Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Clay Tile Mosaics

I always hesitated trying out mosaics in my classroom because I was under the impression that they were really expensive to create. I couldn't have been further from the truth!
I would search google and comb through blogs looking for ways I could make the project happen for less than .50 a student (which I have found to not surprisingly be impossible if you are purchasing glass or tile mosaics pieces)
Then it hit me one evening... make your OWN tiles! I over ordered clay and was needing to use it up anyways... I also had a bunch of scrap wood pieces to use as the backing board. All I had to purchase was the grout and glue. perfect!

 Making the tiles was a cinch, a basic slab and paper template demo was all that was needed to show the students after sketching out some ideas. And BONUS! kiln space is not an issue... Everything is FLAT and I was able to get all project pieces bisque fired in one shot, even with a smaller kiln
I purchased the large gallon and dispersed it into small disposable bowls . Students used a junky old paint brush to place the glue on the back of the tile piece. This is a non-toxic, water based glue, that is extremely economical and very easy to find and will securely bond the tile to many different surfaces.  

Any sanded grout will due. I like to use  a dark gray grout. If you purchase a white grout you can add acrylic paint to the mixture to color it any color you like. I like to purchase a dry mix and then mix it outside the classroom before school starts (you need an air tight container to prevent it from drying out). A more hassle free pre-mixed grout is less of a classroom headache, but much more expensive. This bag will run you about $10 or so. 
Here are the steps:
1) Sketch and create templates (make sure students are aware of their base board size so they know how much space they will need to take up)
2) Create a slab, and use template to cut out (I like using x-acto blades, but needle tools work as well)
3) Make 3 extra 6"x6" tiles, these will work as your background tile pieces to break up later
4) bisque fire and glaze fire all tiles (use a kiln safe pencil or underglaze to place initials on back of tile pieces.
 5) Once out of the kiln, students may begin placing and gluing tiles onto their board.
6) Start with main tile and then add smaller pieces. You can use a tile nippers for breaking slabs into smaller pieces, but that was kinda fussy for me... instead... we used old canvas to wrap the tiles in before safely smashing them with a hammer. Worked surprisingly well! just remember safety glasses!
7) Glue, glue, glue as you go, one bump from a neighbor could erase a whole days work.
6) Let sit over night after all pieces have been placed down, and grout after 24 hours.
7) If mixing grout, follow box directions, one person told me once that the grout mixture should be the consistency of sturdy browny mix... whatever that means.
8) Once grouted, rub the surface of the mosaic vigorously in circular motions with an old rag, I used old t-shirts. Do this until all tile pieces are clean and grout free. Use a small dab of water on the rag if necessary in spots stubborn to clean.
 What a unique piece of art to cherish! Loved them all, more to come with my new semester soon!


  1. I love this idea! I saw a recent mosaic in a public space which was done by a special school and the children had used their hands as templates for many of the tiles too. I think I posted it earlier this year if you want to see. That starry one is particularly lovely. So enjoy reading these projects. I'm having a bit of time off teaching and working instead as an art technician for a year but will save all these ideas up for when I go back!

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