Mosaic is the art of creating pictures and designs using pieces of tile, ceramics or glass. Kids of all ages enjoy making mosaics, and you can adapt any project to suit the age and stage of your child.

Mosaics are created by gluing down small pieces to create blocks of colour, leaving tiny spaces between each piece. Once the picture is completed, the whole mosaic is covered in grout (a concrete-like paste), so that the gaps are filled in.

You can mosaic onto just about any surface, and provided you use the right materials, they can be displayed either inside or out. Some of the most common things to mosaic include mirrors, frames, rocks, pots, and wooden shapes, however with a little bit of imagination you can mosaic your whole world! Letterboxes, birdbaths, fishponds, tables, chairs, paths, and even fence posts can all be transformed with mosaic.

Where do you learn Mosaics?

There is no one place you can go for mosaic classes in NZ, as there are few specialist mosaic stores around. Tile shops are a good place to start, as are lead lighting and general craft stores. Mosaics are one of those crafts that don’t fit squarely into any one category, so you may have to hunt around.

Mosaic classes are a popular option for local high schools and community centres. Most community education facilities put out their programmes on a term by term basis, so ask them to send you the programme for next term or watch your local paper around school holiday time.

If you get really stuck, contact your local arts council. (You can get hold of them through your district or city council.) Their job is to encourage and develop arts within the community, so they usually have a pretty good database of any art and craft classes available.

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What age can your child start Mosaics?

Kids as young as 3 or 4 can make their own mosaic, however it’s a pretty long process and their concentration span doesn’t always cope. If you are planning to do mosaics with preschool children make sure the project is small, and be prepared to work on it over several short sessions. While they love the smashing up part, the gluing down can get pretty boring!

Children start to really get the hang of mosaics by about 9. By this stage they understand the concept really well, and their concentration levels can handle it. Start your child on a flat surface project like a placemat or mirror, then move on to more complex activities once they are well practised.

What equipment do you need for Mosaics?

The most important piece of equipment you will need for mosaics is a good pair of tile cutters. There are lots of different sorts available, and some are designed to do specific types of cuts, or work with specific types of materials. To start with, purchase a pair of general cutters, then go on to buy more specialised nippers if you need to.

Some people choose to simply smash their tiles with a hammer. To do this you must wrap your tile in an old towel first, then gently tap the back. While this is an easy option to use with young children, it doesn’t give you specific shaped pieces, and the veneer of the tile is often shattered. As a result you end up with a lot of wastage which quickly equates to the cost of some cutters.

Wall tiles are easier to work with than floor tiles, as they are thinner and easier to manipulate. You can also use broken china or ceramics, but be aware that if the piece doesn’t have a flat back, you will need to get inventive with your gluing.

You will obviously need something on which to mosaic, and this can be almost anything. A flat surface project is the best place to start, so old placemats, breakfast trays or mirrors make great beginners projects. It doesn’t matter if the item is old and tatty – you won’t be able to tell when you’ve finished mosaic-ing!

There are lots of different glues available for mosaic, and which one you use depends on the project. A simple rule to remember is that glues for outdoor projects must be waterproof. Ask at your local tile or mosaic shop about the right glue for your project.

The final stage in mosaics is grouting. Aside from the grout (which you can purchase from tile, hardware and mosaic shops) you will need lots of disposable containers and stirring sticks for making your mixture. Ice cream containers and wooden stakes are great, but anything you are prepared to throw away is fine. You’ll also need plastic gloves (unless you want coloured hands for 3 weeks!) and lots of old cotton rags.

How much does cost to learn Mosaics?

It seems there is no standard fee for mosaic classes, with prices largely dependent on the project and the tutor. Some course fees include materials and equipment costs, while others require you to purchase your own tools and materials. You can expect to pay upwards of $35 for a short 3 hour workshop, and as much as $240 for a full weekend. Material costs are additional to these fees.

To set yourself up for mosaics you will need to purchase a good set of tile cutters for around $25 – $35. Glass and tiles start at around $2 a piece, and adhesives from $5. Grout can be purchased in bulk from tile shops or hardware stores, with $35 getting you a 10kg bag of plain grey or black. If that sounds a little extravagant, you can purchase smaller containers of coloured grout for about $7/kg.

How long does it take to learn Mosaics?

Basic mosaic techniques can be picked up in a short 3 hour workshop, but there are plenty of tips and tricks to be learnt as you tackle more advanced projects. It is useful to do several courses which look specifically at different areas – indoor, outdoor, flat surface, spheres, glass, or tile. Each of these classes are likely to last between 3 and 6 hours.

The Kiwi Families Team

This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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