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Look beyond the surface, when making a purchase.

One of the attractions of creating mosaic art is re-purposing materials to transform bland surfaces or objects. Mosaic tiles, which are primarily manufactured out of glass or ceramic for architectural applications on walls and floors, are the most lightweight, readily available and the most affordable. It is, however, important not to become too entranced by that gorgeous facing side. To create an enduring and successful piece of mosaic art, also pay attention to how the tiles you are curating for your next artwork, are backed…

SUBLIMATION BACKED: Sublimation-backed glass mosaic tiles, cabochons and plastic rhinestones are only suitable for interior applications. They are not UV resistant and will fade quickly if exposed. Identifiable by their white backing, these tiles and found objects feature flat, opaque colours, or digital textures and intricate designs which are first printed onto the opaque white backing and then trimmed and fused to blank, clear glass tiles or cabochons by heat processes.

MIRROR PAINTED: Glass mirror tiles are painted or sprayed with liquid aluminum in a process called 'silvering' which dates back to the 16th century. Quality

colour mirror tiles are made from coloured glass. The painted backing that is the magical bling of mirror glass that artists know and love, should be sealed on the back prior to mosaicing with it. Cement based adhesives in particular can corrode and dissolve the paint on the back.

MESH BACKED: Mosaic tiles adhered to fibre glass mesh. Easy to remove from mesh by soaking or pulling off by hand. Please note, however that PAINTED glass mosaic tiles- ie: any glass mosaic tiles which have that tell-tale white backing- may be damaged when you pull them off mesh as some paint can pull off the tile and stay adhered to the mesh.

HOT MELT TAB BACKED: A relative newcomer to mosaic backings, hot melt tab is the bane of any mosaic artist’s life ! It was devised in response to ‘upgraded’ standards introduced for architectural installatio

ns. (Consequently, there are far less mosaic tiles on mesh available for artists). The hot melt plastic tabs are fused to the glass and near impossible to remove from the tiles. This results in an uneven backing when applying cut and shaped tessera. And, of course, every cut you make with nippers, cuts the glass tile but it doesn’t cut the plastic backing tab, so you have to cut the tab with a pair of scissors… Virtually every tessera therefore has to be cut twice- it is so frustrating ! If, however, you have borders to do - intact rows of tiles cut from hot melt tab sheets are very practical.

GLUE TAB BACKED: This is where mosaic manufacturers join a sheet of tiles together with a flexible ‘dot’ adhesive between the gaps. Only 5% of the tabs covers the back of each tile, thereby freeing up the surface for adhesive or easy hand cutting and shaping. Glue tabs are easy to break off by hand while preparing, or working with individual tiles for mosaic art.

PAPER FACED: Mosaic tiles with opaque brown paper on the facing side, leaving the backs of the tiles full surface area for adhesion. Bigger format glass mosaic tiles are usually paper faced, as are Cinca tiles. All you need do is soak the paper off in water to release the tiles before working with them. Make sure you separate the tiles as they dry- sometimes residual glue sticks the tiles back together again as they dry.

FILM FACED: Mosaic tiles mounted on clear film on the facing side, leaving the backs of the tiles full surface areas for adhesion. All you need to do is pull the tiles off as you need them. It’s a good idea to leave the film on your tiles when storing them, to protect from damage. Any residual glue on the surfaces will come off during the grouting process of your mosaic artwork.

LOOSE TILES: Individual mosaic tiles which have not been backed. When ordering these, be aware that there may be some cracked or chipped tiles in the batch. You’re going to break them anyway, aren’t you? But if you need full tiles for your intended mosaic, perhaps ask your supplier to throw in one or two extras to cover any damaged tiles.

Knowing your products and then identifying the correct materials for a new mosaic adventure is both inspirational and exciting- with far less guilt than conventional shopping !

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