First and foremost, what are tesserae? Well, it means tiles or pieces. What you use to mosaic. There are so many different kinds of tesserae that you can use in mosaics, and it can get overwhelming to decide which to use. I started with a bag of sea glass from Michaels but found myself at a SAMA (Society of American Mosaic Artists) conference not long after starting. The vendor marketplace was like Disney World for me! Getting to see so many different kinds of tesserae and being able to touch them, see the colors, cut them and to purchase sample boards was very helpful. The internet wasn’t as popular back then (lol) so it was harder to find what I wanted. it’s so much easier nowadays to be able to purchase from vendors all over the world and there are literally thousands and thousands of companies to choose from.
Some of my favorite tesserae are smalti, vitreous tile, unglazed porcelain, Kismet recycled tiles, and found objects. I also love some of the unusual tesserae that I have found over the years. Most of what I have found originated at SAMA. I have used hundreds of different kinds of tesserae in my mosaics, but it can get very expensive. When getting started, I recommend trying just a few lines and getting a good range of colors. If you start with a design, then it can be easier to pick which colors to buy. It also helps to look at other mosaics and see what you like.
A lot of mosaic artists use sheet glass because they either started in stained glass or they have a resource to purchase it. It is reasonable in price and has a huge range in color. When deciding what tesserae to use, you have to ask yourself a few questions first. Is your mosaic for interior or exterior? Some tesserae can’t be used in areas that freeze. Is your mosaic on the floor? There are tesserae that are rated for commercial use for floors. You also have to be careful with some glass that can be slippery. Do you need a flat surface? You don’t want to use Italian smalti for table tops. Do you want a shiny or more of a mat feel? Lots of options!
When deciding what tesserae to use, you have to ask yourself a few questions first. Is your mosaic for interior or exterior? Some tesserae can’t be used in areas that freeze. Is your mosaic on the floor? There are tesserae that are rated for commercial use for floors. You also have to be careful with some glass that can be slippery. Do you need a flat surface? You don’t want to use Italian smalti for table tops. Do you want a shiny or more of a mat feel? Lastly is price-point. The range of price in tesserae is huge. Do your research. Lots of options!
My best recommendation is to do your research. Ask your mosaic friends. Look online at suppliers. Go to SAMA and check out the vendor marketplace.
Experiment and have fun.
Here are some of my favorite online suppliers
Anything in Stained Glass – Stained Glass, Mosaic Supplies, Tools http://www.anythinginstainedglass.com/
Delphi Glass – Mosaic supplies, tools, stained glass, etc. http://www.delphiglass.com/
Luna Mosaic Arts – Glass tile, smalti, art glass, tools, classes etc. http://www.lunamosaics.com/
Maryland Mosaics – Glass tile, shells, stones, art glass, etc. http://www.marylandmosaics.com/
Monster Mosaic – Mosaic tile, surfaces, tools, books, etc. http:www.monstermosaics.com
Mosaic Art Supply – glass mosaic tile, porcelain, marble, stone, cutting tools and supplies, smalti http://www.mosaicartsupply.com/
Mosaic Guys – Glass & ceramic tile, classes, etc. http://mosaicguys.com/
MosaicSmalti – Orsoni Italian Smalti, tools, supplies http://www.mosaicsmalti.com/
Mosaic Trader USA – Glass tiles, Smalti, tools, kits, etc. http://www.mosaictraderusa.com/
Murano Millefiori & Fat Cat Smalti – millefiori, smalti, tools, classes, jewelry blanks, stained glass, adhesives www.muranomillefiori.com
Wits End Mosaic – Books, Porcelain, glass, Surfaces, etc. http://www.mosaic-witsend.com/
Happy hunting for that perfect tesserae.
For the love of mosaics!