I’m sorry that I’ve been neglectful on this, but, I had meant to post here that most of my blog content will now be hosted on my own URL/website, which is:
Please find me there, where you can get an RSS feed or follow me another way via my WordPress blog. That site is a complete site, with different pages “About Me”, a Photo Gallery, Classes, How To’s, etc.
Hey, Denver area folks: Sign up Now: The first “Tile Mosaics for Beginners” class starts this Friday…if you’re off during the day (or just “off” in general!), come, hang out, learn a new craft, and have a great time! You can register here:
Fridays: 2/5/10 & 2/12/10; 9 am to 12 pm
$69 / CFU members (nominal annual membership fee); $81 / non-members. $21 required Materials Fee ($26 if no safety glasses) Includes everything you’ll need to make your beautiful take-home art piece!
$7 optional materials fee if you’d like upgraded tiles and materials
In this fun and fully interactive course, learn to make your own mosaic art piece. Choose from several project bases (stepping stones, address number plaques, frames), which are included along with tiles, adhesives, grout, and sealer. Use the wide array of colored ceramic tiles provided or upgrade by purchasing more elaborate tiles and other fun items that can be used in mosaics. First class, students learn the basics of breaking, cutting, arranging, and adhering tiles and have their design completed. Second class, students learn how to grout their piece and complete the grouting to “bring their piece to life”. Leave the second class with sealer to take home and apply later.
Would love to see you come out! Class is located at Colorado Free University’s Lowry campus; off Quebec and 2nd between 6th Ave. and Alameda. For more information, you can call their office at: 303-399-0093 or visit their site at:
Found out some good info. this week I wanted to pass on…
1) This year, Hobby Lobby will only run their 40% off coupons in local papers or via their email lists every OTHER week. So; if you don’t want to pay full price for something not on sale, get it on the week with the coupon. This week (Jan. 25-30) is a NO coupon week, so next week there should be a coupon again.
2) I’ve found that many people don’t know that you can sign up for emails from Hobby Lobby and they email you the ad and the coupon every week (coupon every other week currently). Then, you can print out as many of the coupons as you want and use once each day of the week if you want (or, if you’re in major metro area like me, with several Hobby Lobby’s, you can use one coupon per visit per store).
3) I found out this week that there is a 40% off one regular price item for Hobby Lobby that prints out on the backs of TCF bank receipts. If you can use any ATM with your bank or are a TCF customer, you can get the coupon!
4) You can also sign up to receive emails from Michaels and supposedly they send you coupons even on the week that they don’t have a coupon in their Sunday paper ad. However; I’ve had real problems getting regular emails from them and I have no idea why. They show that I’m signed up and everything, yet, no coupons. When I have time or care to deal with it, I guess I will. In the meantime, if anyone knows the “trick” to getting them, please let me know!
5) ALSO found out this week (thanks, Kayla!) that Michaels is now accepting Hobby Lobby coupons. So; see #2 above, and go crazy at Michaels too! Sweet!
6) Sometimes I forget how much cool craft, art, and jewelry stuff that Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts has, but I do receive their weekly emails, which inclue awesome coupons; always at least 40-50% off! They pretty much always have a coupon going if you’re getting the emails, and, again, print as many as you want, and just use ‘em on different visits!
7) One more thing re; Michaels coupons; I’ve discovered that they will accept both the coupon from the weekly ad AND one of the coupons that they give you from the register receipt in one transaction, so that’s cool!
Any other deals or suggestions you might have for arts, crafts, and jewelry deals, please post ‘em here or email me!
Just went to an event last night for the ‘Denver Handmade Alliance’ (http://denverhandmade.org/blog/), a group of local crafters working together to support and promote their art businesses. The group started out as an etsy local team (and still is!), but also includes those crafters not on etsy. Crystal and Brett from Vital started the group after wanting to make some local connections with other etsians (Vital can be found on etsy at http://vital.etsy.com and http://vitalhome.etsy.com ). Vital is now so successful that Crystal and Brett work their business full time via etsy and craft fairs and also have a local gift shop, Tomte.craft (http://www.tomtecraft.com/). You can visit their Denver store on the West side of Commons Park, right by the downtown side of the (white) Highlands walking bridge that goes over I-25; 1644 Platte Street; 303.717.0371.
