2. CHOOSE YOUR TILE
This might be the best part of the whole project! Mosaics are eye-catching and
meaningful because of the tesserae — the colorful bits of tile and pottery that
make up the mosaic. Every crafter is drawn to her individual aesthetic, or has
a color scheme she is partial to. Let these variances in your personal art guide
your choices when creating and gathering tesserae. If you like, you can try not to
purchase anything new for your mosaic. Use leftover tiles from your neighbor’s
bathroom, or save favorite dishes that have cracks and chips. Including meaningful pottery in a mosaic is a wonderful reuse. Choose colors and patterns you
like, and don’t forget to consider the grout — it’s also available in many colors.
3. BREAK IT UP
Historically, Roman and Byzantine tesserae were smalti: opaque glass cubes that were cut with a chisel.
Other tesserae included small pebbles, coins, and mirrors. For this project, we’ll make the tesserae by
breaking up larger ceramic tiles and old plates. There is no perfect method for creating tesserae — while
you can get pretty close most of the time to the shape you want, there’s always an element of surprise when
breaking things. If you’re using glass, it can be scored with a glass cutter to increase the chance the glass
will break along a particular line. Mosaic glass cutters are useful for that task. But with tile and dishes, the
key is patience, and a willingness to work with what you get.
3a. To prevent the pieces from flying through the air
with great force, wrap the dish to be broken in an old
rag. With the heavier hammer, hit the plate once in
the center, through the rag. Check to see how the
pieces look. If you’d like to make them flatter, or to
achieve a specific look, rewrap them in the towel and
use the lighter hammer to chip away at them.
3b. Breaking ceramic tile is similar to breaking plates, with a few differences.
Some tiles, when hit with a hammer, tend to crack into perfect pieces, while
others crumble away. This has to do with the tile itself, but you can adjust your
breaking technique if you notice the tiles are crumbling. Set the tile on top of
a hammerhead, drape it with a rag, then gently hit it with another hammer.
Breaking tiles over a fulcrum like this will give you greater control over the final
pieces, and should cause a good crack, instead of a bad crumble.
3c. Once you’ve broken the tile into pieces, it can be broken down further using
tile nippers. Place a piece of tile in the nippers, cover it with a rag, and then
squeeze the nippers. They will break the tile fairly accurately every time. Tile
nippers are invaluable for creating (mostly) square tesserae.