Back at work on the Mosaic for the bath surround

I got another panel up today but I thought I’d also talk a little about the process.

I had a friend ask me about laying it out and I realized there are several ways.  This is what I recommend:  

Get paper as big as you can- butcher or kraft paper is ideal but if you have newprint or something, you can tape pieces together to cover your space to be mosaic’d.

Next, draw your design right onto it while it’s on the wall (if you can.) Take down the paper in sections- that is, if you are working on a really big space as I am for the bath surround, and my table is 32” wide, I have been cutting my design into strips around that wide. Note how I am choosing natural borders along which to break up my design.


Then you can either designate a table and work on it in pieces that are the size of the table top

OR buy sheets of styrofoam insulation- the thick pink works best but it’s a bit costly or very thin plywood (so it doesn’t weigh a lot). The plywood tends to warp and arch.

One artist who advised me,  lays the whole thing out in sections on multiple styrofoam sheets and stacks them on top of eachother until she is ready to put the whole thing up on the wall.

After the broken tile is laid out, I hold it all together with clear shelf paper that I get at Menard’s (though you can buy special tape or use regular tape but that gets pricey). Then, as each section is done, I cut the mosaic into 12-18 inch square sections; again following natural lines and borders using an exacto blade. That is one good reason to put cardboard under the paper- so you don’t cut up your table top. If you use the styrofoam, it is great for absorbing the cuts.


I apply mastic (that’s the adhesive- you buy in buckets) to the wall and lift the sections of mosaic and push them onto the sticky wall. This process is A LOT easier with two people, one holding up the section of mosaic and the other guiding it into place and pressing it into the mastic. But it can be done alone as I have been finding out. You can even use your feet as I do at the very bottom.

I suggest starting with smaller sections until you see the problems inherent.

Start at the bottom and leave yourself some wiggle room as the mosaic tends to expand and also to distort as it stretches and sags a small amount.

Because of this I also advise applying the mastic a bit past your edges when you can. It is easy enough to take a little putty knife and clean off excess after the tiles are up but much harder to lift all the tiles up that don’t have mastic under them and try to get some under there.mastic-detail

* Note: If your work space is a ways from your mosaic site, and you don’t have the insulation boards, you can slide/lift  your sections  onto various boards and trays, even layers of newspaper and moved them there.

You’ll note I often have strips of masking tape. Sometimes I make a spiral or something and I want it to really stay together;  perhaps I don’t have time to lay out the filler/background right then. A quick strip of masking tape is a good way to keep the piece in place. It’s also a bit stickier than the shelf paper and the more matte and rough a tile’s surface is, the less it sticks to shelf paper. Conversely, shiny, smooth tile sticks almost too much.

Here is the newest section up  and with the tape removed.  section-put-up-and-tape-peeled-off

I won’t be teaching in August, but I hope to catch up with a couple of posts I missed during my  classes. I am also hoping to finish this mosaic!!

Week 4 Slip ‘n’ Surfaces

Week 4 of Slip ‘n’ Surfaces


This week we:

Talked about slip application

Didn’t remember to talk about surface preparation (I will now)

Stencils -newspaper resist

Slip transfer – painting onto newspaper

Eric Jensen method reprised with netting

Foot-of-the-week: thrown on foot & pedestal foot

Lip-of-the-week: added coil

Glaze-of-the-week: Shaner White (with a nod to Coleman’s Apple green)


Despite this being the last class 🙁     I feel like I gave out a lot of information this week and there seemed to be something for everyone.

I started by talking about slip application as I had come upon something while I was doing my own work that I know about but it’s not often addressed.

I had made a platter  and when I applied the slip, the slip was fairly thick. I show the (unfired) platter herethick-slip-application

in contrast to the (bisked) rabbit casserolecasserole-detail-fine-slip

which had  a thinner slip application due to the slip being of a thinner, slightly more watery consistency. It’s easier to do finer work with a thinner layer of slip. If you have to draw your lines and do your carving through a 16th of an inch of slip, it is easier to be more clumsy and also to break off little chunks – pointy tips of leaves, etc. You also tend to get more texture when you are carving through a thicker application of slip. It’s hard to see here as I don’t have a good, in-focus photo of the bird platter. 

