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Paper Mosaic

( Originally Published 1932 )



Paper mosaic, as we all know, demands the delicate skill of the expert, who has willingly given years of his life in laboring toward the perfection of his art. This very fact should exclude it from such a book as this, but let us see what we can do toward duplicating, in our own way, his exquisite work. Before we attempt it, however, we should know something about it.

Mosaic is a method of inlaying small colored pieces in patterns. When the finished work has a greater area of inlay showing on it than the original surface, it is known as mosaic. To early Egypt and Mesopotamia goes much of the credit for this art. Explorers have found glass, enamel, marble, and tile mosaic work in small tables, jewelry, and other objects dating back to the early cultural periods of these countries. Its beauty and workmanship is well known, and its popularity has never faded with age.

But here is an opportunity for us to create results closely bordering those of old mosaic, from a stand-point of beauty as well as durability. It may seem a far cry from kindergarten work to mosaic, but this process will carry us the entire way. We turn to the kindergarten to prepare our materials and to the mosaic artist to apply them.

Paper mosaic is a method of cutting and gluing small particles of paper to surfaces in such a way as to give designs or actual pictures in color. It is simple to master, inexpensive to do, and requires little time to complete the most complicated under-taking.

A ten-cent paper punch from your nearest fiveand-ten-cent store, a package of glazed "pinwheel" colored papers, such as are used in kindergartens, a needle, a little glue, and a can of shellac complete our list of necessary materials.

Vanity cases, letter openers, match boxes, picture frames, cigar boxes, powder boxes, and any other objects having smooth surfaces to which glue will ad-here, can be given decorative surfaces of mosaic finish.

Many such objects are plain and unattractive, but by this process they can be turned into things of beauty.

Let us take an old cigar box and turn it into a treasure chest. One can be obtained at your corner store. Carefully examine it to see that it is constructed of wood. Many of these boxes are made of heavy cardboard, and while the mosaic can be applied to them, they do not make permanent receptacles.

Paper Iabels, stamps, and other stickers usually found on them may be removed by applying hot water. Do not soak the entire box in water for this may tend to warp the wood and soften its glued joints. Allow it to dry and then give the entire-box a careful sandpapering to remove any indented words, signs, or other marks from its surface.

The sides and lid of the box are given two coats of black paint at this time, as minute parts of the surface show through the spaces between the paper punchings. The dark surface gives the desired contrast to the brightly colored design. By using hard-drying lacquers or enamels, the colors of the punchings will keep their original tones, and a bright, clear surface will result.

However, if the beautiful, softened tones found in old mosaic are desired, the effect can be obtained by staining the wood with black ink. When such a surface is painted with shellac, the ink is picked up by it, resulting in softened half-tones, which give the colors the effect of age. Exquisite results can be had by this method.

As all treasure chests should appear old and weather worn, let us try the latter method, and coat our box with ink. When it has dried, we are ready to choose our design. This should not be difficult, as many attractive designs can be found in a number of magazines, or can be copied from original pieces at your nearest museum. The usual sampler designs give splendid results when worked out in paper mosaic.

So now we are ready to gather together our materials. With the aid of a piece of typewriter carbon paper, trace the design on the lid, making sure that it runs parallel with the edges of it, and that your lines are clear but not too deep. On the design, mark lightly with your pencil the various colors you wish to use in their particular locations.

Colors placed together should present vivid contrasts, as found in old mosaic. Bright colors make a better appearance than the darker tones. The various colors to be used are now punched from .the color sheets. These punchings form the mosaic "inlay." For convenience, keep each color in a separate pile, and with your needle turn each one with its colored side up on the table.

We are now ready to apply the "inlay." When doing this work, complete the use of one color before proceeding with the next. With the usual glue brush, coat about half an inch of the design with a thin layer of glue. The punchings are now picked up with the aid of your needle, and applied to the design. To do this, it is not necessary actually to pierce the punching. Touch the point of the needle to the glue on the design, and when the needle comes in contact with the punching, it will adhere to it, and can be easily lifted off the table. The glue on the design will pull it away from the point of the needle, and the process of applying the mosaic is completed.

Each punching should touch the ones surrounding it, but not overlap them, as this will cause an uneven surface. In some cases, it will be found that the rows will not end with space for a full punching, and these must be filled with half, quarter, or three-quarter punchings, as the case may be. These can be obtained by punching the paper along its edge, moving the punch in until the desired width of the piece shows through the hole of the punch.

When the punchings have filled the coated area, glue is again applied and the process is repeated until the design is completed. Note in Figure 8 how the work is done. Figure 9, Diagram A shows the right way to apply mosaic, and Figure 9, Diagram B shows the wrong way. After the glue has set, a blotter is placed over the design and pressure applied. In this way all punchings not glued to the surface will show themselves by adhering to the blotter when it is removed.

Allow the glue an hour to dry and then give the lid a thin coat of shellac. When this has hardened, a second coat is applied and the lid is finished. By continuing in the same manner, the four sides of the box are given their mosaic finish.

Cut to size and glue to the bottom of the box a felt base, which completes the outside of the box. The in-side of the lid should be painted white, or lined in any material you may choose for the balance of the box. This completes our treasure chest, and you will find that its beauty and usefulness well repays you for an evening's work.

Small cotton jars and flower vases can be easily made from pint and half-pint paper milk containers. These can be purchased from your neighborhood dairy for a few cents. They come coated with wax to make them waterproof, and as glue will not adhere to such a surface, it must be scraped off with a knife. Washing it carefully with gasoline is another way to accomplish this. The punchings are applied on the original surface of the container, or it may be painted black to form a base for the mosaic. Two coats of shellac finish the piece. If the jar is to be used as a flower vase, three coats of Valspar varnish are used as a finish in place of the shellac. This will make it perfectly waterproof.

Working out your initials in paper mosaic gives splendid results on some articles such as small pow-der compacts which can be purchased from a fiveand-ten-cent store. Small, glass rug protectors, used under the legs of furniture, can also be bought from such stores and make attractive and useful pin and ash trays. The paper punchings are glued to the bottom of the tray with their colored sides next to the glass, so that they show through it. A felt pad is cut to size and glued over the mosaic on the bottom of the piece.

The smaller box in the illustration gives an idea of how paper mosaic appears when done on cardboard. Its beauty is equal to that of work done on wood, although the latter surpasses the cardboard for strength, durability, and permanency, as cardboard bends and breaks easily.

The writer has carried a small, mosaic, match box in his pocket for some months, and so far no signs of wear have appeared on its surface. Time may wear off the guarding coat of shellac or varnish, but if signs of this appear, the object can be restored to its original state by applying another coat or two of the finish to its surface.

Paper mosaic presents real experimentation possibilities to enthusiasts who wish to follow it. These instructions are given merely as a guide for mastering the method of actual application, and teach the value of neat, careful work.



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