Making Mosaics at Rembrandtz in St. Augustine

What is a “mosaic”? Well, it’s a picture or design that is created out of pieces, generally broken pieces, of tile, stone, or glass.  Mosaics are created on top of a surface, such as a wood design, tabletop, wall, floor, glass, or other surfaces.  Mosaics have been around a long time and are a huge part of Art History.  They can be quite elaborate, intricate, and a beautiful sight for our eyes. The good news is anyone can create a mosaic!

In St. Augustine, where I live, there is a local art gallery that has a Mosaic Studio right inside their store. I learned about this studio a few years ago and had to go!  Since I am part of a Craft Club in my neighborhood, I decided to tell some of the ladies about it. A few of us decided to take an outing to this studio to check it out and see if it would be a good place to bring our Craft Club.  Just four of us went to visit and we had a great time!

The name of the gallery/store is Rembrandtz. If you are a local or you visit St. Augustine, it is located right on King St. in the heart of downtown St. Augustine.

Rembrandtz is a locally artist-owned gallery that is operated by a mother/daughter team. Lynne and Kimberly are passionate about what they do and they make sure to provide quality art work created by local artists. Their gallery has been open for over 23 years and they’ve even been voted for in the “Best of St. Augustine” many times.  Here in St. Augustine, locals take pride in supporting local galleries, shops, restaurants, and other businesses.  So if you live here or you are visiting, be sure to stop by Rembrandtz, you won’t be disappointed.

Now, I am going to tell you all about the Mosaic Studio and my two experiences there. As I stated before, I just had to go visit when I heard about this place. I love to make things, and try new crafts. My first visit to Rembrandtz’s Mosaic Studio was back in May 2015. I was really excited and wasn’t sure what to expect.  This was new to me, making mosaics, I had no idea how to even start! However, Lynne, the owner, made us feel so at ease from the get-go and she was very helpful throughout the process.

We entered a separate room in the back of the store set aside for the Mosaic Studio. In the room, there were shelves with wood shapes to choose from and little plastic containers filled with a wide variety of broken tile pieces, all sorts of colors. It didn’t take long for us all to choose our shape. Three of us quickly decided on the turtle (I mean, come on, turtles are so cute!) and one decided on a sand dollar (another great choice!) Lynne, explained to us that we could design our mosaics however we want. She gave us a few tips on the spacing of the tile pieces (leaving room for grout, getting close to edge of shape, etc.) before we started.  She suggested since we were new to this experience, we lay out are desired pattern on our wooden shape before gluing it down.  Fabulous idea! I ended up changing around my pattern some as I went along, based on space and materials available.  Here are a couple of photos: first one is Lynne helping me with the layout of tiles on my turtle, the other photo is what my turtle looked like after the tiles were glued down (before grouting).

When we finished gluing all our pieces down, we decided to go look around the store while it dried and Lynne wrapped it up for us to take home. Before leaving, Lynne showed us all the grout color choices and she thoroughly explained to us the grouting process (which we would do at home after our mosaics dried for at least 24 hours).  The grout, a little plastic bowl, a wooden craft stick, a toothpick, a sponge, and gloves were included with grouting directions for us to take home.  The ladies decided we would get together in a few days to complete the grouting (since it was new to all of us!) My dear friend and neighbor was a gracious host and had tables covered with newspaper all ready for us out in her garage.  Grouting wasn’t really that hard, but since it was new to us, we were a little anxious about it turning out okay and not messing up our hard work of laying out our tiles so beautifully.  Some of us (I won’t say names lol) decided they didn’t like grouting too much afterwards.  But the finished products, after the grout dried, were absolutely gorgeous and well worth the hard work! Here are a couple of photos of my completed turtle. You might recognize my sea glass turtles in one of the photos from a previous blog. You will also notice, I painted the sides of my turtle green. Continue reading below about my next visit and to learn more about grouting.

I loved making my turtle and knew I would definitely want to go back one day to make another mosaic. Our Craft Group meets once a month throughout the year where we live, however, we try to incorporate craft outings occasionally.  So, just this month, we decided it was time to go back to Rembrandtz!  This time there were eight ladies (all new to making mosaics except for two of us).  I couldn’t wait! Below I am going to share some photos and I will make a few commentaries underneath telling about our visit.

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Here is a photo I took of the ladies in front of Rembrandtz

In the photos above, you can see some of the ladies had already chosen their shapes and began to select tile pieces for their mosaics. There were turnstiles and shelves filled with shapes to choose! On the wall, behind the tables, you could see many sample mosaics made by Lynne and Kimberly.