I then meant to talk just a little about preparing surfaces for slip- I like to eliminate throwing rings with a metal rib when I am throwing and to smooth away the canvas marks with a soft rubber rib when I am handbuilidng. If you are going to put in a drawing or pattern, you don’t need an uneven surface interfering with your image.

Conversely, sometimes a nice layer of slip can hide flaws in a surface.


I did again my popular “Birches” demo where I lay down strips of newspaperbirches-strips-of-newspaper-laid-down-for-stencil and paint over them with blue. Karin immediately did a wonderful fern stencil.pulling-off-the-fern-leafafter-the-fern-leaf-has-been-pulled-up

Doesn’t that look cool?


I took another porcelain tray that was almost too dry to demonstrate newspaper slip transfer. I painted on the paper and then scratched through the dotsleaves-painted-on-newspaper-for-transfer

 and pressed it onto the surface of the tray. I had little success until I got the tray a bit wetter and the soaked the back of the newspaper sprayed-the-back-of-the-paper-to-release-the-painted-on-slip to encourage the slip to migrate onto the clay surface. Then I did it again with black slip.

finished-transfer-trayActually I did a little more to it so it looks better.

Foot-of-the-week: thrown on foot & pedestal foot

I then reprised the Eric Jensen method but with netting (avocado bag and onion bag) nettingpressed into the slip before the slab is thrown out. Really, I was just trying to make a bowl to throw a foot onto.(also already seen in this blog)  I think it was quite successful.netting-pattern-stretched-out

and then on! to a tiny pedestal foot – I just made a little pinch pot and the foot was a very small ball of clay pressed to make a hemisphere and attached to the pot.pedestal-footpedestal-foot-view

Lip-of-the-week: added coil

For this I made another little pinch pot, rolled a coil and then ran a damp sponge the length of it to smooth it and also to give it more of a “thrown” look.

making-the-rimScored both the edge of the pot and the underside of the coil and pressed it on for a nice finished look.finished-added-rim


Glaze-of-the-week: Shaner White

will actually show quite a bit of detail from slip beneath it but dilute the color- making it almost pastel. I found this out one time when I had a completely senior moment and glazed no less than 9 pots in Shaner White instead of Shaner Clear.

Here is the result:shaner-white-bowlsmind you, I did still wet my pots down to absorb less glaze as I always do for Shaner’s Clear. Sure, my technique is automatic- I just need to get the right bucket!

Not the end of the world.

We also found this piece on the glaze cart and it shows  slip under Shaner White nicely.

shaner-over-oxide-or-slipThis looks like blue and red iron.

But my favorite thing to do is rub it off the raised surfaces and here is the lovely (if I do say so myself) result on B-Clay of Shaner white dipped and rubbed off over Mazerine Blue Slip. inlaid-shaner-white-glaze-vase-thorns-guy-nicol-photinlaid-shaner-white-glaze-vase-berries-guy-nicol-photYou can see that it’s uneven. Also, the photo makes the clay just a bit more orange than it really is. (Nice photos by Guy Nicol)

Here is another piece found on the glaze cart-  Coleman green over carved black slip. as  you can see it is transparent. But also very






Student work,

Here is Terry’s foray into wipe away etching. Note how she had a colored slip over the clay and the wax protected it. terry's-wiped-away-wax-etching-over-colored-slip

Here is Nina’s carved oxide piece all finished:

 I think it turned out nice!ninas-finished-piece-clear-over-black-oxideUnder clear. If you check that last post you can see this pot bisked.

 And last but not least, Nina’s fascinating inlaid slip. the twist is, she inlays it into black slip which was applied early on and burnished. That’s why there are two shades- some is scraped where she was cleaning up the inlay. She used a syringe to inlay the white slip. Good idea, eh? and neat pattern!ninas-white-slip-inlaid-into-black-slip-over-stoneware

So thank you everyone for wonderful contributions and participation. It was really a great class that I looked forward to every week. What a pity it was only 4 weeks!