Fun Summer Project: Create a Roman Mosaic
June 19, 2013
Dr. Ross and Van Galyon co-taught a course this summer called Culture & Art of Italy & Croatia. While this was designed with the Cultural Studies Abroad program in mind, several of the students enrolled in the class were not signed up for this year’s trip and were just interested in learning more about these cultures. Students learned about the cities that they would soon (or one day) be visiting, with projects including cooking a meal typical of the culture, learning some new vocabulary, and keeping a travel journal.
For the arts component of this course, the students each created a unique mosaic in the Roman style. Students studied Roman designs and their methods for generating their designs before they began work creating their own. Each student was involved in every aspect of the process, including using power tools at certain steps, doing things like cutting boards, painting, and cutting and breaking glass by hand. Professor Van Galyon declared it “very cool to see students doing things they had never done before.” Not everyone has the expertise to accomplish every step that this class undertook but, with a few supplies, this is a fun project that anyone could replicate at home. So if you’re looking for something artistic to do this summer, try this!
The first step is to design a pattern. Students in this course used a black and white design, though any colors could be used. The patterns were individually created by each student. They drew the pattern first, hanging the completed design on the wall of the art room. Students were able to cut glass tiles for use in this project, but tiles can easily be purchased at a hardware store, such as Lowe’s or Home Depot. Tiles were glued down on a previously painted and sealed frame according to the created pattern; some students found it useful to once again mark the pattern inside the frame to easily determine which color tile belonged in each square.
After the tiles had been allowed to set overnight, the grouting process began. Grouting powder, which can also be purchased at a hardware store, should be mixed with water to create a consistency similar to mud. Typically, the color will be grey or brown, though other colors are often available. The students in this course used a grey shade to complement their black and white tiles. Once the grout has been made, the following steps should be followed:
1) Tape off your frame.
2) Fill a container with clean water.
3) Put on gloves.
4) Plop prepared grout onto your tile surface.
5) Smooth grout over the surface of your tile work all the way to the frame with the tool.
6) Gently remove excess grout with the tool.
7) With a dry sponge, wipe the surface again to gently remove more of the excess grout (It’s okay that it’s not perfect at this point).
8) Allow to rest for 15 minutes.
9) Wring a sponge out with clean water.
10) Draw the damp sponge across your tile work. Flip the sponge to the clean side and repeat. Wring the sponge out again in clean water and repeat. Do this until the tiles look the way you want them to look.
11) Allow to rest 30 minutes. You should see a film over your tiles.
12) With a soft, clean cloth, polish your tiles.
13) Remove the tape. You may need to clean off your frame.
14) All done.
The mosaic could be displayed on the walls, or a sealant could be applied to turn it into a tray. Whatever is done with the finished product, it is sure to be unique and beautiful and it was undoubtedly a lot of fun to make!