When I made my very first mosaic I had chosen bog standard ceramic tiles, the kind you tend to have left over from kitchen or bathroom projects, or you inherit them from the previous owner of your house, usually found in a pile in the darkest corner of the old shed! But these are perfect and perfect to get you started. So with very little knowledge of the mosaic making process I decided to you see what effects could be created using my trusty old hammer and a tea towel as I set about creating my first mosaic. It was great fun! Thrashing the tiles with the hammer produced a whole array of interesting shapes and sizes and just smashing something with a hammer is very therapeutic :) It wasn't long before I was creating a mosaic that was loose and abstract in design and full of colour. 15 years later I've honed my skills somewhat and found that I prefer a more detailed and tighter style of mosaic making, one that requires a little more time and patience with the snipping and this requires a few more tools to gain more control of the shapes that are needed. So I wanted to share with you just what you'll need to get you started on your mosaic making adventures!
If like me you want to experiment with a hammer, then go for it! Just make sure you cover your tiles to ensure small shards don't ping up to your face. And if you've some safety goggles then even better. It's also a brilliantly fun activity to do with children who will love getting hold of that hammer :)
Below are the two main types of tile nippers used when mosaicing. Wheeled tile nippers and side biters. The wheeled nippers are used for snipping glass tiles predominantly but can also be used on china, crockery and shells and give a really nice clean crisp cut. The side biters are for ceramic tiles and give precision and clean cuts and they're great for nibbling away at tiles to create curves and bends in your tile. They will also snip through glass tiles, but can often produce many splinters and will not always give you the clean snip you desire.
So my advice is...if you're just starting out and want to try out a variety of tesserae to snip then purchase a pair of side biters. They're considerably cheaper than wheeled nippers, even as cheap as £6 a pair and you will have one tool that you can use for all projects which is great for beginners. And then should you get addicted to mosaic making like nearly everyone that tries it does, then you can invest in a pair of wheeled nippers should you want to start creating mosaics using glass tesserae.
In many mosaic designs, stained glass is also incorporated into designs and this requires a few more tools to add to your kit. A scorer and snapper tool are the perfect tools to enable you to add some block shapes into you design, giving you a bit of variety in texture. If you see my car below, the window and road are stained glass blocks which enabled me to have the windows contrast with the rest of the car design and the shapes I cut for the road enabled me to incorporate a sense of movement in my design.
If you fancy giving this a go here are the two tools you will need to get you started. The scorer (two designs shown, but do the same thing) and then the breaker tool which splits your stained glass apart once you've scored it. Experimenting with these tools is great fun and can be done during my mosaic workshops and is often the place where people get a feel for whether they will enjoy working with these tools.
So if you're just starting out and want to give mosaic making a go and you've only got a hammer, go for it! Get a feel for the craft before you jump in and buy some tools. Mosaic making is fun, it never needs to be perfect and you can involve everyone no matter their age or creative ability. So maybe the summer holidays is the best place to start! Get collecting some shells on your beach walks (although not too many!)