REVIEW OF BOOK: ‘MOSAIC Technique and Traditions’ by Sonia King

REVIEW OF BOOK: ‘MOSAIC Technique and Traditions’ by Sonia King
By Shilpa Dalal

One of the best and most comprehensive books that I have found so far is ‘MOSAIC Techniques and Traditions’ by Sonia King.  It covers the history of mosaic and how it was developed in different countries – the different materials that were used in those days and photographs of these mosaics, on floors and on walls.  It goes on to the works of the famous Antoni Gaudi that fill the city of Barcelona, Spain.  This ancient art of mosaic is very much alive today and this book portrays not only the historical mosaics, but also modern day, contemporary artists. 

The different techniques of mosaic making are very well explained, including how to design a mosaic for beginners, intermediate and advanced students.  Interspersed with actual projects that one can make, are photographs of mosaics from different parts of the world.

Sonia King has shown how to use the different materials for mosaic, such as smalti, vitreous tiles, china, ceramic tiles, and the projects shown range from small, easy projects, to ones that are fixed on the wall, to even a 3-D project. The only material that is not covered in this book is the use of stained glass in mosaics.  Other than that, I totally recommend this book to all mosaic enthusiasts and lovers, from beginners to advanced.­­


Shilpa Dalal is a mosaicist and painter based in Mumbai, India.
Her works can be seen on her Facebook Page.

Online Learning Resources 

As online search and reading come easy to me, I’ve depended on them regularly for varied learning. In the area of mosaic based orientation, I’ve found these websites and blogs to be wonderful resources, and I recommend them highly for beginners to read, reread and use the shared ideas for their mosaic experiments. All the tutorials and advice are made available free of cost here so when combined with a good book, a helpful online group and regular hands-on practice, they would amply support a mosaic learner’s quest to gaining confidence in the art of mosaic-making.

The Mosaic Store
This Australia based mosaic supplies store website is a wonderful resource for learning to mosaic. The website’s blog carries How-to project tutorials, tips and primers on tools that all beginners to mid-level mosaicists would find immensely useful.

The Mosaic Supply Store
This US based mosaic supply store website is an ocean of ideas, primers and clarifications on all matters mosaics. Its owner Joe Moorman mentions this as his site’s mission statement that resonates with me entirely:

One of our most important goals is to promote contemporary mosaic as a fine art and encourage ordinary people to make original mosaic art in their own style. 

The FAQ itself is an exhaustive resource and must be referred to by all levels of mosaic practitioners.

The site owner Lou Ann Weeks runs an online mosaic supply store and writes this useful blog that covers the basics of mosaic-making. Her videos and posts promote her recommended mosaic consumables but one can still learn much about the general art and technique of making mosaics from her site.

Glass Campus
Dennis Brady started building this resource on glass fusing, cutting, selling and more when he saw that he had to work so hard to find the right information on techniques or tools. He built this website to share tutorials to promote free education to all. Most tutorials are focused on stained glass based techniques but a mosaic learner would find a lot of material of interest too.

Helen Miles Mosaics
There are a couple of blogs by mosaicists that I follow with interest. This one tops that list. Do read through the blog from its oldest to the newest post and enjoy Helen’s humour as also the knowledge she shares through her posts.

Let me know if I’ve missed any helpful mosaic learning resources that must be included in this post.

Make a Mosaic 

The purpose of this post is to list out the steps involved in making a mosaic so a complete beginner can make it.

Materials Needed* :

. Substrate: A small 4-8 mm thick mdf board piece
. Vitreous Glass Tiles
. Wheeled Cutter/Nipper
. Fevicol SH
. Fiber-tipped pen
. Plastic dish and knife
. Grout
. Admixture
. Sponge

Step 1: Prime the mdf board 

To increase the adhering quality of any substrate, it is either scratched and primed or just primed. Priming of any IMG_3954wooden/mdf board is usually done with diluted fevicol. Take a small blob of fevicol and double the amount of water, mix them up, and brush the watery glue onto the side of your substrate that will be mosaicked. Let the surface dry completely over some hours before using it.

