One of my Flickr friends had asked how I go about making mosaics with kids, so I thought I’d write a post about it…
When I mosaic with kids, I generally let them go. I’ve only ever used ceramic tile with them because it doesn’t get the sharp edges that glass does. Having said that I’ve cut up mirror before for the older ones. If the littlies want to use it I will ask them where to put it and lay it down myself. Mirror for some reason likes my blood. It’s the one material that I almost always cut myself on!!!
We talk about what they want to mosaic and what colours they want to use where and I let them break the ceramic tiles once chosen. Kids of all ages (I’ve now done these with kids from 2 – 8 years of age) love this bit!!!
So far I’ve only ever mosaiced stepping stones with kids. There’s no real reason other than it’s nice to have kids’ artwork in the garden! Probably too, it’s small enough that it doesn’t escape their shorter attention spans and actually has some use. Being a very pragmatic person, I like including my childrens’ artwork in our lives, but in such a way that has some use. Too often the kids will come home with their beautiful artwork, but masses of it and I still don’t know what to do with it all!? I’ve taken to photographing it and making an album of their artwork on the computer. Then it gets recycled, save for those really exceptional ones! I have such a hard time throwing their work away (and to be perfectly honest most of it is in a box under the house, or in those clear-plastic-sleeved folders!) but what do you do with it all!?
Anyway, they draw their image with chalk/crayon etc and interestingly the younger they are the more appropriate their artwork is for mosaics. There’s less detail. I also have to remind them that it should cover most of the area, otherwise you end up with this tiny drawing in the centre of the substrate. If they want a border on the edge then I measure this out for them beforehand and they then draw between the borders.
I let them either butter each tesserae down or put the adhesive down block by block (each section of their design, so that they can still see the design) and let them stick the tesserae down after – this is easier and keeps them interested for longer, but for those kids that take a long time it might not be the method to choose as the adhesive will start to skin over quickly. With the younger ones I help them do the edges so that no sharp bits are overhanging.
I really do it all by feel since some kids could sit there all day long while others only have 10 mins to give. It is important to be as prepared as possible though because the chance of you having to take over is definitely there…
With the sunflower that Molly made, I explained to her that we needed pointy yellow tiles for the petals. She got it no problem! I did have to help a little because her attention span started to wane after an hour :) and so finished off the background for her.
I suppose I could do this all on mesh. I’d say that doing mesh mosaics with kids is really the way to go, but there’s something to be said for kids and instant gratification. Mosaic is a fairly laborious medium and any way that I can keep my kids interested in it, I will use! The nice thing about mesh is that when the kids get bored of it, they can put it down and come back to it later. Also the installation is fairly quick and you don’t need to be concerned with the adhesive starting to get old.
So, to summarise:
- Choose a substrate first and have it prepped and ready to go.
- Talk about a suitable design (I always let the kids draw their own work. This to me is so important, not only for their own self esteem but also because you will never be able to replicate the way a child draws. It’s too precious!)
- Decide on what materials to use
- Choose a colour scheme. This is another one I don’t interfere with too much (I let them choose from what I have on hand). Kids have the best sense of colour. They’ll put things together that I would never do and it looks great! They have a very fresh colour palette. Or maybe it’s just my kids :)
- If you let them break the tile, make them wear safety glasses and gloves (kids’ gardening gloves work well) and supervise, supervise, supervise! I actually cover the tile up in a rag to minimise flying bits… and explain to them before giving them the tile hammer that waving it around like a madman is bad!!! LOL… Also the tile will break much easier if it is not lying on a flat surface, so laying the tile on two pieces of wood for example can achieve good breaks. You want to break the tile on the non-glazed side BTW :)
- You need to decide if you are going to let the kids butter the back of each tile or spread the adhesive down section by section (which is way faster!), or even use the baggie method. NB: I think if I was doing an interior piece I’d go the weldbond and let them paint it on the back of each tile
- Be prepared and organised!
- Let them do it, even when you think they are doing it “wrong”. It’ll always work out in the end and they are so proud of themselves when all is done and finished. AND they will come back for more. That’s the beauty of mosaicing with children!
You can view pictures of some kids’ mosaics on my flickr site.