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What is a Bead Mosaic?

According to Britannica, mosaic, in art, is decoration of a surface with designs made up of closely set, usually variously coloured, small pieces of material such as stone, mineral, glass, tile, or shell. Bead mosaic is a type of mosaic that is created using predominantly glass beads that are glued down and held together with glue and made without grout. This type of mosaic can be created using almost any type of glass bead such as seed beads, bugle beads, lamp beads, and any type of bead normally used to create jewelry. It is a type of jewelery for your walls or shelf rather than your body. Plastic beads are not recommended due to reactions with glue and longevity of the project life and use.

As a mosaic this type of bead art varies from traditional methods such as embroidery or tapestry where beads are sewn onto a fabric or leather surface. This very old and ever appreciated technique can be found on many apparel items such as dresses, purses, jackets, and shoes. Most items embellished this way are treasured possessions used for special occasions as the artist spent sometimes hundreds of hours creating it using various types and shapes of beads aand stones such as the purse shown.

It is also different than jewelry making where various weave patterns are used to hold the beads together in specific shapes. Some Native American designs use a weaving loom to create intricate bead pictures or patterns that are held together with thread. These incredible art pieces can get very large and intricate with many hundreds of colors and layers made with a single bead size.

What traditional beading techniques have in common is that they normally use a set pattern to create the design or shape desired, where bead mosaics are usually created without the use of patterns. Those patterns layout the position and color of each bead to create the image desired. Most times the beads are also laying in the same direction and very organized in shape, size and location with sometimes very complex stringing sequences that hold them together creating an almost pixelated image. With bead mosaics the artist can combine many types, sizes and shapes of beads together with the freedom to lay them in any direction to create their final desired outcome.

Bead Mosaic gluing techniques vary and many new techniques have been developed over the years by innovative artists. Some of the oldest of these gluing techniques include using a type of wax as a base to set individual beads into. This method has been used by The Huichol Indians in Mexico for many hundreds of years. Their style is very recognizable and normally covers an object using colorful, small, opaque, seed beads laid in an organized pattern individually with the hole showing.

Another technique that is popular is to use a product like Epoxy Sculpt to allow the artist to insert the beads into the sculpt for adhesion. This technique works well when you are covering 3D objects with various size and style beads. It also gives the artist the ability to insert larger beads or object into the mosaic and creates a type of grouted look.

Some people like to place small quantities of glue on the surface first and then place the beads individually into the glue. Another technique that is becoming popular that was developed by Sabrina Frey is to place the beads down first and then pour a very watery mixture of glue over the top and allowed it to dry overnight.

All of these techniques work well depending on the final outcome that the artist wishes to achieve. Each has an advantage and disadvantage as well as many other steps involved before the final outcome. Bead mosaics are becoming more and more popular as people look for more creative ways to express their artistic ambitions. These mosaics can also be created on solid board, ceramic tile, 3d sculptures or glass surfaces giving them a type of stained glass look. Many traditional mosaic artists who use stained glass or tile in their mosaics are also incorporating more beads into their work. This creates additional texture and character in a traditional mosaic design but also presents challenges when trying to grout those beads in with the rest of their design. YouTube videos and tutorials can be found on the Internet showing you how to create various types of these mosaics. Although this type of mosaic is not as popular as stained glass or tile mosaics there are several artists dedicated to developing this type of art and I will be creating a future blog with a list of who this innovators are.

Written by Sabrina Frey, Bead Mosaic Artist

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