A look at the different mosaic materials and their qualities
Mosaic art is a unique art form which combines skilled craftsmanship with creative design and a very physical construction, fixing one block of colour next to another, it is a true architectural art.
Knowing the right material to use is the first thing the mosaic craftsperson learns, here are the main materials and their uses and qualities.
Marble and Travertine
Stone was the first mosaic material, probably evolvingÂ from simple pebbles pushed into mud floors to solidifyÂ them. Pebble mosaics have a strong tradition in themselvesÂ and can be seen in many cultures.
Stone mosaics usually use marbles and travertine forÂ their variety of colours. The natural differences in theÂ stones give them a beautiful variety and the colourÂ palette is limited but naturally harmonious.Â The surface texture of stone mosaics can be extremelyÂ varied ranging from a mirror polish surface to deeplyÂ riven and textured finishes.
Machine made glass
You may already be familiar with the machine made vitreous fired glass tesserae, often used in swimming pools. They are mostly found in the 20 x 20mm format and are cut down from this for mosaic artworks. The colour range is bright and fairly good and the material is strong and durable. Unlike the handmade glass the finished surface is completely flat and when put next to the handmade glass can seem hard but in the right hands the material can work well.
Machine made ceramic
Glazed Porcelains can be used on interior and exterior walls and can come in a range of colour options.
Unglazed Porcelain usually come in a more muted but harmonious colour palette. Unglazed porcelains are particularly tough, heat and frost proof and many are suitable for floors, with good slip and impact resistance it is also a good material for walls, pools and three dimensional forms.
Hand made ceramic
There are a variety of handmade ceramics that can be used in mosaic projects, from bespoke elements to production ceramics. One of the most interesting is a handmade irregular porcelain, called Litovi, this material is made very much in the style of the Smalti. Litovi has a wide colour range and an irregular riven surface.
In the contemporary context there is a whole range of other materials being used in mosaic. Though caution should be used in the application of these materials they can bring their own meaning and relevance to an artwork. Examples of non standard materials used in mosaic art include: sea shells; nails; coins; fired photos; found objects; domestic ceramics; toys; recycled glass; bottle caps… the list goes on.