zillïj — a remnant from the Moorish occupation of the eighth to the fifteenth centuries. The palace of the Aihambra in Granada is lavishly decorated in this way and, combined with the extreme beauty of the architecture, makes for an extraordinary sight. In Morocco itself, this type of intricately designed geometric mosaic decorates palaces, mosques and public buildings. They are made up from glazed tiles, individually named and ranging in shape from diamonds to stars to stylized petal forms, which are fitted together in a series of prescribed patterns. The beauty and complexity of these provide a source of endless viewing pleasure, making for an almost meditative experience as one focuses on the different aspects and rhythms within the pattern.

These works, which have inspired countless others to create mosaics, represent just a few examples. There are many mosaic treasures to discover across the world, contemporary and historical, complex and simple, created from junk or precious materials, executed by the trained practitioner or the enthusiastic novice, for pleasure or purpose or both.

Historically, the first form of mosaic was found in the former country of Mesopotamia, now Iraq, in around 3000 B.c. This consisted of black, red and white clay cones embedded into the walls of buildings, with the prime intention of strengthening the structure. Mosaic developed in different forms throughout the ancient world — the various peoples of ancient Mexico used fragments of turquoise to adorn important ceremonial objects, and the ancient Greeks used variously colored pebbles to create designs for floors. In Pella, Macedonia, pebble mosaics were created in the fourth century B.C. using carefully chosen stones to achieve contrast and subtle gradations of light and shade, with lead strips inserted between areas of pebble to give definition to form. As time progressed, this technique became more complex, with smaller stones being used. Eventually, stones were specially cut into regular geometric forms, which made them easier to fit together. Small pieces of glass also began to be included.

However, it was the Romans who took mosaics to a greater level of sophistication. They transformed a functional technique into a highly artistic one. The planning of the mosaics also became more precise, with designs tailored specifically to fit into a particular room or area. Narrative panels, featuring stories of the Gods and scenes of everyday life, like fishing, hunting and harvesting, were created, as well as a bewildering array of decorative borders, with lushly flowing vegetation or simple geometric patterns. These detailed pictorial sections set into large backgrounds are known as emblema.

Mosaics of the Christian period were widely used to decorate the walls of churches, and colored glass and gold were used to full effect. They were often sited some distance from where the congregation sat, so colors were exaggerated and h

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