Thursday, April 14, 2016

Creating a Custom Chair: Part III, The Mosaic

Chair back mosaic, Photo: P. MacLeod

I finally got to the mosaic for the chair! I chose daffodils for the spring flower detail and did the same design on the front and back of the V shape of the chair.

The tools I used to create the mosaic are:

From left: Grout Elf, Dust Mask, Safety Glasses, Dremel, Running Pliers, Pottery Pick, Tweezers, Mosaic Cutters, Dust Brush, Photo: P. MacLeod

I drew the design with chalk so I had a basic guide for where the blooms and foliage would go. Then I started cutting the shapes for the blooms. I chose tile adhesive to attach the glass pieces because it has a stickyness that will hold pieces on a vertical surface. And, because this is an INDOOR chair, I didn't need to worry about exposure to extreme temperatures or water. After the blooms and foliage were done, I filled in the background.

After the adhesive was dry (tile adhesive needs 24 hours to dry completely), I began prep for grouting. Because some of the surface wasn't completely flat, there were some spots where the glass edges were uneven. To make sure that the surface is completely smooth, I used a Dremel with a cone-shaped grinding attachment and gently smoothed the sharp edges. To do this, I wore eye protection AND a dust mask. That is really important, because grinding on glass without water releases glass dust into the air. Breathing in glass dust causes silicosis, which could be fatal. Once I'm was happy with the surface, I began the grouting process.

I used sanded grout, which is important because of the variety of spacing between the pieces. Sanded grout will fill areas up to 1/2" inch. I went with a neutral white color that won't overwhelm the colors of the design. Grouting is messy, so I made sure that I set up in my studio where I can be messy.

Mixing grout can be tricky. Texture is the key. I use old plastic containers from hummus, sour cream or yogurt as mixing tubs and craft sticks for mixing. When I'm done, I just toss the whole thing in the trash. (Never put grout in the sink--it will clog the pipes.) I wear a dust mask as I scoop dry grout into the mixing container and add water. I add the water slowly, so that I can control the wetness of the grout. The mixture should be smooth and about the texture of peanut butter. A test for accurate texture is to scoop up a bit of grout on the craft stick and turn it upside down. The grout shouldn't be runny and drip off, but have some "hang time" on the stick. (Runny grout will crack as it dries.)

For the application, I scoop grout onto the glass and push it into the spaces with my Grout Elf. Some people prefer using their hands or other tools, which is fine. I created the Grout Elf to be like a miniature grout float for small spaces and I really love the way it cuts down on clean up time. Grouting is an important finish for a mosaic and when it is done well, it makes all of the difference. Below is a short video of me grouting:

After cleaning up all of the surfaces, the mosaic is done!

Mosaic front and back, Photo: P. MacLeod

Next steps: Upholstery!

May all of your scores run true!


  1. That chair is nothing short of stunning. And the work involved! It's a showpiece.

  2. That chair is nothing short of stunning. And the work involved! It's a showpiece.