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T is For Tesserae, Tesseract and Tessering

Tesserae Drawer number 2

One of the pleasures of making mosaics is the word “tessera” which comes from the Latin for “four” and means something four-sided, square like a game piece or a tile.  Mosaics originally were made with  square chunks of marble, but the word tessera has generalized to mean any material used in a mosaic, whatever the shape or substance.  Tesserae is the plural, and the photo above is of one drawer of what I refer to as my “tower of tesserae.”

This word may sound familiar to those of you who are fans of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which was one of my favorite books as a girl.  The main character is named Margaret(although she goes by Meg), which endeared me to the book, and she and several other characters travel through space with the help of tesseracts, which wrinkle up time, and make long distances much shorter to leap.

In the math world, a tesseract is a 3D representation of a 4D cube, which is hard for me to visualize, but I came across a really cool digital Tesseracti, for your enjoyment:


Calliope Recycled Glass Tile: Delightful Variegation for Mosaics

Asymmetric Log Cabin Mosaic in Earthtones by Margaret Almon

Calliope Recycled Glass tile in Truffle I am always looking for new tesserae to create mosaics with, and when I saw the Calliope Series of  Recycled Glass Tile I was hooked!  The variegation is especially enticing, allowing for visual texture, and giving a lively feeling, in motion with swirls.  The sheen is lightly iridized.  According to Hakatai, the Oregon Importer of these tiles, they are 50% recycled glass, 90% of which is post-consumer.  As soon as they arrived, I was in the studio experimenting.

Asymmetric Log Cabin Mosaic in Gray Blue

I also have a sheet of Garden, in shades of blue and green.

Organiks Recycled Glass Tile

Recycled Glass Tile from Organiks and Vidrepur: Gorgeous Sustainability

Organiks Recycled Glass Tile
Organiks Recycled Glass Tile

Part of the joy of making mosaics are all the cool tesserae available, like the recycled glass Organiks tiles.  They are similar to a tile I started using from Spain, Vidrepur, which is also recycled glass.  I was attracted to the tiles before I ever knew they were recycled from broken car windshields and bottles.  They are extremely smooth, with rounded edges and corners.  Some have color applied to the surface, like the ones at either end of the photo.  Others have the color integrated into the glass mixture, all the way through.  Unlike some types of vitreous glass tile, which can have an almost grainy texture with tiny pits in the surface, these tiles are “high definition” with the kind of sheen on marbles or other highly polished glass.

I used Vidrepur tiles in this  rocking chair for the Phoenixville Chair-ity Auction.  The center tiles are metallic gold, and the two outer rings are shades of red and orange.


Mosaic Sunflower Mandala Rocking Chair by Margaret Almon
Mosaic Sunflower Mandala Rocking Chair by Margaret Almon

I found this video from Vidrepur that shows their recycling process if you want a peek at how they go about transforming glass recyclables into gorgeous tile.  Check out the groovy jazz flute soundtrack!




Related Post:

Mosaicing a chair for the Chair-Ity Auction in Phoenixville