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Latest Mosaic Quilt in the Works, What goes into a Making a Mosaic Design

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

If you follow me on social media, you've probably seen a few glimpses of my latest mosaic quilt, which I'm calling roman mosaic flowers for the time being. The design is a large brightly colored abstract mosaic of flowers and foliage made up of around 4,000 little, 1/2 inch mosaic pieces. It's framed with a wonderful roman style mosaic border and four beautiful corners. I'm making some nice progress with this quilt, so I thought it might be interesting to tell you a little bit more about it.

The mosaic originally began as a block with a few simple sketched lines. At this point, the center of the design resembled some sort of large flower to me.

Working in sections, I began to digitally draw the actual mosaic pieces, filling each section with small square shapes. As I worked on it, it grew into this final outline of my mosaic.

After I finished the mosaic, I added some very preliminary basic colors to each of my shapes.

Then, I wanted to use this single mosaic block I had created in an array. I experimented with arrangements of four, six, and eight before settling on a four-block array. The decision to use an array added a little more time back at the drawing board because I had to redraw some completely new shapes where the four blocks intersected since the individual mosaic squares in the leaves would otherwise be split in half in those areas. However, the extra time was well spent.

Using arrays is a beautiful approach to both enhance a design and to create a completely new design in mosaics. This particular technique I've used multiple times in my geometric or Moroccan mosaic quilts.

Next, I turned my attention to color. I experimented with several color schemes until I was satisfied with the results. I thought that I was getting closer to my intent with this color scheme, but as I kept staring at it over days, the olive green and brown leaves seemed to float in the foreground, like those tiny organisms you see under a microscope and made me rethink my design.

Those tiny organisms that had me questioning my design, reminded me of something that most artists and quilters are already familiar with, but it's worth mentioning. You need to take a break from your work and return to it with fresh eyes. When you let it sit for a while and then go back and revisit it, you may discover that it is possible for other opportunities to emerge that could improve your design.

I worked on the color combinations some more until I got it right! This purple-pink, red and green color scheme made me the happiest, and this orange, red, brown and more of blue green one was an added bonus! So much so, that I actually gathered fabrics from my resources for both designs before settling on the purple-pink and red combination.

And speaking some more about my color decisions, it’s probably not a coincidence when I tell you why I was so pleased with these colors. Red and green are basically the primary colors in my overall design. These two colors are opposite each other on a color wheel, they are complementary colors and when used together, they can add visual interest and a feeling of balance to a design.

When comparing these two recolored designs to my olive green and brown design above, you may have noticed that I chose to vary the colors inside each mosaic unit at random. For example, if you look at the purple flowers, you'll notice that I'm using two colors in the petals, a purple and a pink with somewhat different values. The same can be said about the leaves. As a result, the mosaic design is more visually appealing.

But I wasn't done with my mosaic design yet; next came the frosting on the cake! To frame my flowers, I imagined a gorgeous roman mosaic border with a geometric pattern. I started with a wide border, and for the interior I created this interlaced zig zag pattern. Instead of zigzagging all the way around the border, I stopped at each corner and made these four beautiful corner blocks. The black dashes that outline the border and corner blocks gives unity and frames the entire design. The border was further complimented by adding some more black, Caribbean blue and magenta colors to the zig zag pattern.

I could write a lot on the topic of choosing fabrics to work within my process, but from a design standpoint, I find that mottled batiks work best. They serve two design purposes for me: they read as solid color and replicate the small imperfections, or color variations, found in natural stone or some glass tesserae. A piece of mottled batik fabric can have many different shades of the same color or gradients to it. The gradients found in batik fabric adds another layer of interest to my designs.

Here's a few other fun tidbits about this original mosaic quilt design: I gave each of my little square shapes a personality. They are all around the same size and generally the same square shape but back when I drew this design, I jagged some of the squared edges to give the impression of using a pair of nippers to cut pieces of ceramic or stone tile for a more classic mosaic look.

What you may not see yet in my images is the final grout color. I've chosen a beautiful solid light gray base fabric that will fill those spaces between the square fabric pieces with a soft, neutral color. Gray is a wonderful neutral color to use in mosaics designs for those times when you don't want a lot of dark or light contrast surrounding the square pieces. This will be my largest mosaic art quilt (45" by 45") to date, made using my newest technique, "Direct Placement Using Mesh". Thanks to the mosaic art community for assisting me in locating a long sought-after answer (years in fact) that I could apply to my mosaic quilt making process. With my new method, I no longer need to utilize a lightbox, fabric marking pens, or freezer paper templates.

This new approach is easy to do and has several benefits! I've been demonstrating and teaching how to do it at the big quilt shows and guild meetings, and I have to admit that not only am I enjoying how straightforward it is, but so are my students!

If you're interested, please come learn more with me in one of my classes at an upcoming quilt show or have your guild email me to arrange to come visit you to learn more about it and making mosaic quilts in general. My schedule here is updated regularly as new teaching opportunities are confirmed, so check back often.

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