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Step-by-Step Glass-on-Glass Mosaic Portrait

I have made around 20 glass-on-glass mosaics. My experience with this mosaic style has let me down in the past, so I am trying again. Here is an explanation of my struggles, reasoning, and why I am trying again, step by step, through my most recent glass-on-glass piece.

My background with GOG:

In 2013, I was commissioned to create two glass pieces and send them to Arizona. I spent a lot of time on both and was pretty proud of my work.

Here are the only images I have of them:

JFairWStudios Yellow Flower Glass Mosaic

Title: Yellow Flowers 130613

JFairWStudios Lest We Forget Glass Mosaic

Title: Lest We Forget 112013

Unfortunately, even after professional packaging, they both shattered while in transportation.

Being new to selling my work internationally, I had no idea how all the systems worked. I made the mistake of assuming because I had the glass mosaics professionally packaged, they would be safe, and being a struggling artist, I didn't think insurance was necessary.

When I received an email picture of my work being opened, it was not only my work that was shattered. My heart did, too.

Of course, I wanted to make this right, so I got back to work. After discussing it, she wanted one larger mosaic instead of daylilies.

JFairWStudios Dort's Daylilies Glass Mosaic

Dory's Daylilies 01022014

(Not only have I gotten better at mosaics but documenting my work as well ;)


My Newest GOG Mosaic:

That leads us to where we are now. After ten years of working on an extremely firm opaque substrate, I feel ready to face this and try again with all I have learned over the last ten years.

Starting out on a smaller scale is less intimidating, so I pulled out an old, empty picture frame. Since I have recently been practicing portraits, I found an old black-and-white photo of my mother and decided on the glass palette I would use.

And I got started. When making any portrait, I usually start with the eyes. If you don't get the eyes right from the beginning, most likely, the whole perspective of the face will be off.

Also, I highly recommend keeping your workspace clean, safe and organized. This really helps when trying to figure out what colour to use where, and it is much easier to find the perfect piece of glass.

Here I am, gluing down as I go. It always feels like a test of my intuition and decision-making skills because of the sense of permanence. When I instruct, I always encourage listening to your intuition. If one piece of glass doesn't feel right, it's probably not, so listen to yourself and fix it then and there. Prying off glass when the adhesive is a nightmare, especially on glass, is extremely difficult and usually affects the glass around it, creating a domino effect of problems to fix. Listen to your intuition. It knows.

To help myself, I taped the edges of the glass pane I used as a substrate. I am not going to mosaic this area to keep the mosaic safe and to make sure it still fits into the frame properly.

I also use an adhesive that starts off white but dries clear (Dap Kwik Seal). Note how the adhesive is slowly drying out in the forehead area. The bigger the piece of glass, the longer the glue takes to dry. Because the glass is transparent, I cover the entire surface to adhere to the glass substrate. This also stops grout bleed (unwanted grout bleeding underneath the transparent glass).

I decided to go with the darkest grout I had on hand (Mapei UltraColour Plus 5047). I like to use a paintbrush when applying grout. I find I have the best control over not only where the grout goes but also helps control the wetness/dryness of the grout and the timing of how it dries. Once the grout starts to set up, I like to use the paintbrush (thirsty brush technique)as a sponge and soak up the excess. If the grout is drying too fast, I like to use the toothbrush to gently remove excess crumbly grout before it solidifies too fast.

Here is what it looks like:

Finished in a frame with an opaque background.

JFairWStudios Glass-on-Glass Mosaic My Mom

And from my studio window:

JFairWStudios Glass-on-Glass Mosaic My Mom

Overall, I am pretty happy with this Glass-on Glass Mosaic. I like the composition and glass colour choices. It's a good ode to my Mom, and I like having her sit in my window smiling at passers-by.

However, there are some things I want to improve or change for next time.

-A darker grout colour (I still might paint the grout black with acrylic paint.)

-my adhesive left minor air bubbles, but perhaps there is a better product out there for this use.

I don't understand the backside of glass-on-glass mosaics. Are they supposed to look good? It bothers me that they don't and look fantastic from both sides. This could hinder me from making more.

-Perhaps, instead of transparent glass as a substrate, I should use thick translucent plexi glass.

If you have any experiences, techniques, or tips with Glass-On-Glass, please feel free to leave your suggestions below.

As always, incredibly grateful to continue learning, creating, teaching, and inspiring.

Jessica Fairweather

Artist and Instructor

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