Step 2: Draw or trace an image 

Trace an image on the board using carbon paper or simply draw it with a pencil.

Step 3: Cut the tiles/tesserae  

Decide the colours and cuts of your tesserae. Take out the required quantity of tiles in a sectioned tray. Cut them in the IMG_3959shapes and sizes you wish to see in your mosaic. Little bit of nipping will be necessary with some pieces to fit them in odd places but it helps to keep the tiles cut before they are stuck. If you haven’t decided on the shapes of cuts…as it’s usually the case with me…cut tiles at least for the main element. The easiest cuts are halving the square tiles and then halving the halves to create small squares. You can create triangles by cutting the square tiles diagonally.

Step 4: Dry-lay the tesserae and decide the andamento 

I prefer to dry-lay the cut tiles into the main element of my IMG_3963mosaic so I can get an idea of their effect and I don’t have to remove them once they are stuck. Use a fiber-tipped pen to draw the exact shape or size of a tile’s piece that would fit in an odd spot and cut the tile along the drawn line. In the mosaic in the image, the background beige tiles are dry-laid to decide the flow that looks the best. I’ll stick them once I like the flow. The main elements and the border are stuck already.

Main Tip: Be mindful of the arrangement or flow of your tiles for a neat and planned andamento. A mosaic’s andamento lends it its main personality and character. As a mosaicist progresses on the path of mosaic-making, her compositions would reflect well-thought out opuses and not just a bunch of tesserae placed next to each other. This is what sets apart a mosaicist’s approach to laying tesserae over that of a mason. For your first piece though, you may just follow your instincts for tile cuts and placement to figure the basic technique of making a mosaic.

More Tips: I take breaks in between stages of arranging the cut tiles and their sticking so I can view the composition with a fresh eye on every visit to the work-table. I also like to click the mosaic in between so I can mull the colours or cuts on the phone’s screen while I’m away from the mosaic.

Step 5: Stick the tiles 

Take out only small amounts of fevicol in a shallow dish so it finishes before drying up. Some artists like to use a spoon to take out the glue and place it upside-down on a flat dish to access the glue easily.

If you’re like me, you’d cut your tesserae/tiles small and find it easiest to pick them up only with pointed tweezers. Either way, use fingers or tweezers to pick up each tessera, place it ever so gently on the glue without losing hold of it, and then place it in its intended place on the substrate.

Tips: . Keep a paper tissue handy to wipe glue off your fingers and to clean the tips of the tweezers. Take just some glue on each tessera, and not an excessive amount, as extra glue will spread out of the tile’s surface and fill the gaps meant for the grout.
. I recycle ice-cream sticks, plastic knives, yogurt containers and all sorts of objects that keep appearing before me in life for various stages of making my mosaics so I suggest you start saving such items.

Step 6: Grout the mosaic  

Grouting is done at least 24 hours after the mosaic has completed. It’s best done for the first time with someone familiar with it but the process itself is simple. Sanded grout is the commonly accepted grout as opposed to the un-sanded variation.

For a small mosaic, about 1 tablespoon of grout should be mixed with enough admixture (a capful to begin with) to form the consistency of thick porridge or peanut butter. Once mixed, it’s allowed a few minutes of slaking time and then applied with a rubber spatula on the mosaic. Attempts have to be made to gently push the grout down the grout lines created by the tesserae. Once the grout is smoothened over the surface of the mosaic, it’s allowed to rest for 5-10 minutes. After that a piece of wet sponge that has had all its water thoroughly squeezed out is used to clean the grout off the tiles. Care is to be taken to keep the sponge without any water to avoid soaking the grout with water. The sponge is turned about constantly to use all its clean sides and then washed in a mug of water to re-emerge cleaner and without extra water in it, and used again. Once the tiles are somewhat clean, the grout is allowed to dry over 30 or so minutes. After that a toothpick or metal pick is used to clean the left-over grout from the surface of tiles. As the grout dries some more, dry soft cloth is used to clean and polish the tiles so they lose any remaining film of grout from their surface.

