There are so many different tips and tricks to cutting tesserae that it can be overwhelming to learn it all. Where do you start? Well, you start by picking up a pair of nippers and practice. When I first started, I was fortunate to learn from some of the best artists on how to hold nippers and make accurate cuts. I also practiced LOTS! I remember the callouses and blisters I would get from cutting all day long. The more you practice, the better you get.

Start with something easy. Vitreous tile was my go to tile at first. I had a pair of Leponitt nippers and started with simple shapes. Squares, strips, keystones, and circles. I use a grease pencil to draw lines that I want to cut which helps to make them more accurate. I still do this when I have a difficult angle. When I get ready to do the next tile, I hold it up to where I want it to go, visualize the cut and go for it. Each cut is precise and calculated. Learning how to hold your nippers to get the cut you want just takes practice. Don’t give up.

I’m not crazy about using the catch-all bag for nippers that I see people using because it doesn’t give me the accuracy that I want. I have learned how to hold a tile so when I cut it, I can hold on to one side, drop the other and rotate the tile in a smooth motion. This is something that you want to practice for speed and accuracy. When you do commissions, in order to make it worth your while, you want to learn how to cut quickly with precision. Anything you can do to go quicker but still maintain the quality is helpful.

If I need a lot of tiles cut in advance, I like to cut about 75% squares and 25% half tiles first from a vitreous tile and keep them organized on my tray before I start my mosaic. Then I can pull from the supply to cut smaller pieces from the squares or create other shapes from the half tiles. It works for me and helps me organize as I go.

Some tips when cutting tiles-

Warm up sheet glass first. It makes it easier to cut. Cut against the grain on the back of a vitreous tile. This makes it easier and you don’t get caught in the grooves. Use the right tools for the tiles you are using. Don’t force a cut. If it doesn’t cut easily, ease up on your grip, reposition and try again. Don’t be timid. If you’re holding your nippers correctly, you won’t pinch yourself. Keep your apron on so it will catch shards. PRACTICE… The best tip I can give.

If you want to learn more about mosaics, I have my Foundations course that starts tomorrow and I can still get you in.

For the love of mosaics!

Karen Sasine