DIY Mosaic Sculpture

DIY How to Sculpt with Mosaics--Art lesson #6

The DIY for handsculpting pieces is given here along with a complete tutorial for how it can be achieved. In this tutorial, you will find the means to create sculptures of your own to create unique pieces of art.

Sculpting for mosaics is a process that requires a lot of patience . Recently, my Piece Makers on an Etsy team I am a part of issued a challenge, to create a mosaic based upon the theme of "A Sailor's Valentine". I chose a liberal approach to it.So to create a sculpture on a piece isn't as hard as it seems, as long as you know what you are doing The following is a step by step on the process involved.  You can go and vote for your favorite piece here:

1) I chose to do a freehand cut on Wedi Board. Wedi is a substrate that is a hard compressed foam with cement coating and a fiberglass very loose mesh on top. I love working on Wedi, but it has it's issues as well. It's a very lightweight substrate and waterproof, but the fiberglass mesh has to be smoothed out for most applications with a fine layer of Thinset.

2) The choice of colors was actually very difficult. I wanted to make sure I still retained that serene feel, yet also use a bit more of a vibrant palette. I laid sheets of glass out to see what it would look like. This is somtething I played around a lot with until I was satisfied with my color choices. The below image shows the sheet of glass arranged in how I would perceive them in this project.

3) One of the first things I had to do was to install the hardware for Wedi, as that is something that goes through both sides of the piece and a quite different installation than other hardware. In the first image, you can also see my notes and lines for the overall design. The washers are slightly cupped, so it's important to tap them in all the way and you can fill in and smooth out with thinset later.

4) In knowing I wanted to achieve a 3-D effect, I began to sculpt the umbrella. I used a strip cloth form of plaster to build up my umbrella. 

I built this up using newspaper to fill in and finally got the shape I wanted as seen here: It's a very messy and time consuming process.

It takes time to build up a piece using the strips for plaster. The most important thing is to allow suficient drying time before mosaics. Getting slimy and messy is only half the fun! I actually love this part of the process.

5) Once dried completely, the entire project gets a nice thin coat of thinset, including the edges, to smooth things out a bit more, yet retain the rough, raw edges on the sides. It has to cure for over 24 hours or more to make sure it's completely set. In this piece, it had to cure a week before I felt comfortable to lay mosaic on it. This is because of the plaster I used and wanting to be certain of a good cure on it.

6) All of these steps so far were merely in preparation to tile. Now the fun really begins! It's still a time-consuming process to grind every piece of hand-cut glass I make. The glass was all free-hand cut, and then ground down as needed. I wanted an overall sweeping effect of the sky, using large pieces of cut glass. This is not a technique that I recommend for beginners as it takes practice to get those long sweeping strokes and yet achieve a very nice effect. For beginners, I recommend using smaller cuts and learn how to use the Morton's "safety cut" device. You can still get a really great effect, even if you don't have the long sweeping cuts that I do.

I first mark lines I want with a pen, then cut and grind them to be smooth. 

I cannot stress enough the importance of wearing safety goggles as well as protective gear for you hands. cutting and grinding glass can produce very fine shards of glass that do imbed in your skin, so although I show grinding without protection in the above photo, I highly recommend using some sort of leather glove of heavier lytex. If you look closely on the left hand side of the yellow sponge, you can see the buildup of fine glass powder that grinding creates.

7) The finishing touches...grouting and curing. What many don't know is that to cure a piece too fast is more likely to have the grout crack. It's got to  be a slow cure process, constantly rehydrating the piece.Using a fine mist spritz bottle is ideal for this, but has to be repeated every  15 - 30 minutes in the inital stages, wiped down gently, then you can let it cure for longer periods without as much attention.

During the curing process, there is a haze over the product, where it just doesn't look good. This is normal and does require a huge amount of patience, to mist it again, give a brief wipe off, let it be, then continue. Most people don't know that this goes on for at least a 12-24 hour process for most pieces. A slower cure does mean a stronger bond, so in the end, this process is well worth the time and effort it takes. In the image below, you can see it at one of the stages of curing the bond, where there is still some haze over the mosaic. As much as you want to wipe it all off, you have to be patient and let things happen slowly. Rushing it if about guaranteed to ruin your item.

Knowing I had weight on one side of the piece, I knew I'd also have to balance it. It isn't not only done as an aesthetic, but also for practical reasons. This is why I chose to do a focal at the bottom right of the piece with the river rocks, shells, etc.It gives the piece a sense of balance aesthetically as well as practically. In my original design for this piece, that was something I included and knew I wanted to be there regardless, so it all fit.

And now you see the final piece, in all it's glory! It is available for sale here:

Thank you all again and I look forward to your feedback!

All my best,



  1. What a great explanation of this process! Really like the way this turned out too, especially with all your little embellishments. ! Guess I didn't keep the grout on my table moist enough long enough - it's all falling out!

  2. ah yeah - safety glasses are a mast with the grinding process, my grandson wore a pair of swim goggles this past summer, since I didn't have any extra glasses! they worked!

  3. thank you for explaining your process...beautiful piece! when making the build-up, did you use some sort of base to get it started? if so, how was it attached?

    love your work!

  4. Thanks fro your explanation and lovely piece of work. I am just starting a large glass and tile mosaic. I am using the indirect method and am wondering if I need to grind the glass as I dont have a grinder?


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