I wanted to make my mother-in-law (MIL) something special for her birthday. After searching Pinterest for something special for her, I decided to make her a mosaic, something she loves, as a wall hanging for her. I personally fell in love with a specific cross that was no longer available on Etsy.
Of course as the crafty-mama I proclaim that I am, I used the creative side of my brain to make her a mixed media mosaic project. I wanted to incorporate things that I knew represented her and her personality, and meant something to me as I made it for her.
When I say "mixed media," I'm personally referring to different types of material used on the one project.
I went to my favorite craft store with my children and asked them what shape we should get Grandma for her piece of art. My kids surprised me when they picked the letter "S" which is the first letter in her first name.
That's where I started with the project and went with my imagination from there.
The entire project time was over the course of four days, and probably took about six hours, not including the grout drying time.
As with many of my other Instructables, I hope this one prompts your creative juices to make your own mixed media mosaic!
Further back story:
My MIL got diagnosed with Stage 2 Breast Cancer in October of last year. She was done with the Chemo in mid-March, which took a significant toll on her body, but it appears that she beat it!
The "S" had a fantastic significance to me now because she's a SURVIVOR, and I think that "S" has a greater meaning that just being the first letter of her first name to her as well. Of course, my kiddos didn't understand that at the time we purchased the letter, but it was made clear to me when I started picking out the embellishments for the piece.
Other pieces of this story are written in the Instructable. Thank you so much for taking your time to read it!
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Step 1: Materials and Tools
Here are the materials and tools I used to create this one of kind art:
- cardboard (three dimensional) letter, about 8 inches in height (can also be wood)
- mosaic tile pieces
- acrylic paint & brush
- tile nippers and/or glass nippers
- Aleene's tacky glue (can also use Elmer's glue to glue down mosaic pieces)
- metal scrap-booking type embellishments
- rhinestones, jewels or other stone-like embellishments (sometimes used in card-making/general crafts)
- Pre-Mixed Grout (I used Deloreon grey color)
- strong, clear urethane glue (I use Aleene's Liquid Fusion)
***Links take you to Amazon to see or purchase the products.***
I also used Command Picture-Hanging Strips to make it easier to apply the art to the wall, lint-free cloths (not pictured, see Step 5) and a bowl for water when grouting.
Step 2: Paint Your Piece
My children love to paint and this was a gift for their grandma so....
I had two of my children paint the letter in a coordinating color with the selected tiles.
I didn't know it at the time, but she said that she has been planning to decorate one of her bathrooms in ocean/blue colors and this art piece will go great with the decor in the future.
I would estimate that the total painting and drying time was about an hour.
Step 3: Plan Your Mosaic Art
I didn't really have a plan of what I was going to do with this project, but I did have many craft items to my disposal to create it. That helped significantly when I ran out of the rhinestones!
My initial plan was to grout tiles onto the letter in a pretty way and glue additional embellishments to the grout spaces on top.
Here was some of my thought process:
I had tile pieces from a previous mosaic project. I cut the tiles using the tile nippers into smaller pieces to fit around the edge of the letter "S."
The plan was to use the rhinestones to fill in the spaces of the grout, but I ended up not having enough of the small-sized stones so I used them to both fill in some spaces of the grout and emphasize the location of the metal word art and butterfly.
My oldest suggested to use the sea shell, something we collect every time we go to the beach anyway. That went along with the blue & light green theme I was using, and my MIL loves the beach.
Crafting Hint: There's a visual concept I learned in a flower-arranging workshop I took once that stated that people are attracted to one item or groups of three or five. I've found this fact helpful in creating craft projects as well. With the shell, there are three items that stick out from the remaining colors and tile pieces. This is just a hint if you're struggling with how many items to put on a project.
The metal word art "grateful" I found in the scrapbooking section of my local craft store, and had meaning as our whole family was 'grateful' she beat cancer, and I was (and still am) thankful she's my mother-in-law.
The metal butterfly represents a new beginning to me, and I placed it at the top, because I think of it as 'she only has one place to go but up from here.'
Crafting Hint: The butterfly and the 'grateful' word art has symbolism to me. This entire project was intended to be meaningful and symbolic for the person I made it for.
Although it's not pictured in this step, I added little blue gems I got from the dollar store in between the spaces of the tile because I didn't have enough small rhinestones. (You can see them in the photos in the intro or Step 7.)
Step 4: Glue the Mosaic Pieces Down
In this step, you are only gluing the mosaic pieces down, or any larger pieces that are going to be grouted into the final piece of work. Not including glue drying time, it took me about an hour to glue the larger pieces to the letter.
The smaller embellishments are glued to the top of the grout, and that is shown in Step 7.
