Step 1: Use a hammer to smash plates or other dishware into small pieces. Then use tile cutters to fashion the pieces into sizes you can work with. You can also use precut tiles or glass discs (available at craft and hardware stores). Next clean and prepare your surface by lightly wetting your paving stone with a damp rag. Then begin planning how to position your mosaic pieces on your surface. You can either draw a design on tracing paper, or place your tiles directly on the surface, moving them around until you’re pleased with how the composition looks. Try to keep the gaps between the pieces as even and narrow as possible.
Step 2: When you have the pieces positioned the way you want, lay contact paper sticky-side-down over your design. Firmly rub over the paper to ensure that the pieces are sticking to it, then lay a board over the top of this and flip the entire “sandwich” over so the pieces are lying on the contact paper facing down. If you’re doing a basic design—such as a symmetrical one—you can skip this step and simply push your tile pieces directly into the wet mortar.
Using a wooden paint stick, mix mortar with water in a plastic container or bucket until it reaches the consistency of peanut butter. Mix the mortar thoroughly so no bumps remain, then let sit for several minutes. Spread the mortar over your surface using a putty knife or trowel to a thickness of about 1/8-inch. Now place the contact paper with the pieces on it back on your surface, then peel back the paper. Push the mosaic pieces firmly into the mortar. You can “butter” the backs of the pieces with additional mortar if necessary to make sure they’re sticking. Try to keep the surface as even as possible.
Step 3: Let the piece dry for at least 24 hours, then you’ll be ready for grouting. First, choose your grout type and color. (I prefer using sanded grout for outdoor projects.) Follow the mixing directions on your grout container. (You can also simply use the same mortar that you used in the last step.) With a putty knife, spread the grout over the top of your paving stone, filling in all the empty spaces between tiles with the mixture. Let the grout sit for about 30-60 minutes, then once you see a hazy glaze begin to appear, start cleaning the grout off the tile with a metal brush or damp sponge or rag. (This step is time-consuming, but ultimately worth it!) Optionally, you may also seal your mosaic item if it needs to be waterproofed. For this you can use grout penetrating sealer, following the directions on the container.
Butch Krieger is a contributing editor to The Artist?s Magazine.