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Craft for the season: Homemade mosaic gifts

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I’ve got a reputation around our office. Ew. Not that kind of reputation—I don’t even have an office boyfriend anymore. No, on the workplace beat, I’m known for being crafty.  If something needs to be made out of cardboard (televisions, trophies, Transformer costumes), I’m the bird to do it.

While cardboard is my office medium, I do a fair amount of crafting at home, mostly with tiles. I picked up mosaicking last winter after my bike had been banished to the basement and I had a lot more free time indoors. Do you ever get antsy watching TV? A lot of the shows I watch are easy to tune in and out of (thus proving their worth) and perfect for multitasking. Instead of aimlessly searching the Internet while watching the copious hours of food shows that I’m prone to, I decided to pick up a(nother) hobby. I became productive again, and made a bunch of nice homemade gifts for friends and family.

The only things you need to start mosaicking are:

  • base structures (I started with coasters and worked my way up to a breakfast tray, purchased at Target—things with sides are next)
  • tiles (or broken plates or sea glass!)
  • tile glue
  • grout (normally a powder to which you add water)
  • a big sponge to clean up the grout.

Toothpicks are also helpful as they are skinnier than fingers (and fingers can be dumb). I bought a tile cutter when I started, but it turned out not to be the greatest tool for me (I don’t like activities where lots of tiny pieces of glass fly at my eyes).  I have since returned to using whole tiles, with which I think you get a cleaner-looking end product.

You can pick up glue, mortar, and tiles at Blick or other art supply stores, but I’ve found the variety of tiles to be quite lacking. For my biggest project (the breakfast tray below), I headed to 2434 West Fullerton in Chicago, just three blocks west of the Kennedy Expressway.

Yes, ladies, I have been to the Tile Outlet. And what I saw there was beautiful. Tiles as far as the eye could see!  A big dog (named Chaos?) sleeping in the middle of the store! It was truly a magical place.

Now that you’ve got your accouterment, it’s time to assemble your project.

  • Step 1. Lay out your pattern
  • Step 2. Glue down your pattern, leaving a small gap between tiles  if you want a thin mortar border and a bigger gap for a thicker border.
  • Step 3. Wait overnight for the glue to dry. (Not pictured.)
  • Step 4. Mix up your grout so it has the consistency of wet sand.
  • Step 5. Apply grout to mosaic. Press it into the gaps between pieces at different angles with a flat tool. Scrape off the excess.
  • Step 6. Use a damp sponge to wipe the grout from the tiles.
  • Step 7. Let it dry and give it to your mom.

I whole-heartedly recommend this if you need something to do when the weather turns. You get to play with colors, patterns, and pretty glass tiles. And it’s a perfect hobby to get into during the pre-holiday months—people need coasters!

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7 responses »

  1. “I don’t like activities where lots of tiny pieces of glass fly at my eyes” There goes your social life!

    I enjoy every picture in this post!

    I think I would like to mosaic a small table for our porch. That would probably take a whole season of Friday Night Lights for me to accomplish.

  2. Yay, Hanna! My beautiful tile tray is famous! I love it so much, it’s such a wonderful homemade gift. I love my coaster, too! You have a natural talent for mosaic-ing. We should craft together, though I don’t know how transportable tiles and grout are. Maybe next time I’m in Chicago.

  3. Ummmm has everyone seen the video of the transformers in action? Because it’s epic.

    The second mosaic tile pictured is mine! Such a great craft so well done!


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