Helpful hints when gluing tile and larger pieces:
As you can see from the first photo, I glued the shell first. As most of the tile was aligned with the location of the shell on the bottom half of the letter "S," I glued the shell first and worked everything else around it. I chose to glue the shell so that it would be set into the grout rather than gluing it to the top of the grout because of it's depth. If it had been a few smaller shells, I would have glued them to the top of the grout.
I glued the pieces on the ends first and worked inward. I could have started from the middle, but incorporating the butterfly angle and shell were more important than the tiles in the middle.
I glued the larger tiles first, then filled in the spaces around the edges with the smaller, cut tiles.
Not much glue is needed on the tile. Because the tile will be grouted onto the piece of work, it just needs to be stuck down so it doesn't move, but too much glue makes it take too long to dry as well.
I used a brush to place the glue on the pieces, but I ended up just using my finger in the end to dab glue to the bottom of the tiles. My daughter helped by initially placing the glue on the tile by dipping it into a blob of glue I placed on a paper plate. I only did that so she could feel like she was helping.
Step 5: Add Grout
This is my favorite part!
For a project this size, you will need about 15-minutes to place the grout and let it dry for at least an hour before going to the next step of cleaning.
Have a bowl full of water, t-shirt type material cleaning cloths (or cloths that don't produce lint easily) and a space you can get dirty and feel safe getting grout pieces dropped on.
FYI: My dogs appear to not eat the grout, but I think my mini-poodle at least tried to eat it and spit it out while I wasn't really paying attention.
Personally, I have a craft table in my backyard, used an old plastic bowl full of water (you'll be sticking your hand in it so make it a tolerable temperature,) and use cut-up t-shirt material as my lint-free cloths.
Tips on placing grout in your mosaic piece:
First and foremost: Don't fear the grout! When I first learned how to grout a mosaic, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to clean the tiles. As it's true you can't stop the grout from drying, you can also control how much grout you place on your piece and in what order. I grouted this small piece in two halves, taking care to wipe the chunks of grout off the individual pieces.
Push the grout into the nooks and crannies of the tile. Taking your time of course, you glued and let dry the mosaic tiles down for just this reason. Using your fingers (gloves are optional) push the grout under the tiles and in between the small spaces, even if that means getting the tops of the tiles dirty.
At some point, you will have start cleaning the tiles. I use a wet finger to wipe down and "find" each tile piece, and then touch it up with a wet cloth.
Hint: *Some of the time, the grout will not have dried enough and stick to the surface of the letter, and it might fall out.* --- Don't try to re-use grout that has fallen from the piece. Chances are, it soaked up the dirt, paint or whatever was preventing it from sticking the first time, so a new placement of grout is highly recommended in that area.
If there is a bit of residue from the grout left on the individual tiles, more than likely that residue can come off of the tile after the grout has dried for a few hours. This is demonstrated in the next step.
In my particular case, the circumstances of the day made it so the grout dried for over 12-hours, and although drying time varies, this is a good time to wait.
Step 6: Clean the Grout Off Pieces
I brought the piece indoors to complete this step, and I warn you that small bits of grout will fall off the art piece as it did and got on my kitchen table.
Using a lint-free cloth wet with water, wipe the tiles down by rubbing the wet cloth back and forth on the tile to clean it.
I took a before and after photo of the top round part of the letter to show the difference this step can make.
Step 7: Glue the Embellishments
I began the process of adhering the embellishments to the cleaned grout after about 20-minutes AFTER cleaning the tiles with water.
Helpful tip: Many mosaic pieces can get a shiny look by using orange (or lemon) oil (the type that is used to shine wood.) I DO NOT RECOMMEND USING OIL if you are going to place embellishments directly onto the grout. For a project that uses glue onto the grout, either wait until the glue dries after the embellishments are placed, or don't use any oil at all. The shine from the rhinestones will stand out enough on the finished piece.
In my case, the pieces I chose to embellish the the art with either had pre-existing sticky backing (for scrapbooking use) or needed to be glued anyway.
ANY adhesive backing placed for scrap-booking purposes needs to be removed completely prior to gluing it to the grout.
I started out with the butterfly area, and worked my way down the letter, placing the larger items first. I also laid out most of the jewels and rhinestones prior to gluing them down, to ensure the correct spacing and that I had enough of the items placed.
Use the clear urethane glue directly onto the back of the embellishment you are placing onto the grout.
This process took me about 45-minutes or so, not including the dry time of the glue.
Step 8: Final Touch-up & Display
After about 30-minutes of letting the gems and rhinestones dry on the face of the piece of art, I turned the piece over and touched up the paint on the back and all the sides that had grout smears to it. I let the paint dry for about an hour before applying the hanging device.
I used the Command strips to have the letter ready to hang for my mom-in-law. If the project were made out of wood, I would probably have used a picture framing hanger of some sort, but the strips worked well for a piece of this size.
The mosaic was a big hit. I know some friends who are just as crafty as I that would love to learn to make one similar to this. I will now be referring them to this instructable. ;)
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