Your mosaic is then ready to sit flat to dry fully and go for framing the next day.

Notes on the Materials:

. I find it easiest to source small sized 4 mm mdf boards from a local framer. For different shapes, I use Craftslane.
. Small quantities of vitreous glass tiles can be bought from Minimason and Sai Mosaic Art. Big quantities can be bought from local tile stores or Sai Mosaic Art.
. The easiest source of Wheeled cutters is still Amazon US. This Goldblatt cutter is heavier than a Leponitt cutter but it gets shipped to India, works well and stays good for a long time.
Slightly more expensive Wheeled Nippers meant for Porcelain tiles may be available from NBHT in Mumbai. Calling and talking to their Sales Head would tell you of their availability. My 3-part posts on tools carry leads to more tools.
. Grout and Admixture of brands Ferrous or MYKLaticrete are considered of good quality.


. Substrate – Any kind of base used to mosaic on
. Tesserae – Any materials/tiles/beads used to stick to substrate
. Andamento – The flow and direction of tesserae
. Opus – Many kinds of specific tile cutting and laying styles that form a mosaic’s andamento. Some of these are Opus Musivum, Tessellatum, Circumactum, Vermiculatum etc.


Adhesives Used in Mosaics

Note: This post was first published on May 17, 2016 at 


Since mosaics can be made with varying media and substrates, a careful thought on adhesives becomes necessary. Some quick considerations that come to mind are these:

. The intended location of the mosaic – outdoors or indoors
. Weight of tesserae – ceramic tiles, glass, shells or stones
. Size of mosaic – a large wall, a 3D installation or just a small coaster
. Climate conditions – overly humid or frost-ridden or dry
. Substrate material – cement, glass, stone, wood or metal

Here are the adhesive choices that I’m familiar with:


Fevicol is the most popular PVA used in India. The craft quality fevicol is IMG_3504graded as MR and it’s good enough for small wall art, but as the size of substrate and weight of tesserae go up, it’s prudent to use the carpenter quality PVA or Fevicol SH. Of late, I’ve seen Fevicol Marine being sold as a more waterproof variant but I still need to test it for outdoors.

Fevicol dries clear and it’s good for mdf, wood and fibre mesh.


Internationally, silicone is recommended for mosaics meant for outdoors. My own experience shows me that the silicone we get here in different brands has less adhesion than Fevicol SH. I’ll keep checking more brands of silicone and post an update on the brand that works better than Fevicol SH.

For Glass on Glass, artists recommend thinly and evenly applied silicone as it dries clear. Those of you with experience with silicone should please share the silicone brands you’ve found effective.


If not Silicone, the adhesive highly recommended for outdoors is Thinset. It’s essentially grey or white cement with chemicals for better bonding. Thinset is mixed with water, allowed a few minutes of slaking time and buttered on the reverse of tiles to stick to substrates like wood, metal, stones or walls. If a mosaic is created on fibre mesh, the mosaicked mesh can be applied to its intended substrate using Thinset. White or grey colour can be chosen based on the colour of tiles and substrate.

Popular brands of Thinset used by folks I’ve connected with are Laticrete, Asian Paints, Ardex Endura and Roff.

Epoxy Adhesives

Epoxy adhesives come in the combination of Resin and Hardener as in the popular brand Araldite. Once mixed, the adhesive has to be applied quickly as it hardens within minutes. Epoxy adhesives are waterproof and bond strongly but because they don’t dry clear and they give little time for applying to tiles, they aren’t favoured by many.

Pre-mixed Adhesive Pastes

I’ve known of white pastes from Kerakoll and Roff that are recommended for adhering fibre mesh or direct tiles to walls but because they come in large buckets, I haven’t acquired them for testing as yet. Those of you with experience with these adhesives are requested to share your views on the brands you’ve found effective.


I use these adhesives for those odd tesserae that weren’t stuck properly and come off the substrate as I start grouting the mosaic. Their instant adhesive and drying qualities are helpful in those situations.

