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There are four major components to any mosaic: substrate, adhesive, tesserae, and andamento.
The substrate can be any material stiff enough to hold the tesserae. Wood and cement board are an obvious choice for a 2-D, but artists also choose to create their own substrates out of molded cement, or opt for 3-D sculptures made of styrofoam (polystyrene) or use found objects, (furniture, slate, wood bark, rocks, vessels or what not.)
The Adhesive is traditionally not apparent to the viewer, but the artist must give careful consideration to its choice. Classic mosaics used some form of cement (thinset). Today we use various glues too. Artists can even stitch or weave part of their mosaic, depending on the materials they choose for substrate or tesserae. Finally, they must take into account the intended placement of the object (interior vs. exterior, heat and freeze cycles, water).
A tesserae is anything that can be adhered to a substrate. My personal preference is for tesserae that show the hand of the artist. Although I use some found objects, most of my tesserae are hand-cut or otherwise manipulated. The site section on materials lists some of the most common tesserae.
Andamento refers to the lay out of the tesserae, their flow. It can make or kill a mosaic. The Romans codified various andamentos (the following definitions are borrowed from Wikipedia):
A degree of artisanship is clearly inseparable from the creative process. A mosaic is the end result of a myriad of choices and manipulations none of which should be left to chance or to a third party. Some mosaic manufacturers choose to commission a design (also called a cartoon) and to outsource its execution to Mexico, China or Peru. I do not consider those works of art.
This is not to be confused with a mosaic that interprets a painting, in which the choices made by the mosaicist can be of more interest than the source. The same can be said of the close association of a painter-cartoonist with a mosaic artist who become equal partners in authoring and signing their mosaics as did Hans Unger and Eberhard Schulze.
Design : JBk