Mosaic art using different glass materials

A Short Introduction to Mosaic Art and Materials

What is mosaic art ?

A mosaic is a collection of materials assembled to create an image. Mosaic art is an ancient art form that is slowly growing back in popularity. With the multitude of mosaic materials newly manufactured, artists and craftsmen have developed a fusion of artistic expression within the medium. Materials in a mosaic can range from regular clear glass, to tempered glass, beach glass, stained glass, smalti, crockery, stone, marble, porcelain, and slate. There really is no limit as to how many materials can be found in a mosaic. Oftentimes, some mosaic artists also use found materials, like pieces of jewelry, sporadic rocks, porcelain figurines, metal parts and even recycled plastics.  

A closer look at materials

Woman hands holding mosaic art materials in her hands

In my personal work, the materials I use will depend on the design I’ve chosen. The selection process can get tricky the larger the variety of materials available, but usually, I’m inspired first by color. Personally, I love glass because it has a durable, high gloss quality that stands out. 

Glass comes in many forms. Below is a list of glass tiles often used by mosaic artists

Vitreous - low porous glass tiles that come in a large range of colors. These are small square tiles, commonly found in tile stores. 

Crash Glass - one of my favorite types of glass to play with. I often use it in my Mantra Mosaic workshops. Crash glass is tempered glass. Different from regular glass, tempered glass is heated at extreme temperatures and then cooled rapidly, causing the outside layers to cool faster than the inner layers. As the inner layers eventually cool, it creates tension, thus causing the glass to solidify more securely. This is done for safety reasons, and in the case that the glass breaks, the pieces remain intact without sharp edges. You’ll often find this type of glass used in bus shelters, cars, and office buildings. When I use crash glass in my art work, I purposely crack it to cause the beautiful webbing that appears through the entire glass. The result with an underlayer of colors is spectacular.  

Beach glass - is like finding treasures at the beach. These are broken pieces of glass often from beer or wine bottles and have been transformed from endless cycles of tumbling in sand and water. What once used to be sharp, transparent glass, is now turned into smooth edged, frosty glass. 

Stained glass - an ancient type of art used to depict religious narratives. Stained glass was originally used in church windows so that the light coming through would show the paintings done directly on the glass. The term “stained glass” derives from the silver stain that was often applied to the exterior side of the windows. Once the glass was fired, that silver stain would turn into different hues of yellow.. Nowadays, stained glass comes in as many colors as can be found in a case of colored pencils. 

Smalti - this type of glass is very specific to mosaic art. Ancient, like stained glass, it was essentially created to decorate places of worship, depicting stories throughout the Byzantine era. This type of glass is thick and opaque. Manufacturers are commonly found in Italy and Mexico. Smalti is made by pouring molten glass into flat slabs which are then broken up into irregular parts that can contain imperfections. The completed forms are referred to as medallions or pizzas, and are limitless in color creations.

Millefiori - is often associated with Venetian glassware and is an Italian term that translates to a million flowers. In mosaic art, they are small pieces with distinctive decorative patterns. 

Glass shapes - along with traditional Italian glass making, and much like beads found in the jewelry industry, glass shapes for mosaic art come in endless varieties. There are glass petals, geometric glass shapes, glass droplets, mini marbles, glass discs, and so on. These are often manufactured in Asia and come in all sorts of rich colors, mostly opaque with a high-gloss finish.
Back to blog