I’m sure I’ve missed many glues from the list above. In international groups, I keep hearing of liquid nails or elmer’s glue and the hugely popular Weldbond, none of  which I’ve had access to. So do tell if I should include any more adhesives in my mosaic kit.

Mosaic-making: Substrate Choices

Note: This post was first published on April 27, 2016 at 


After covering leads to tools and media for creating mosaics I’d like to share ideas on materials that can be mosaicked. The base that one uses to create a mosaic is called a Substrate. This base can be flat to hang on a wall or a 3D object to place indoors, outdoors or can be a wall itself. Every material and its intended location would need consideration on the adhesive suitable for it; a topic I’ll cover in another post.

Here are some ideas on what you could be using as a base for your mosaic:


Medium-density Fibreboard or MDF is easier to cut, and weighs less, than commercial ply and it can be easily bought in the required sizes from local framers or wood suppliers. The thickness recommended for mosaics IMG_3340is generally 8 mm to carry the weight of tesserae but framers provide 4 mm ones that they themselves use for supporting frames, and those have served me well enough for sizes under 11″x14″. I get them in small or medium sizes from a local framer very cheaply and keep them handy for vitreous or stained glass mosaics.

There are shops and online craft stores that can provide mdf shapes in varying shapes that expand the range of mosaicked products one can create. These can be coasters, trivets, trays, shaped photo frames, boxes and more. The online sources that I know for mdf shapes are these:

Itsy Bitsy
Hobby Ideas

Since mosaic-making is still a lesser-known art, mdf shapes are made available by suppliers essentially for Decoupage. However, any 4+ mm mdf cutout providing large enough area for glass pieces to adhere can be used for mosaics.

Ply/Commercial Board/Wood

For heavy ceramic tile or crockery cuts, or large sized mosaic compositions for indoors, it’s best to use a commercial board or a thick ply to prevent its sagging under the tesserae and grout weight. Get it cut in the required size from the place of purchase.

Wooden bowls, driftwood or stumps of trees are all good for mosaicking too.

Cement Paving Tiles and Other Objects

Pre-made cement stepping stones are favourite substrates among many for gardens or pathways. Cement flower or plant pots, bird-baths, fountains, garden benches or tables can also be mosaicked, and they look wonderful with a colourful play of ceramic or glass tiles.

Terracotta Objects

Planters, bird-baths, fruit-plates can work as substrate choices.

River Stones and Boulders

If these stones offer flat patches then they can be mosaicked and placed outdoors or small river stones can be used as paperweights for indoors.


Walls can be mosaicked using a direct method onsite or double-direct method that uses a fibre-mesh offsite for eventual adhering to a wall indoors or outdoors.


Glass on glass (GOG) is a favourite method or subject of mosaicking for many. Window panes or sun-catchers can be created with stained glass so light reflects through them. Glass lamps or bottles get covered in this category too.

Plexi-glass or Polycarbonate Sheets

These can be cut with a mechanical tool or special scissors to create garden-stakes or other garden art as this base works like glass for sunlight to filter through.


Iron metal tables or garden stakes are popular substrate choices among mosaic artists for creating objects for outdoors, and they look rather charming because of the stark difference between the black metal and colorful tiles.

Besides above, I’ve come across mannequins, dense foam, plaster of paris sculptures, slate tiles, the reverse of ceramic tiles etc. being used by many artists as substrates for their mosaics. Another favorite substrate for vertical art meant for outdoors is Wediboard. This board is made of foam, covered on both sides with a thin layer of cement and it’s waterproof. It’s also light-weight and cuts with a sharp kitchen knife so mosaic artists internationally prefer its use for outdoors or shower areas. I’m still to find a similar product in India but for now, given the wide substrate choices listed above, I already have a long list of substrates and tesserae to experiment with to further my skills as a mosaicist. And, so do you 🙂

Instructional Mosaic Books

Note: This post was first published on April 1, 2016 at 


This is a post I’ve long meant to write. As I could only find basic orientation on cutting and adhering of tiles, I felt that my further learning will come from published books, blogs and other Net resources. Even though they are wonderful in opening up a learner’s thought span, Net based features or blogs tend to offer only fragmented knowledge. I’ve therefore picked up many paper books and some ebooks to feed my childlike enthusiasm for mosaic techniques and wherewithal.

