How to Mosaic Garden Stones
I am having fun with my newest mosaic project, garden stones. These are decorative flat stones with a colorful mosaic design. Here's how to mosaic a beautiful, permanent, weather-proof garden stone to tuck in your flower bed.
First, I look for a small flat stone. These I have pictured are between 6 and 10 inches across. I found some of them scattered nearby (we live in an area of limestone rock). A garden center gave several of them to me. Then a couple of them are natural stone tile or granite tile. I nipped the straight edges to make them look more natural.
It's also possible to mosaic on round stones, but for this article, I will concentrate on the small flat stones I have pictured.
Next, I select the subject and the material for the mosaic. Stained glass is perfect for this project and I have shown several of these.
My favorite material happens to be porcelain china, nipped to show the designs to the best advantage. To create dragonflies and butterflies, using the designs from the rims of china plates and saucers is much more challenging than using stained glass.
I like to use the mosaic on mesh method for these projects. The mesh is not necessary, but it makes the project easier and more flexible. Using the mesh makes it possible to glue the design down and grout it all at once. At the end of this article, there is a link to another that explains how to mosaic on mesh.
Select the design. You can find patterns using Google Images and print them out; I like to save them to Word and then adjust the image size. You can draw your own design, or you might find pictures in books and magazines. According to the instructions in the link below about how to mosaic on mesh, on a flat surface, tape down layers of, first: your paper design, second: a square from a clear baggie, and third: a piece of mesh.
Proceed to create your mosaic. I like to smooth all the edges of my mosaics to make them more friendly. I use a kitchen sharpening tool to do this; the pieces can also be tumbled or they can be smoothed with a glass grinder.
I use jewelry -- usually glass beads -- to make dragonfly and butterfly bodies and antenna. Use either thread or flexible wire to hold the beads together before you glue them down.
I glue the pieces (tesserae) to the mesh using dabs of MAC glue, making sure that each piece has dabs of glue on it, yet leaving portions unglued so that when you adhere the mosaic to the stone, there are areas allowing the two materials to be glued together.
When the glue has dried, rip your mesh design up and away from the baggie. With sharp scissors, closely trim away the mesh from the edges of your mosaic.
You can end up with one piece consisting of the entire design, or you can cut it into sections. Cutting it into sections sometimes allows a more graceful positioning of the wings of a butterfly, for example.
Now, mix up a small amount of mortar. I collect jar lids such as the plastic lids from Jif peanut butter and use these to mix the mortar and then throw them away afterward.
There are two different methods for applying the mosaic to the stone and I will describe both.
One way is to butter the back of your mosaic with mortar. Make sure each piece has a dab. Apply your mosaic to the stone, pressing down each piece individually. Then tape off around the outside of the mosaic. Next, liberally spread mortar over the mosaic (just as you would grout). Wipe off (gently, without disturbing the position of the mosaic). Lift the tape away and do the final cleanup.
A second way is to lay the mosaic onto the stone and tape around it. Lift the mosaic up and set aside. Spread the mortar into the area which is outlined with the tape. Then press the mosaic into the mortar. Apply more mortar over the mosaic, wipe off, lift the tape away, and do the final cleanup.
Caution about using mortar as grout—it dries much faster and needs to be cleaned off the tesserae right away. You cannot wait until later to polish off the haze as you would if you used ordinary grout. You must do a thorough cleanup immediately, because once the mortar sets up, it is permanent.
Another caution about using mortar as grout—after you grout, cover the leftover mortar and save it for awhile, especially if you have colored it, since it's difficult to match the color if you need to mix more. I'm not sure why, but mortar is more prone than grout to develop little holes as it settles and dries. You are going to want to patch these. So grout, clean up, set your piece aside, and go back and check it in about 10 or 15 minutes to see if it has these unsightly little air holes and pockets that need to be dealt with.
I wait 24 hours and then I spray the entire stone with a grout sealer that is for both indoor and outdoor use. This may not be necessary, since we're not using grout here, but it makes me feel more comfortable since these are for outdoor use. The edges of china are porous and I feel that the sealer may extend the life of these mosaics. Currently, I am using DuPont grout sealer for indoor and outdoor use.
You can pour some sealer into a small container and apply it with a brush, but I like to spray it on. I pour some of the sealer into a small spray bottle. I take the garden stone outside and liberally spray the entire surface of the stone. I then wipe off the mosaic and polish it clean. I pour the remaining sealer back into the bottle and rinse the spray bottle well. This method is more thorough and more economical.
I envision these stones scattered randomly in flower beds, adding charm and whimsey to your landscape. So far, I have made butterflies and dragonflies and now intend to experiment with spirals and other designs and perhaps an iridescent beetle or a fat bumblebee.
Here is another mosaic-related article.