The Mosaic Story

As some of you will recall, Mike and I began a mosaic project over the 2008 holiday.

beginningIt was our gift to each other, the materials and the time spent crafting together.

no-groutTile gluing was fun and went well. Though we wished the green tree tiles were a different color–one that would stand out from the purple mountains better–we were content with the result thus far.

We didn’t have grout, so we put the project on hold…

grouting…until this summer when Bob and Thea visited.

Mike couldn’t make up his mind about what color grout to use, so I voted for white and he went with it. The only other mosaic we’d made was a giant flower pot in which we used white grout. It had looked nice. So we went–skeptically on Mike’s part, optimistically on my part–with white.

From the moment we wiped off the tiles, Mike hated it. I tried to remain hopeful, thinking it might look different when mounted outside on the house and viewed in natural light from a distance…maybe with eyes half-shut.

white-upNope. No amount of positive thinking or open-mindedness could compensate for the washed-out look of the mosaic. White grout was a bad choice.

In an effort to figure out and understand why the white grout was such a disaster, Mike turned to his good pal, Math. With 1/8-inch gaps between tiles, the white grout accounts for approximately 25% of the total area of the mosaic. That seems like a lot, doesn’t it? It makes sense that it would have a significant presence. Maybe future mosaics will have 1/16-inch gaps for grout.

But now what? We could either try to fix it somehow or start over. At this point, we were willing to do either one, but it made sense to try to fix it first. Standard methods and rules went out the window; we’d try anything to get a final product we could live with.

sampleSo, with a scrap of wood and leftover tiles, we made a test mosaic. We tried coloring the dry white grout with stain (didn’t soak in), colored pencils (just colored the “high points” of the rough grout), and Sharpie markers (bingo!). The Sharpie ink soaked into the grout, bleeding into nooks and crannies. It wiped off the tiles, but we found it fairly easy to color in the lines.

Trouble was, we had only black, red, and green Sharpies. We wanted something lighter than black; we wanted gray. Do they make gray sharpies? I know they make silver. Would that work?

sharpie-singleSo the project went back on hold for several weeks until I went to town and discovered a “limited edition” Sharpie marker collection that included “Earl Gray.”

We tried the other colors in the package, as well, but decided we preferred a single gray color.

So back to the drawing…er…coloring board we went.

The grout chewed up the felt pen tips, so we wound up buying several packs.

color-in-progressBut look at the difference it made.

gray-upIt’s not perfect, by any means. But we can live very happily with it.

Categories: Crafting

7 replies »

  1. As soon as I saw the grout problem, I was thinking *Sharpie!*. I’m so glad that you thought of it, because it made all the difference in the world. It looks wonderful on the house!!

    By the way, I think that Sharpies rank right up there with duct tape as problem solvers. We’ve used Sharpies to color sanded edges of wood (when the pens that are made for just that aren’t the right color), finished ceramic items that have a broken part that can’t be replaced, scratches on leather…you name it. It’s good stuff.

  2. Sharpies were my first thought, too. They are an amazingly useful tool.
    Beautiful job. I’m guessing you won’t just live with it, but will actually like it all the more because there’s a great story attached.