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The ladies happily creating their masterpieces

As we worked on our mosaics, they had music playing in the background, which helped us feel more at ease and got our creative juices flowing. It really is a nice environment if you need an escape! Lynne and Kimberly would pop in every once in a while to see how we were coming along and help us as needed.

The photos above show my shark that I created.  I chose a shark because my husband loves to fish and he enjoys catching an occasional shark from the beach. I figured this would make a cool decoration for his office wall. The first photo shows my shark after I glued down all my tile pieces.  Next you can see the beginning of the process. It took me a long time … I was at the Mosaic Studio for three hours! Most of the ladies finished in two hours or less. Thankfully I wasn’t the only one, my neighbor and I (the perfectionists that we can be) kept each other company that last hour.  You can see I was trying to space my tiles “just so” with an equal amount of space between them throughout and so the pieces aligned fairly close. I also was trying to keep close to the actual coloring of a shark (this is a Blacktip shark which is common where we live). I really enjoyed creating this shark but at times it was a little frustrating trying to find that exact piece I needed, lol.  I loved the selection of tiles provided, such a variety in shape, texture and color.

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Me holding my shark, what a fun day!

I took my shark home and let it dry completely for a couple of days, then I decided to brave the grouting process. I was more prepared this time, because I knew what to expect.  I placed an old plastic tablecloth on my kitchen counter close to the sink. I had all my materials close by (my shark, the plastic bowl, the baggie of grout powder – I chose silver, the wooden craft stick, the toothpick, the sponge, and of course the gloves). I also got out a measuring teaspoon I could use to get water, some paper towels I could use to wipe my hands or the side of my shark as needed and a bowl of water I could use for my sponge because I didn’t want to get grout in my sink.  Below are the actual directions given to us by Rembrandtz … I will share some comments and personal tips afterwards.

“Finishing Your Artwork”

  • Unwrap and check your piece when you get home or to your hotel. Be sure the pieces haven’t shifted, and will dry overnight where you want them.
  • Let adhesive dry completely before doing this final step. We recommend 24 hours, but it can be longer in case you need to travel or wait for the weekend.
  • Open your chosen background color and pour the amount we recommended into the bowl. Add small amounts of water (about a teaspoon at a time) and blend with the mixing stick provided. The consistency you want is like cake frosting.
  • Spread across your entire piece with the mixing stick, using gentle pressure. It will look messy, but that’s okay. You still want to be able to see your glass pieces, slightly … don’t put it on so thick that you can’t see the glass. then set a timer for 30 minutes.
  • When the timer goes off, put on the provided gloves, dampen the provided sponge with water, and wipe gently across your piece several times. Remove excess from the top and edges with gentle pressure and damp sponge.
  • We recommend working over a trash can, or on the newsprint we wrapped your piece in to take home. The excess should be thrown away … do not put down the sink.
  • Now let it dry completely for the next several hours. It will harden completely by the next day. It is optional to paint the edges once everything is completely dry!
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Just finished grouting, not bad

So I must say grouting the second time around was much easier! For the most part, I followed their directions step-by-step. However, I didn’t spread the grout all the way across the whole thing at once. I chose to work section by section starting with the front of the shark and working my way back. I liked making sure the grout squished into all the spaces and was level all the way across. I actually used the side of the wooden craft stick to help smooth the grout across the surface.  At times, I also used the toothpick to apply grout in little areas. Once all the grout was applied, I took a paper towel and carefully wiped around the edges to remove grout from the sides.

After the 30 minutes, the real work began, wiping it down with the sponge. I wet my sponge and squeezed it out. I would wipe across a section at a time gently to remove grout from the tile surfaces but then I would go back over individual tile pieces with the corner of the sponge to further remove grout and restore the original shine of the glass tile pieces.  Once I cleaned off the entire shark, I let it dry a little, then I went back with my sponge, and a little cleaning cloth I had from my iPhone, and did a little polishing (removing any little bits of grout I missed).  I love how it turned out! Later in the day, I created a silvery gray paint color and just painted one coat around the edge of the shark. It added a little sparkle to the shark and it blended nicely and made it look sort of rustic.

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My completed shark ready to hang
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Side view so you can see paint on edges

My husband loves the shark! Yay, success! Some of the other ladies have completed their mosaics as well. Below are a couple of their completed works, so much fun! Remember, if you live in St. Augustine or you’re visiting our beautiful town, be sure to stop by Rembrandtz to make a mosaic or browse their gallery! They are located at 131 King. St. You can visit their website at www.rembrandtz.com for more information!

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