I create mosaic jewelry. I recently finished participating in a spat of shows, which I must say, is a lot of work but great fun. Given my work is very small and detailed, customers at shows often ask me questions in regards to working small scale. I often hear comments such as, “you must be very patient,” or “you must have good eyesight and a steady hand.” While those statements are accurate, I will add that I also have great tools! It’s really all about the tools. Well, the tools and materials.
I work with tiny Moroccan ceramic tiles that I actually import directly from Morocco…with some difficulty I might add. I have sourced small tiles from other manufacturers without success. The tiles I use have great depth and variation in color. They are not perfect and that suits me. Though detailed, my aesthetic is not polished. I prefer an organic, somewhat rustic look, so these tiles fit the bill perfectly. I often have to further manipulate the already small tiles in order to create my mosaics.
I also love mixing materials. For instance, I create jewelry that incorporates tiles as well as a material called filato, which is made from smalti that has been heated and stretched into thin noodles. The noodles can be flat or round are around 6mm wide and 1-2mm thick. They come in a range of colors, as do the Moroccan tiles. My studio is like a candy store! So many colors, textures and shapes!
I also work with a material called mosaic gold. As with filato, I like to combine mosaic gold in pieces that are predominantly tile based. Mosaic gold is comprised of a thin layer of 24-carat gold leaf that is placed on top of poured glass, and then another layer of molten glass is poured on top. The resulting tile is absolutely gorgeous! Mosaic gold can be tricky to work with and is understandably expensive; therefore, I use it sparingly and I’m careful with my cuts. Mosaic gold comes in a variety of colors. Currently, I’m partial to “acid green” and bright orange!
Another material that I use often is called millefiori. Talk about fun! Millefiori translates to “thousand flowers.” It is glass imported from Murano, Italy which is cut from layered glass rods which have different colors of glass that resemble mini flowers, bullseyes, stars, etc. I can get millefiori as small as 2mm! In larger sizes, I often cut the millefiori and create a layered look. This is a good segue to tools!
How does one cut millefiori into precision shapes? Glad you asked. I use wheeled nippers when I want to cut millefiori, smalti, mosaic gold, and even my tiny ceramic tiles. I prefer a brand called Leponitt. I’ve heard mosaic artists refer to them as the best wheeled nippers in the market. They are durable and comfortable to use.
Another must-have tool for me is a good pair of fine point curved tweezers. Mine are about 5” long and they are ideal for micro-mosaic work. I also find it necessary to sometimes use reverse tweezers, especially when I need to hold on to a tiny tile while I hand grind it down on a pumice stone so that it will fit into my piece.
Another important tool that I use is a simple dental pick. Since I often use an epoxy in my work, the dental pick helps me to position each tile as well as smooth over the epoxy.
I use a myriad of other tools and materials, but these are my essentials. Oh, and I almost forgot, a magnifying lamp to help with detail is handy. Without these tools, I wouldn’t be able to create miniature mosaics. And yes, a dose of patience, a steady hand, as well as tunes on Spotify help me create wearable mosaic art!