Denver Handmade Alliance has a terrific blog, a great group of involved crafters, and many opportunities for getting involved to support a local organization that can support each other! I’m looking forward to joining with other crafters to find affordable and worthwhile craft fair opportunites, promote each other’s art and teaching ventures, and spread the word about all the great handmade “stuff” people can find in Denver! You can also find DHA, Vital Industries, and Tomte fan pages on Facebook and TomteCraft and VitalIndustries on Twitter!
Okay; so; we left off in Chapter One with having all your supplies, tools, and mosaic items you want to grout ready and waiting. Now, I’ll show you step by step, in pictures, my grouting process for a mosaic frame. As you can see, in this first picture, we have a frame that I have glued mosaic pieces on (yes; there will be future posts about mosaic materials and different glues/adhesives), including glass gems and stained glass pieces. I have waited at least 24 hours for the adhesive to cure correctly and am ready to apply my grout.
OH! One last thing; I keep making this mistake over and over again, so I don’t want you to do the same…if you are grouting something that has areas you don’t want to get grout and/or water in, like a frame like this that has those grooves all around the photo opening area for the glass/photo/easel, like I do, you need to TAPE OFF those groove areas. Use painter’s tape and tape off any areas that you don’t want grout getting into. You don’t need to worry about taping off, say, the sides and back, just the little nooks & crannies where you will have to dig the grout out of later so that you can insert your glass and photo. I have found that with painted surfaces on sides or backs or bottoms of pieces, it’s a waste of time to tape them off; the grout usually comes off fine during the grouting process, and, if it scratches the painted surfaces, I can always paint over it. If you’re working with a mirror, the best advice I can give is to apply some clear contact paper over the mirror before you begin grouting, so that it doesn’t get scratched (from the SANDED grout). It’s a good idea, much as it is in painting, to remove all film (contact paper) and tape before your piece has completely dried; like after you do the buffing step. The picture you see below, ‘for your viewing pleasure’, is the bain of my existence; my consistent failure to tape off the grooves in frames and then have to take one of my ‘dental pick’ type tools and scrape & then wipe it all out. I WILL be making myself a big ‘ol sign in the future so I can LEARN to stop doing that!!!
First; a word about GROUT: I always use SANDED grout, because non-sanded grout is only good for very, very small grout lines (the areas between your materials that will be filled with grout). Beware; do NOT use pre-mixed grout, as I explained in “Chapter One” of Grouting. Also, beware; if you see grout at many craft stores (Hobby Lobby, Michaels, etc.), be sure to really check to see if it’s sanded or non-sanded. No matter if they only care non-sanded or not (like many do), do NOT buy the non-sanded. I think the best place to buy your grout is from Home Depot or Lowe’s. They have large selections and low prices. I would recommend the smallest size box for most crafters to start with. Another great option is to go to a Habitat for Humanity Re-Sale store if you have one you can access. They often get donations of discontinued grout colors that are perfectly fine for what we do, but just being changed out b/c manufacturers always think they need some fancy new color title for their product. Another option, if you have a business license, is to get an account set-up at a local tile manufacturer or distributor and buy the grout at wholesale prices, which provides another great discount. I have not looked into buying grout online, mostly because it’s easily accessible and affordable for me in Denver and I would imagine its weight would be cost prohibitive for shipping.
