I recently stumbled across a rather old YouTube video showing how to make your own mosaic tiles using clear flat glass and any decorative paper of your choosing. This is a lovely concept that allows you unlimited options for colour and motif to enhance your mosaic designs.
However, I have a few concerns about this technique.
One of the major attractions mosaic holds for artists and clients alike is the permanence. These handmade mosaic tiles carry a risk that may affect the permanence of your work.
Somewhere in the distant mists of time there was a period when I was very much into scrapbooking. When you spend days and hours creating a single page of great sentimental value for an album, you quickly learn the value of using the right sort of paper. The paper attributes a scrap booker looks for are ‘acid free’ and ‘lignin free’.
Lignin is an organic composite that is present in all land plants (and some algae) that have xylem to move water & nutrients throughout the plant and most of the lignin harvested from commercially grown forests eventually ends up in newsprint. It is the lignin in the paper that results in the yellowing of newspapers over time and is also responsible for the paper becoming brittle and deteriorating. Thanks to the fact that the process of removing lignin also removes acid, much of the paper produced commercially these days is also acid-free, however it is still worth asking the question or checking for the acid-free symbol.
In all instances, if paper is marketed as being specifically for scrapbooking or if the terms ‘acid free’, ‘lignin free’ or ‘archival quality’ are applied, those papers should be save to use.
Scrapbooking stores sell a pen you can use to check the acidity of a sheet of paper. You would mark a dot on the paper and observe the changes in colour of said dot to evaluate if the paper is suitable.
A great many paints and inks are surprisingly susceptible to bleaching when exposed to ultraviolet light, like sunlight. Especially inkjet inks are very seldom manufactured to a standard that counteracts bleaching, since these inks are produced expressly to be affordable and to encourage wide use. Check the UV rating of the ink used if the piece you are creating may be exposed to direct light of any kind.
Inkjet inks are also water-soluble.
Most of the mosaic tiles manufactured using this technique, are sealed with what is commonly known as ‘modge podge’ (in South Africa – more commonly known as ‘mod podge’ abroad). All types of modge available locally are water-based, which also means water-soluble. This exposes your mosaic to the risk of water damage.
In the final analysis: Yes, by all means use this technique to create a cute little insert for that photo frame or fridge magnet you do not expect to last beyond a year or two. If, however, you expect your handiwork to remain around for a decade or longer, this is probably not the correct mosaic tiles for you to use until you have checked the paper quality, the ink quality and have ensured that there is no risk of water exposure.