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Category: Process and Materials

M is for Millefiori

M is for millefiori, meaning “a thousand flowers” in Italian.  These little beads never fail to delight with their flowers, cogs, bullseyes and geometrics.  Watch the video below to see the process of molding the glass canes, and the amazing stretching they go through, before being sliced into the pieces that I use in my mosaics.   I just finished these fun brooches, with my latest order of new millefiori.

Mosaic Millefiori Brooches by Margaret Almon.
Mosaic Millefiori Brooches by Margaret Almon.

Here’s a video of the process of pulling the canes of glass to make millefiori.



Murano Millefiori

I is for Iridized Glass

yellow sunflower mandala: a glass mosaic by Margaret Almon
yellow sunflower mandala: a glass mosaic by Margaret Almon


I is for iridized glass, and its shimmering rainbow effect.  A thin metallic layer is bonded to the glass when a metallic salt solution is applied and then heated.  Dichroic glass, which means “two color” is sometimes confused with iridized glass, but it is a coating that allows the glass to toggle back and forth between only 2 colors. The pale yellow glass, second row from the outer edge in this mandala, is iridized, and you can see the subtle purplish sheen of the rainbow coloration.  Tiffany patented a version of iridescent glass called “Favrile” which was applied to his blown glass artworks. Here is an excerpt from Mark Doty’s apt poem, titled Favrile:

at century’s end,
compounded metallic lusters


in reference
to natural sheens (dragonfly
and beetle wings,


marbled light on kerosene)
and invented names
as coolly lustrous


as their products’
scarab-gleam: Quetzal,
Aurene, Favrile.


respectively, the glaze
of feathers,


that sun-shot fog
of which halos
are composed. . .


G is for Gold Smalti

Gold Sunflower Mandala for Dr. Ed and his family by Margaret Almon.
Gold Sunflower Mandala for Dr. Ed and his family by Margaret Almon.

G is for gold smalti, luscious, glowing, gold.  As smalti from Orsoni is described at mosaicsmalti.com,

“. . .it is real 24-carat gold. It has to be the purest gold to withstand a firing and beating process that obtains the incredible results. With just one cubic centimeter of gold, more than six square meters of beaten gold may be produced in a layer so fine that it is scarcely perceptible to the human eye. The gold leaf is then sandwiched between a transparent glass base and a fine, hand-blown glass that protects the surface. The three elements, heated once again, are welded into a single slab that is free of cracks even in the most minute fragments.”

I was smitten with gold smalti from the moment I received a few precious pieces in a grab bag of miscellaneous smalti.  It’s usually sold by the ounce or by the piece, and it’s fortunate that a little goes a long way.  This is what makes Byzantine Churches glow.  This is what grabs the light and gives it back to you with incredible depth and intense color.

I made this mandala almost entirely from gold smalti, as a gift for Dr. Ed Schillinger and his family, when he was dealing with pancreatic cancer.  He was a kind man, and in his memory Stratoz makes “Dr. Ed Mandalas” with a portion of the proceeds going to Pancreatic Cancer Action Network(PANCAN).  Another G word is Give, and I encourage you to contribute toward pancreatic cancer research.


Over at Stratoz:  Shockingly, G is for Glass


5 Essential Tools for the Beginning Glass Mosaic Maker

Wheeled Mosaic Nippers are Essential for Cutting Glass into Bits
Wheeled Mosaic Nippers are Essential for Cutting Glass into Bits

1.  Wheeled Mosaic Nippers

These are the scissors of the mosaic world.  Tile nippers will crush glass, but wheeled mosaic nippers allow you to shape the glass.  The black handled ones are Leponitts, considered the top of the line in nippers.  The red handled ones are sometimes available at craft stores.  I use both, because they each have their own strengths.

2.  Dental Tools

Invaluable for cleaning the last bits of grout and glue from your mosaic.  I like lots of levels in my mosaics, and this means some pieces get buried and I need to dig them out after grouting.  Widget Supply Company has a nice selection(and I love the name!).  I also use the Fiskars Fingertip Craft Knife for particularly stubborn bits of glue.

3.  Tweezers

Glass is to be respected!  To avoid the sharp edges and also to make precise placement, I use reverse action tweezers to pick up smaller pieces for dipping in glue.  EKSuccess’ Tweezer Bee is my favorite.  The tips are very pointy for precision, they are coated in non-stick finish which helps shed the glue, and a nice squishy padded handle.

4.  Microfiber Cloths

When cleaning off grout, I skip the sponge idea, and use microfiber cloths.  They have just enough tooth to remove grout haze, and can be used over and over.

5.  Weldbond Glue

Non-toxic, washable, pvc white glue which dries clear, and which with some water and prodding, allows you take out pieces after they’ve already dried.  Very helpful when you realize something needs to be adjusted!  Read more about it:  A mosaic artist’s friend.



Rainbow Mosaic Mandala by Margaret Almon

Color Wheel Love

Chevreul Color Wheel
Chevreul Color Wheel

Discovering ways to work with color was pivotal in making my art.  The first time I saw a color wheel I fell in love.  Then in 2004, I read Nita Leland’s book Exploring Color which was like an infusion of pure energy.  I was reminded of my color wheel love when I made the Rainbow Panel for the exhibit at Virago Baking Company, with all the delicious transitions between colors, and then Stratoz mentioned he was teaching about Maurice-Eugene Chevreul in his science class.  Chevreul was a chemist hired by the Gobelin Dyeworks of Paris to brighten up their colors.   What’s fascinating is his conclusion that the dyes themselves weren’t the problem, but how close together the different colors were woven together by textile companies.

47 154/365 the rainbow after the rainbows
Rainbow Gradation Panel by Margaret Almon

Color is a chameleon.  One color can look different depending on what other color surrounds it.  It’s like a magic trick, transforming one thing into another.  Colors that are opposite from each other on the color wheel are called complementary–red/green, orange/blue and yellow/violet–are particularly intense when side by side, as if they were almost vibrating.  For even more fun, there are triads and tetrads.  Stratoz was inspired to create his Tetradic Heart after teaching about Chevreul.

Tetradic Heart by Wayne Stratz
Tetradic Heart by Wayne Stratz

My log cabin quilt collage cards from my previous post were an initial experiment with red and green and searching through magazines for color was a revelation.  Every page became a palette.

Log Cabin is still one of my favorite designs to work with.  Many of my mosaic trivets are variations on the Log Cabin quilt block, and wonderfully suited to playing with contrasting colors, as quilters have known for eons.

What color combinations do you enjoy?  If you make things, are there certain colors you gravitate to in your work?  I’d love to hear about more color love.




Color Wheel Pinterest Board

Over at Stratoz’s Blog:

Seven on Saturday–Rainbows