As referred to in the materials and supplies set-up in “Chapter One”, I’ll have my work surface covered with a plastic, disposable dropcloth. Before I grout, I use old newspapers several thick as a grouting surface on top of my plastic. This is so that, when you get done with the messiness of the initial grouting and water, you can dispose of the news papers and use a new stack of newspapers to have a cleaner surface for your mosaic, so that you aren’t having your pretty new piece sitting in a bed of muck. The first thing I’m going to do, before even touching my grout package, is to put on my disposable, thin, tight-fitting latex or non-latex gloves. Then, I’m going to put on my fabric and rubber “nitrile” type gloves so that, when I’m working the grout into my mosaic, I don’t get grout or water onto my hands or cut myself. (Believe me, grout is extremely drying to the hands; you don’t want to learn the hard way!) Next, I put on my face air mask before I pour and mix the grout (this is the time when you will have the most exposure to the toxicity of grout dust; again; don’t learn the hard way!) After I’m all “geared up”, I mix up my grout; I usually do so in a small, throw-away or reusable (and recycled) plastic container, like a Cool Whip container or old bowl. You can mix your grout according to package directions; it will tell you how much to use w/ how much water for whatever size space you need to cover. The recommended consistency and thickness of mixed, sanded grout varies from one book or artist to another; I have found that I agree with the “mix it almost as thick as frosting” direction. I also support letting it “slake” like they talk about on the grout pkg.; this is when you wait 10-15 minutes after mixing the grout to begin using the mixture, so it has time to chemically react and kind of “set up”. Some people say this isn’t necessary and they don’t do it, but I’ve found it to provide a better finished product.
I usually take small blobs of grout and apply them to my piece with one of the wooden paint stirrers, depending on the project. I smoosh it into the piece and then when I’ve covered the whole thing, I put the stick aside and start working the grout into the piece with my gloved hands. I smoosh in as much grout as I can into every nook and crannie, making sure to work from all angles; side to side, up and down, and in circles. At this point, you are trying to really work the grout into every blank space so that there are no areas without grout or air bubbles in your finished product.
The next thing you’re going to do is take your grout sponge and get it soaked in water, ringing it out almost all the way, but leaving a fair amount of water in it. I have found that I follow a system of using the water to really work the grout into the piece more, rather than being afraid of having too much water added to the grout at this point. Some books or artists will tell you to not use anything wet or use a barely wet sponge, but I learned from those that use water in this step, and I think it works out best. I’m not talking about having so much water come from your sponge that there are pools of it on the piece, but, enough to not be wiping grout off yet; just working it in still. When my sponge gets really thick with grout, I rinse it out in my grout bucket. As I do several “working in” sessions with
the sponge and grout, I will have less and less grout on the piece and will ring my sponge out more and more. The object here is to not wipe too much grout off of your piece. You want to make it so that your grout is even with the top of your materials (your tiles or whatever). If you have materials that are of uneven heights, like I often do with my glass gems, tiles, beads, etc., I usually just follow a rule of making the grout height be the same as the lowest level material, like, if the tiles are a lower height than the glass gems, I wipe the glass gems off enough to be level with the top of the tiles, where the grout meets up. The easiest instance of grouting is when you have completely uniform material heights, like when you use tiles that are all exactly the same height; your grouting job is much, much easier! (I will talk about varying heights in making mosaics in future posts.) If you don’t understand what I’m saying here, please post a question or send me an email and I can clarify more.
If you have edges on your piece that don’t have mosaic on them (which you most often will), you will also want to take your sponge and run it along the edges to clear any excess grout. You’ll also want to go over the back of the piece or bottom, or any other non-mosaic’d sides to wipe off any and all grout. After I’ve done this, I will now take my grout-covered, wet, blobby piece of newspapers and throw it away. I replace it with a clean stack of newspaper or paper towel to set my nice mosaic piece on, so excess grout and water can’t do any damage to all my hard work. Know that whatever grout you leave on after this process is almost always NOT going to come off. Grout is basically cement; it is a real pain to get off any excess after your beautiful piece is finished and dried.
