My thoughts on experiences this far…
Tuesday October 24th 2017

Mosaic-making: Substrate Choices

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:

MDF

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:

Craftslane
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

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

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.

Metal

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 :)

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