Per my current understanding, India doesn’t have an institute-conducted formal art course on mosaics. The country seems to have many traditional stained glass artists, and some teach as well, but glass mosaic-creation or teaching is still to gain visibility here. What I do see in parts of the country are wall murals in public spaces that are done in hammer-broken ceramic tiles but they seem to be made almost entirely by commercial tile layers, not studio artists. I once spotted this huge mural adorning the Railway station walls in the city of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh and surmised that its idea emerged from a government-supported program surrounding environment conservation for which tile layers specializing in ceramic murals may have been called from elsewhere in the country. In Goa too, many school or hospital walls can be seen with ceramic mosaic murals but they too are done in Opus Palladianum with randomly broken commercial tiles, not with artistically hand or machine cut tiles as studio ceramic mosaicists make them internationally.
Materials for mosaics aren’t simply available in art stores in India. Tools and media have to be sourced from hardware stores that cater to bulk purchases so for a learner or artist interested in creating mosaic objects, it becomes a challenge to source the media. This post therefore aims to demystify sources or types of essential materials and tools necessary to create mosaics by beginners.
Wheeled Mosaic Cutters or Nippers
These circular blade cutters should be the first tool to procure for composing vitreous glass tile mosaics. Per my current information, only one glass tool supplier in New Delhi, Techno Trade Links, is aware of the use of this cutter but stocks it sparingly. It sources the tool and blades from China or Italy. The company couriers the tool and blades to an address in India after receiving their payment but doesn’t always have a ready stock of good quality cutters. Once I learned of their presence, I communicated with them through a series of WhatsApp messages and managed to get hold of one cutter. A couple more learners like me did the same. On a visit to their office, however, I didn’t find any cutters in stock but managed to find a set of spare blades. I was assured that once they receive a request, they try to arrange the requested tools over 3-4 weeks. Their prices vary based on their purchases and sources.
The guaranteed source of this tool per my experience has been Amazon US (not Amazon India). After buying at least 6 tools from them, I finally know which ones work well and have listed them below in my order of preference. Even for sourcing from Amazon US, there is a problem to counter. Not all suppliers ship the listed merchandize to India. Where they don’t ship to India, I’ve had to have the cutters shipped to a friend in the US closer to their travel time to India. Where they do ship merchandize directly to India, the shipping cost and import fee end up as equal or higher than the product price. But at least this option does exist for emergency purchases of known brands of cutters and it can be exercised if there are no willing US friends to bring you mosaic cutters.
In the image above, the cutters are arranged in the order listed above. Gold Blatt is the heaviest cutter but also very dependable for balanced cuts. If one wants to be really secure about the cutters, I’d advise the purchase of all 3, and a set of spare blades from Mosaic Mercantile. This tool kit will keep the worry of blunt blades off your agenda for a long time. The blue handle cutter is from Techno Trade Links.
While one must stock toothpicks, satay sticks, ear buds (not joking) and more such useful items in one’s mosaic tool kit for various stages of mosaicking, this set of 4 metal picks (also in the image above) from Mosaic Mercantile is a comforting collection in a mosaicist’s kit. Do get hold of them when you order a mosaic cutter from Amazon US.
Alternatively, one might want to hunt out a source for a watch repairman’s tweezers that have pointed and curved tips and buy those. One of the set of 4 picks is just that and it is the most useful one in the set.
Vitreous Glass Tiles
These are 2×2 cm or 1×1 inch glass tiles that come stuck to brown paper sheets or fibre nets. The main use of these tiles is to create the exterior of swimming pools or bathroom walls to keep them wipe-able, water-resistant and colorful. They come arranged on 1 sq ft sized sheets in boxes of 10 sheets of a single colour. Some sheets may come with a blend of 2 contrasting or similar colours for their intended application in pools or walls. Those available on brown paper sheets have to be kept soaked in water for 5-15 minutes for them to slide off paper sheets. They can be wiped clean of any residual glue and used to create mosaics as whole pieces or cut by mosaic cutters. The ones on nets have to be pulled off tile by tile and used as whole or shaped using mosaic cutters.
If you’re located in Gurgaon, you’re fortunate like me as you can message your requirement of tiles to the mosaicist Kanika Singh and go over to her Studio in Sector 55 to pick up your stock. She takes pains to arrange varied colors for her mosaic teaching workshops and commissioned mosaics, and sells the surplus to practicing mosaicists.
If you’re in another city of India, you’ve to visit sanitaryware and tile stores and convince them to sell you sheets of tiles in the colours you need. Chances are that the stores would only want to sell them by boxes of 10 sheets of the same colour but you may get lucky and find leftover tiles in small quantities that they have little use for and those may even come at a discount. This you can try at various sanitaryware stores and patronize those who are fast with arranging your orders.
Other than these basic implements and vitreous glass tiles, there is lots more that a mosaicist would aspire for in tools and media that I’ll go over in future posts.
Meanwhile, do tell me if you know of another dependable source of mosaic tools than those included here or know of easy sources of glass tiles used in mosaics.
. Mini Mason Studio: Ms. Kanika Singh, Sector 55, Gurgaon, Haryana, India, Email: kanika at minimason dot in, Website: http://minimason.in
. Techno Trade Links: Mr. Sudhir Arora, B-46, Ansal Chambers-1, 3,Bhikaiji Cama Place, New Delhi – 110066, Mobile: +91-9868124610, Website: http://www.technotradelinks.com