At this point, your piece will be almost free of excess grout, but it will have a little bit of what they call “grout haze” left on it. It will show as the piece becomes drier, but we will wipe that off in an upcoming step; don’t worry about it now. Do NOT keep wiping off your piece w/ the sponge a million times; just a few clean swipes is all it takes to have your grout at the desired height and any excess gone from the piece.
Now you’ll want to let your piece sit for at least 2-3 hours (some say up to 24; it totally varies; I wait maybe 2-3) before taking one of your clean cloth rags and buffing the excess grout haze off of it. If you start buffing/removing the grout haze and you see tht your rag is gouging into the rest of the grout, then your piece is too wet to grout. Wait another 3-22 hours to try to buff off the haze again. When your piece is ready, just wipe excess haze off the pieces and look for any bits of remaining grout that aren’t where you want them to be, like on the edges or on some of your materials, like, say, glass gems. If there is excess grout, I use my ‘dental pick’ type tools to scrape it off while it hasn’t hardened beyond the point of no return. I especially like the kind of pick that has an exacto-type blade at one end and a curved/c-shaped blade on the other end; the curved blade works really well for getting excess grout off all kinds of spots. Remember; the cloth rag that use can NOT be put in a washing machine; you will just have to re-use it until it gets mucked up beyond use, because you do not want items with grout in your plumbing system.
Finally, let your piece sit for at least 24 hours after buffing to dry thoroughly before doing anything else to it. You can wait as long as you want, but, after you’ve waited the minimum 24 hours, you can seal your piece. Before sealing, I will often use glass cleaner to add an extra shine to my piece. ALWAYS spray the cleaner on a paper towel and not directly on the piece. Use the wet paper towel to clean up and shine any of the materials, but not the grout. When that has dried, to seal, use any grout sealer found in a home improvement, tile, or flooring store, or a crafts store. However, I think you get a much better deal if you purchase it at a home improvement store. I defer to those that completely waterproof the piece, even if it’s not for outdoor use or a water-based feature, just to have the most protection. Pour your sealer into a recycled jar and then use a sponge or regular paint brush (of low quality; you’ll need to throw away at some point) to work the sealer into all the grouted areas (you are sealing the grout, not the other materials). As soon as you get it all worked in, use a lint-free (and, again, reusable and/or disposable) cloth to wipe off all excess sealer. The biggest thing to watch for at this point is to not leave any sealer on your materials (tiles, glass, etc.). You may not realize it at first, but the sealer can easily leave a super-thin layer of film on your materials that will make them look dull. If this happens and it dries, your only recourse is to carefully use steel wool to scrape off the film; NOT a fun proposition! So; just get that sealer wiped off really good, right away, working in good light so that you can see that you got it all. If you need to add a wire hanger, hooks, a frame, or additional charms or embellishments, do so after the sealer has dried, usually a minimum of about 4-6 hours. And, after all that, you will have what I think is a beautiful mosaic piece..
In my next installment, I will talk about what to do with your mucked-up grouting area and your grout buckets and water; there are definitely ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ways of dealing with these lovely items. In the meantime, please let me know of any questions, clarifications, or suggestions you might have by posting to the blog or sending me an email!
I’m happy to announce I finally got some mosaic jewelry made! I figured, why not WEAR my love of mosaics? They’ll be great for having some cool mosaic art but not having to take up a bunch of space! I’ve started with mosaic pendants that have Italian millefiori beads, ceramic tile, and some silver beads. The ones with the silver beads are the same beads I’ve used in larger mosaic art pieces, that we’ve all loved; inspirational words such as, “Hope”, “Believe”, and “Wish”. They’re on my etsy shop, too, of course; hope you enjoy them!
I am SO excited! I’ve finally got some mosaic jewelry made, after wanting to do so for some time. They’re designed and glued, now need grouting and sealing before photos, but, I promise to post them as soon as I get them done.
And, no; I HAVEN’T forgotten about Chapter Two of “Grouting Mosaics Step-by-Step”; it’s turned out to be a VERY busy week for me, so this next “chapter” will be done and posted very soon. Thanks for your patience!