Welcome to another Wacky Workshops project – making ‘mosaic madness’ masterpieces.


mosaic madness picture



I have to be honest with you, I’m a cheat.

If there is an easy way to do something, I’ll break all the rules to find it.

It doesn’t always work and I can often hear other crafters and artists groan at my attempts to find the shortcuts.

There is a method to my madness. I’m happy to pay a bit more to see the ‘personality’ in a homemade item, but if it is too perfect, what distinguishes it from factory floor perfection?

My willingness to overlook, sometimes even embrace the little imperfections gives me an edge when it comes to teaching art and crafts to kids and people with disabilities as I can celebrate their efforts with genuine appreciation.

This gives them the confidence to try even harder projects and the belief that nothing is too difficult for them.

This was never more evident than when my art class of people with disabilities took on the enormous task of mosaicking their own shovels as part of a major project last year.



These guys have grown so much confidence since when they started with me several years ago. They no longer protest and claim they can’t do certain things and now happily launch into whatever project we come up with.

Obviously using tools such as tile cutters is not really an option for these students, or children, as it can be dangerous and also quite frustrating to cut the tiles just as you need.




Instead, we approached the project more like a jigsaw puzzle – making what we had work, without the need for serious tools.

I wanted pictures that told part of a story, not just an abstract jumble of tiles, so the students needed to fall back on some of their own skills such as;

  • Imagination
  • Colour grouping
  • Planning

I had each of them spend some time thinking about their project and the picture they wanted to achieve.

These pictures were a celebration of their imminent move from their group centre into their own homes.

Then I got them to draw the picture on a piece of paper the same size as the shovelhead. Some of them needed a bit of help with this step, but most of them nailed it.

We kept the pictures simple and not too detailed so we would have plenty of room to glue on the tiles without the need for cutting.

Their ideas were brilliant.




Mosaic Madness picture
Andy’s ‘The Lion’ – representing the courage the guys need to make this big move


Mosaic Madness
Brett’s ‘Happy Face’ – representing how happy he feels about the move


Mosaic Madness
Michaels’s ‘The Eye’ – representing how excited he feels to see the new house


Mosaic Madness picture
Bruce’s ‘Butterfly’ – representing the freedom to ‘fly’ away


mosaic madness picture
Wesley’s ‘Many Hands Make Light Work’ – the other students helped him with this, much to my pride.



When the drawings were finished they coloured them, to get an idea of what tiles they would use. We also had a collection of odd bits and pieces – old jewellery, glass stones, tiny rocks and so on, to choose from.

Next, they placed the tiles onto the paper and fine-tuned the designs. I took photos and kept each set of tiles and pictures together so they knew exactly what they were doing during the next lesson.


Mosaic Madness picture
We placed the tiles on the paper first


Next, we drew the same picture onto the shovels using a permeant marker.

Then I took charge of the glue gun, putting glue on the shovel in small sections the guys would then add their tiles to.


Mosaic Madness picture
Glue small sections at a time


Mosaic Madness picture
Use a stick to spread out the glue if necessary

Once the shovelheads were finished we moved on to the handles, this time planning patterns instead of a picture.

The end result was beautiful and amazing and the pride these students felt was incredible.

Aside from the confidence boost, this exercise gave them;

  • Great fine motor skills practice
  • Colour co-ordination techniques
  • Planning and visualising their ideas
  • Puzzle-solving skills.


This project is good for kids and adults and can be used to transform so many ordinary things into the extraordinary.



  • Your base – a shovel, a pot, a canvas – I even mosaicked an old tree stump


mosaic madness picture
I used old terracotta pots that I smashed and glass beads to cover this grey old tree stump that was starting to disintegrate
mosaic madness picture
A mosaic madness masterpiece for the birds
  • Tiles
  • Old jewellery, rocks, beads, glass buttons, metal scraps – anything goes
  • Glue – we used liquid nails as it is designed for outdoor use
  • Glue gun
  • Grout
  • Container to mix grout
  • Wooden spoon or stick to mix grout
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Choose your ‘canvas’.
  • Plan your design.
  • Draw your design on paper if necessary.
  • Start adding the glue – just covering one small section at a time.
  • Place the tiles onto the glue, leaving just small gaps between each tile. Try to keep your fingers clean from glue to avoid getting it on the tiles.
  • When dry, (at least 24 hours) mix the grout according to directions on the packet – be sure and get the consistency right – too runny and it won’t stay in place, too dry and it will crumble and dry out and become unusable quickly.
  • Add the grout to your work – we covered the entire shovel and all the tiles as trying to place the grout neatly between each tile was too difficult and time-consuming for the guys and they would have lost interest really fast.
  • Gently wipe the excess grout off and then leave your work for a while for the grout to dry. The time will depend a lot on the weather. You can wait from 10 to 30 minutes for the grout to be dry enough (we did this in summer, it would take even longer in winter). You will know when the grout is dry enough to clean properly as it kind of brushes off easily with a dry cloth.
  • The grout eventually dries like cement so it is best not to leave the cleaning for too long.
  • Finish by polishing your work with a damp cloth.

Find out why group art projects are so important.

Happy crafting and have a gleeful, Tamuria.





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