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Alfresco Art

Alfresco Art
May 2016
Meet the artist behind Romney Urban Garden’s mosaic mural and get her tips for bringing the art form to your own green spaces

Mosaics can add artful color and texture to most any outdoor space. Take the inspiring example at downtown’s Romney Urban Garden, where a 50-foot-long mural sprawls across a cinder-block wall, broken pieces of tile and glass depicting a tree of life buzzing with bees, butterflies, and birds.

Local mosaic artist Meryl Weber created it last June with help from 40-some volunteers. “Some sections may not be as perfect as others, but that’s what I love about mosaics—they don’t have to be perfect to look beautiful,” says Weber, a retired arts educator who today creates in-school murals with area students, teaches adult classes at Clay Cottage in Mount Pleasant, and completes mosaics for private clients.

Want to create a piece of your own? Start with a stepping stone, suggests Weber. Below, she shares step-by-step instructions, as well as her favorite sources for materials (hint: they include Habitat for Humanity ReStores). Be sure to work outdoors in a well-ventilated area. Put on safety glasses and a dust mask when breaking china and mixing grout, and wear rubber gloves when using grout as well as glue.

1.     Purchase a cement paver at a home improvement store. You will also need sanded gray grout, a tube of exterior-use Liquid Nails, caulking gun, bucket for mixing grout, rubber gloves, cloth rags, chalk, newspaper, a putty knife, and a dust mask.

2.     Collect colored tile (Habitat for Humanity ReStores are a good source), old plates (try Goodwill), and/or flat glass marbles (available at dollar stores).

3.     Wearing rubber gloves, place a plate or tile inside a pillowcase and use a hammer to break it into pieces (if you’re using plates, you’ll need to discard the curved pieces).

4.     Use chalk to draw a simple design on the paver, or simply place the pieces in a random design.

5.     Wearing rubber gloves, apply a small amount of Liquid Nails to individual pieces and place according to your design. When you press the pieces in, the glue should not ooze up around the edges.

6.     Tile pieces should not touch and should be less than 1/2 inch apart. Make sure no sharp, jagged edges are sticking up or over the paver’s edges.

7.     Let your design dry overnight.

8.     With rubber gloves on, mix gray sanded grout in a bucket according to package directions. It should be the thickness of peanut butter.

9.     Place paver on a table covered in a plastic drop cloth.

10.   Spread grout over tile with putty knife so that it fills in the spaces between tiles, but does not cover them.  

11.   Let the grout dry for 10 minutes.

12.   Use wadded-up newspaper to clean off the tiles (do not wash grout down the drain). Give them a final polish with a cloth rag.