Move into mosaic

2010-10-01 15:36

Don’t throw out old scruffy planters – mosaic them. Even shagged-out, old asbestos pots can be given a fresh lease on life with a little patience and creativity.

You can use whole tiles to avoid lots of clipping and cutting, but on round planters you need to be aware of the curve.

The tighter the curve, the smaller the pieces you need to use.

Larger pieces will stick out and fight back and leave sharp edges where you don’t want them.

To prepare an old planter, we sanded off the old loose paint and used tile glue to attach the mosaic tiles.

Some people advise using keying liquid on the outside of the planter and bonding liquid in the grout.

Pots we’ve done using just tile glue and straight grout have lasted fine.

Make sure you leave sufficient space between the tiles for the grout to seal the finished work and when sticking the tiles, don’t skimp on glue.

Use more, rather than less, but don’t let the glue block the spaces between the tiles and clean up as you go.
There are various types of tiles: small ceramic, which are very hard; glazed ceramic; vitreous glass (the sort you often see around the waterlines of swimming pools); and then various other types of glass in a range of vivid and marbled colours.

Some shops also sell specially glazed tiles that are intended to be broken and used in pieces, or they sell pottery “inserts” – glazed pottery shells, butterflies, etc – that you can incorporate into the work.

You can also use broken crockery but it is often curved and can be tricky, and if you aren’t careful, you end up with razor-sharp edges protruding from the work.

The same care with edges needs to be taken if you are using pieces of mirror.

Cutting takes practice, and nipping tiles to precise shapes takes quite a lot of practice and involves wastage.

If you’re new to it, aim for a fairly straightforward design so that you can enjoy it.

There are two kinds of cutters for cutting tiles: one with two little wheels; and clippers that look like an instrument of torture.

The wheels will give you cuts through tiles, often on the curve.

The clippers are good for trimming edges.

Most people can get by with just the wheel cutter.

Tiles, cutters and glue are available from specialist mosaic shops such as the Seedpod in Fourways and Mosaic Arts in Pretoria.

There are also some supplies in stores such as Builder’s Express and Lifestyle Garden Centre.

You can buy mosaic tiles from tile suppliers, but often you have to buy boxes or sheets as they don’t stock specialist mosaic tiles, which are often more fun to use.

To grout the work, wait 24 hours for the glue to set properly, then mix grout with water to the consistency of gooey butter.

It’s best always to use light grey, as white grout becomes dirty.

Dump a glob of it on the work and then sweep over it, forcing it between the tiles, rather than smearing it.

Wipe it clean with an almost-dry sponge, sprinkle dry grout and polish with balled newspaper.

If you have questions or need help, visit the Mosaic Association of South Africa website:

It works as a social network but you can join as a social member and you’ll find loads of information and help on it.

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