Different Methods of Making Mosaics
No matter what materials an artist uses, there are just a few different methods to make mosaics. The most common are the direct method and the indirect method, but there are also two more: the double direct and double indirect methods. What you choose will depend on the type of project, your experience, the tesserae you’ll be using, and several other factors.
The direct method is the most common way of making mosaics, partially because it’s the easiest. It involves sticking materials straight onto the base. Then, if you want, you can apply grout to fill the gaps between the tesserae.
Advantages of the direct method include the chance to see your mosaic as you add to it. This is especially advantageous if you are working on your first project or if you are still a beginner and you want to minimize the risk of mistakes. You may also prefer to see the mosaic progress if you have no clear vision as to how you want the mosaic to look when you start out. Like this, you can develop the design as you add tesserae to the base.
Finally, it’s a good idea to use the direct method if you’ll be incorporating a variety of colors and materials. The method allows you to be more creative in terms material, as you can easily add found objects and other untraditional tesserae.
The direct method is not free of its share of disadvantages. For one thing, it is less suited for mosaics that need to form a completely flat surface. It is only possible to use the direct method to create a flat mosaic if you ensure that all the materials you use are of the same thickness. You’ll also have to be careful about applying adhesive evenly.
Furthermore, the direct method can be inconvenient for large projects, such as wall and floor mosaics. You’ll have to work at the site rather than in a workshop.
Finally, this method is a poor choice for complicated designs. This is the one disadvantage that causes no problem for novice artists, as beginners should make their first projects something simple.
Choose the direct method if you want to make a sculpture, a three-dimensional object like a birdbath, or small wall mosaic. If you’re making your first mosaic, you should pick a project type that suits the direct method.
The indirect method is also called the reverse method. It involves placing the tesserae face down on temporary backing and holding the pieces in place with a water-soluble glue, like wallpaper paste. Once you’ve done this, you can transfer the mosaic to its permanent location, remove the temporary backing, and wash away the adhesive.
In some cases, it is more convenient to use the indirect method. This is true if you are working on a large wall mosaic or a project that will be installed outdoors. Actually, it may even be necessary to use the indirect method, such as if you are unable to work in the final location. In addition, the indirect method is extremely durable (provided you make the cement well), which improves it suitability further for mosaics that will be exposed to the elements.
The indirect method is also effective if your design contains repetitions, as there’s no need to see the tiles face up. Plus, it is better for complex designs, due to the fact that there is no obscuring from the adhesive.
Another advantage is that the indirect method makes it easier to assemble large projects. As you cement all the tesserae at once, you save a considerable amount of effort. You can also spend more time on your project. For instance, you can put different sections of the mosaic on separate pieces of backing and then put them together at the site. You should have a sketched plan to show which piece goes where to achieve this.
Lastly, it is much easier to ensure that a mosaic is completely flat when you use the indirect method.
The main difficulty with this method is that the tesserae will be face down as you form the design. In other words, depending on the material, it may not be possible to see what you’re doing. There is always the risk that you’ll finish the project and see mistakes or aspects you’d prefer to change — but it will be too late. This is a particularly high risk if you’re inexperienced.
You can eliminate this problem by using materials that are the same color on both sides (do this at least the first time you try the indirect method). Then, you will only need to work with a mirror image. Furthermore, you can still change aspects while you’re working on the mosaic — simply wet the tessera to pull it off the backing and then reapply the tile where you want it when the backing has dried.
One final downside is that the indirect method is unsuitable for some projects that feature curves. You should never use the method for a mosaic that has corners or sharp turns.
Consider the indirect method if you’re looking to create anything that needs to be flat, including tabletops, stepping stones, floors, and paving. It is also a good option for large projects like murals and walls.
Double Direct Method
The double direct method is modern a way of creating mosaics. You attach the mosaic tiles to a mesh made from fiberglass. Once all the tesserae are attached, you apply the mosaic to a base.
The double direct method gives you an alternative to the indirect method for a large project. It is also useful if you need to move the mosaic while you on it, such as if you need to take your project home between visits to the workshop. Finally, it’s a top option if you’re looking to fit your mosaic onto a rounded surface.
Like the direct method, the double direct method is unsuitable for completely flat surfaces.
Consider the double direct method for projects like walls that feature curves and rounded objects like pots, vases, and bowls.
Double Indirect Method
The final option is the most difficult: the double indirect method. It involves placing tesserae face up on a backing such as contact paper, adhesive-backed paper, or putty. After you’ve positioned all the tiles, you need to place another layer of the same or a similar medium on the other side of the mosaic. Then, you remove the backing, making sure none of the tiles fall off or shift position. Finally, you press the tiles into mortar and peel off the top layer.
This method allows you to gain all the advantages of the indirect method without the difficult of working with the back of the tesserae. It can be the best option if you need to see your mosaic as you work when the direct method is unsuitable.
The major disadvantage of the double indirect method is that it requires great care. Only skilled mosaic artists should even attempt it.
Once you feel ready to take on the challenge, use the double indirect method for intricate projects.
Knowing the difference between each method for making mosaics is critical. Decide on the right method for your project by assessing the pros and cons of each. This will ensure that the final result is the best it can be.