Several years ago I did three commissioned mosaics for a floor, for which, I hand painted some plain ceramic mosaic tiles (tesserae) using water-based paint which fires in a domestic oven to a glazed finish. This meant I could choose my own colours and create many different pattern effects through experimenting as I made them.
One particularly pleasing discovery was that I could put 2 or 3 colours of paint on a tile, then put another tile down on top of it: when pulled apart, a pleasing fern-like pattern resulted, so I did that a lot and loved the effect. Some I just played around with the surface with the brush, or sponged them. Since quite a number of my paintings are based on little squares containing different images, mosaic was obviously something that I was going to enjoy.
However, a painting is more portable…
Some tiles were very pretty glass ones which I bought from a craft shop: iridescent and metallic, they were useful as highlights and in various colours. Others were proper marble ones.
After I had made the floor mosaics, I had a boxful of little tiles left over, sitting on a shelf. I kept opening the box and reviewing the situation, I needed a small project.
I decided to use them to repurpose a couple of table mats, of which, I had an old set that had got rather worn, so I decided to put mosaic over a couple of them. This would give me heat resistant mats for serving dishes out of the oven, entertain me for an afternoon and use up most of the tiles.
I did not do the mosaic in the way that it is generally advised to do – I arranged the tiles in a pattern straight on to the mats and stuck them down with epoxy glue.
I mixed up some waterproof grout with blue paint to harmonise with the tiles, put it in place and let it dry. I then polished the excess grout off the surface of the tiles.
After some thought, I varnished them with craft varnish (which, on the tin, claimed not to turn yellow with age) to protect the colour in the grout from wearing away, as they would be washed a lot. I suspected it would not be very permanent.
I was very dubious about the varnish, as I thought heat might discolour it or that it would chip off but so far neither has happened, although I wouldn’t recommend doing that to anyone in case it ruined their work.