As on date, I’ve 9 paper books and 3 ebooks in my personal library on mosaics, and only 1 out of them was bought locally.   IMG_2247Since mosaics are still a low-visibility art in India, I knew that I won’t find many books in the local bookshops or even in online sites. Till I could find a helpful friend travelling from the US to bring me books, I scanned Amazon India for any ebooks on mosaics that I could buy instantly. I found a few and bought 3 of them. I’d however recommend only 1 out of those to other enthusiasts. Even among the paper books I own, I’d advise investing in only 3-4. Here are those recommendations:

Mosaic Garden Projects by Mark Brody and Sheila Ashdown: A year ago, this was the only Kindle ebook available from Amazon US/India that offered multiple project ideas and detailed How-tos. I recommend this book for its instant availability, outdoor projects and the suggested double-direct method.

Mosaic Techniques and Traditions by Sonia King: Available for purchase from Amazon India, I recommend this book as a must have in any learner’s collection. It carries a good blend of the mosaic history, inspiring creations by experienced mosaicists, mosaic techniques and guided projects (17 of them).

300+ Mosaic Tips, Techniques, Templates and Trade Secrets by Bonnie Fitzgerald: The title says it all. The author is an experienced mosaicist and trainer so covers How-to projects and shares techniques for early to intermediate learners. The book is now available from Amazon India but I had a friend bring it from the US. A good book to have.

The Mosaic Idea Book by Rosalind Wates: I quite like the idea of this Idea book. Many templates distinctly show the flow of tesserae to encourage good tile cutting and laying habits. BUT this book, the 300+ Mosaic Tips book and the next one are by the same publisher, a London based company called Quarto Publishing. Disappointingly, all 3 have many identical mosaic templates.

The Encyclopedia of Mosaic Techniques by Emma Biggs: An enticing title and a nice book to browse but this book too is by Quarto Publishing, London, so carries multiple How-to projects from the above 2 books. I advise only 1 out of the above 3 for one’s personal library.

Mosaic Craft: 20 Modern Projects for the Contemporary Home by Martin Cheek: I was drawn to the book’s cover showing fruity stools, and otherwise too found Mr. Cheek’s peacock and animal caricatures very inspiring. He has been increasingly using fused glass for his mosaics in the recent past, and otherwise, the book carries projects showing a high use of milliefioriwhich we don’t find in India. Still, a nice book to browse.

Mosaics: Inspiration and Original Projects for Interiors and Exteriors by Kaffe Fassett and Candace Bahouth: My newest book, I saw it recommended by mosaicists doing Picassiette. Handling floral crockery has long been on my learning agenda so I’ve sought it out. I love 2 projects in it: a tapestry inspired accent chair and a portrait, both by Bahouth. The rest of the projects use a blend of crockery, ceramics, shells, stones, pearls etc. in random cuts or Opus Palladianum, much like Raymond Isidore’s style of mosaicking. This book was published in the year 1999 and has an old world charm about it so it’s nice to browse.

I have these other books that I like flipping through for their good paper or colorful mosaics, and if you’re a book and tool hoarder like me, you’re welcome to ask for my impressions of each of these books. For spartan mindsets, I’d recommend just the first 2 or 3 from the list above.

The Complete Book of Mosaics: Techniques and Instructions for Over 25 Beautiful Home Accents by Emma Biggs and Tessa Hunkin

Garden Mosaics: 19 beautiful mosaic projects for your garden by Emma Biggs and Tessa Hunkin

Beginner’s Guide to Mosaic by Peter Massey and Alison Slater

Beautiful Mosaic Flowers: A Step-by-Step Guide: Volume 3 by Sigalit Eshet : Kindle book

The Magic Mesh: Mosaic Mesh Projects: Volume 6 by Sigalit Eshet : Kindle book

Are there any books outside of this collection that you own and enjoy using repeatedly? Do tell me.