The earliest Mosaics made of different materials were discovered inside a temple building in Abra, Mesopotamia, and are dated as early as the second half of 3rd millennium BC. They mainly consisted of pieces of coloured stones, shells and ivory. However, mosaic patterns were not used until the times of Sassanid Empire and Roman influence.
The 12th–13th century was when Rome developed its own unique artistic style towards mosaic. Eastern mosaics gave less realism to the images portrayed using the tiles, so the romans rebelled against this and gave a more realistic portrayal of figures in the space. Created in this period of time the floral mosaics of the Basilica di San Clemente, the façade of Santa Maria in Trastevere and San Paolo fuori le Mura. The apse mosaic of Santa Maria in Trastevere (1140) depicts Christ and Mary sitting with each other on a throne.
Jewish people decorated their synagogues with classical floor mosaics. Interesting examples were discovered in Galilee and the Judean Desert. Inside a 6th-century synagogue the remains of a mosaic reflects an interesting fusion of Jewish and pagan beliefs. In the centre of the floor the zodiac wheel was depicted. Helios sits in the middle, in his sun chariot, and each zodiac is matched with a Jewish month. Along the sides of the mosaic are strips depicting Biblical scenes, such as the binding of Isaac.
Today those who work creating mosaics professionally, work with stone, ceramics, shells, art glass, mirror, beads, and even recycled items. Mosaics of old tended to be more architectural whereas modern mosaics have spread across the world covering playground rides, vases, musical instruments and even sports equipment. Street art has also seen a powerful reinvention and explosion of mosaic artwork. A popular artist working with mosaics in street art at the moment is the French Invader. He creates almost all of his work in two very infamous mosaic styles. Small traditional tile mosaics of 8 bit video game character from space invaders, some spreading like graffiti in towns and cities across the globe. His second style is Rubikcubism, which uses a dual layer mosaic via grids of scrambled Rubiks Cubes. Although he is the most prominent, other street and urban artists do work in Mosaic styles also.
Anyone can create a mosaic, nowadays there are thousands of options available for you in terms of materials. Some artists have even used mobile phone cases to use to build their very own mosaic so be creative you never know there may be items in your very own home that you can use to create your art.
Common materials used to create mosaics professionally are Smalti tiles which are pieces of glass formed into consistent shapes, they are found in many European churches today, another material that shares similar application is vitreous glass, ceramics, pebbles and marble. Instead of painting a piece on top of a flooring, wall or ceiling surface all of these materials will have a longer lasting life and also merges with materials already used in buildings.
When creating your own mosaic you will need to make sure that your materials are suitable for where the mosaic will be placed. If the mosaic is meant for outside then your materials will need to survive the elements, if creating for flooring then you need a strong material to survive the constant wear and tear.
You should always wear safety glasses when breaking up materials to be used in the creation of mosaics. The sharp edges of flying chips could damage your eyes. Also you should wear a dust mask to avoid inhaling dust from broken ceramic materials. Also ensure that you have access to plasters and clean water in case you are cut by any sharp edges.
You can obtain pieces of pottery suitable for making your own mosaics by breaking up old bathroom tiles. You could wrap the tile in a piece of thick cloth and then hit it with a hammer until you had sufficient small pieces of ceramic material for your needs. Alternatively you could obtain better results by using tile cutters. By using different coloured tiles for the mosaic pieces you should be able to create an attractive pattern.
Because this mosaic will need to be able to withstand exposure to the elements out of doors, it is necessary to use a base board that is weatherproof. Score the board with a craft knife to make a hatching effect of criss crossed lines and prime it with a weak solution of white craft glue. The scoring and priming makes the surface hold mosaic pieces in place better. Drill holes which will be used to hang up the finished number and draw an outline of the number onto the base board.
Attaching the mosaic tiles
You should now have sufficient tiles prepared and ready to be put in place. Use a waterproof white craft glue to attach the tiles to the board. Use a pair of tweezers to carefully dip the reverse of each tile into the glue and then stick it onto the board. Continue this process until all of the tiles are in place.
You should wear gloves when working with cement based grout as it can be caustic and might damage your skin if it comes into contact with it. Mix the powder with water until it reaches a consistency like cream. Then spread it in place, forcing the grout into any gaps. As the grout begins to dry, gently brush off any excess, ensuring that you do not remove any of the grout from between the mosaic pieces.
Allow the grout to set slowly overnight in a cool place. Drying should not be done in a warm area as this would speed up the process and weaken the final bonds. Use a small brush and a soft cloth to clear away any excess dust. The house number is now ready to be mounted in place by putting a couple of screws through the predrilled holes.
There are three main techniques to creating mosaic pieces. One is the direct method - you simply place a tile piece by piece, usually this technique is used on objects such as vases, bowls and ornaments.
With a lot of patience and dedication you yourself can create a mosaic. Why not start simple, you could start by cutting out individual squares of paper, using a piece of cardboard as the base for your art. The larger the squares the less detail, the smaller the squares the more intricately detailed images you will create. This may seem simple but it will take a lot of trial and error to create something very special.
Using materials or objects that would not usually be associated with mosaics may be the key to standing out from the crowd. Nowadays a lot of artist are using recycled objects which not only will make your projects cheaper but greener too!
If you wanted to try using glass, pebbles or stone for your mosaics, the cost of individual tiles is very reasonable, but make sure you are buying them from a good source. You want the materials you use to be good quality as ultimately your end results will be based on the high grade of your materials.