Anne Marie Price taught herself mosaic art, creating intricate designs and portraits with cut pieces of stained glass.
Recently, she began balancing her usual large projects with smaller ones: She turns her mosaic touch to smooth stones that she picks up on beachcombing and mountain hikes near her Huntington Beach, California, home.
“I’ve always been a collector of things, of small objects, of rocks,” says Price. Now, “I’ve found a use for all those little things I’ve picked up.”
Price combines tesserae — mosaic-speak for the glass and ceramic pieces — with other materials, including pebbles, shells and glass beads. On the stones, she keeps the design simple with a single, vivid flower shape, spiral or leaf. The works can be displayed indoors or out.
Chris Emmert of Eugene, Oregon, creates mosaics on a variety of surfaces, including mirrors and pendants, but primarily enjoys crafting mosaic rocks.
“I still enjoy doing it because I like the rocks. There’s never a bad rock out there,” she says with a laugh.
Emmert mostly uses Pennsylvania bluestone; it’s dense, flat and can endure both hot and cold weather. That makes it perfect for making garden art and her custom-made pet memorial stones. Emmert sells her mosaic stones at her Etsy.com shop, ChrisEmmertMosaic.
Garden designer Kathryn Boylston also makes mosaic stones, and sells them at Sundance By Design, a shop she manages in Evergreen, Colorado.
“It’s a convenient, readily available surface that’s not going to blow away in the landscape,” Boylston says. Also, “it’s just a pretty little thing to have in your garden.”
The process may be simple — adhere glass and other pieces to the stone with a waterproof, silicone adhesive and then fill in the spaces with grout — but there’s still a learning curve.
“Don’t stress on the design. The first one is not going to be your masterpiece,” Emmert advises.
Additional tips from these experts:
— You can take a class — Emmert and Price teach them — but the process is also learnable from YouTube videos, each says.
— Assemble your supplies and clear several hours for the project. There are few tools: tile or glass nippers and protective eyewear.
— Ask for scraps at a stained-glass shop. The glass and variety are great, and it’s less daunting than buying an entire sheet of colored glass at specialty and online stores, says Boylston. Keep an eye on Craigslist’s online classified advertisements for supplies, says Emmert, who looks for artists who are retiring. “When I find someone getting out of it, it’s a lot of glass,” she says.
— Accent your work with found objects, jewelry pieces, pebbles, glass beads and more. “Look around you and see what you have just right there,” says Price.
— Outline simple shapes with a string of small ball chain for a striking effect, says Boylston.
— When finished adhering colorful materials, outline the design with painter’s tape, leaving 1/8-inch around the piece. After grouting, and before the grout thoroughly dries, remove the tape. This will create a clean grout line, says Boylston.
— Use an epoxy grout and you won’t need a sealer to protect stones left outdoors, says Emmert. “Once you master it, you don’t have to worry about it crumbling or cracking. It holds its color very well,” she says.
Making mosaics soon becomes soothing and feeds the creative spirit, Emmert says: “You’re creating rubble and then putting it back together again.”