Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Byzantine Mosaics

We learned about the Byzantine Empire last week. Part of that lesson included the fact that they made beautiful mosaics. So, for a tie-in craft project, we decided to make our own small mosaics. We invited a friend who loves kids and crafts to join us for the day.

We started by cutting off the bottoms of milk jugs to use as a form and greasing them with Vaseline to help the plaster come out after it has set. Here Mika and Susan are pretending because I forgot to take the photo until after they were done. They started out pretending in such a way that it looked like they were trying to daintily stir tea. I made fun of it and we all had a good laugh before the pretended better.

Then we traced the outline of the milk jugs on paper so we could draw a pattern before attempting to set the tiles into the plaster. After that, we all took a break to enjoy the zucchini bread that Sam baked today. He did it almost entirely without my help; he only needed help on the stirring at the end because he found it a bit difficult. It was a great snack!

After our snack, we head outside to smash up some tiles. Here's Mika taking her turn. She used swim googles as safety glasses.

Here's Sammy taking his turn. This was before Mika grabbed the "safety googles". The tile is between the two layers of towel, making it harder to see how big the pieces were.

Susan and I even took a turn. Actually, Susan did the most breaking because the kids got tired of the task after a couple of tiles and I was nursing Madelynn. Having her join us was such a blessing in several ways...she's a lot of fun, she's really encouraging, the kids love her, and having another adult to help made it much easier for me.

Meanwhile, Josh rode is tricycle and scooter up and down the sidewalk. You'd be surprised how fast he can go on both.

When we were done breaking up the tile, we took them back inside and laid out the pieces on our papers. Because plaster sets quickly, we thought it would be best to have it all laid out first.

Then I mixed the plaster one person at a time and they got started putting their pieces in the plaster. The last time I worked with plaster of paris was in 7th grade and it was to put a thin layer over a paper mache project to make it smooth. I had no idea what I was doing today. Sam's plaster was probably just about right.

Initially, I mixed Mika's plaster way too thin. I ended up adding more plaster to thicken it up a bit.

Here's Susan's flower setting up in the plaster.

This is Mika's bird. The light blue pieces are glass tile rather than ceramic tile.

Josh wanted me to make a ladybug. My plaster was much to thick and it set VERY fast so I didn't have time to finish up the background.

Sam's project isn't shown because he got confused and took all of his pieces back out of the plaster after he was done. We got some of them back in and I may be able to salvage the project with some sanding. He was quite upset about it. Susan and I tried to help him feel better by explaining that the point was to learn something and have fun. We had a funny conversation:

Me: The point was to have fun and learn something. We all learned that making tile mosaics is much harder than we expected, huh? And you had fun breaking up the tile right?

Susan: And then there was the part where you scraped the skin off your toe. That was fun right?

Sam couldn't help but crack a smile at that through his tears.

We decided to save our broken tile pieces and possibly try again with tin pie plates. They would make a thinner plaque than the milk jugs called for and larger area to work with. We'll probably place random pieces into a color collage rather than try to make pictures though.

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Suswan said...

Thank you for letting me play with you yesterday.That was quite a project.
Sam! Amazing bread! Yummy! :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow, those came out really nicely! Thanks for the tips on doing the project on the wtm board!

Melanie said...

Thanks for sharing your experience with this! Your tips will certainly help when we give it a try over here.