My friend Carlos Alves taught me how to make mosaics with broken tiles nearly two decades ago, when he needed help with an installation in New York and no one else was available. I graduated quickly from assisting with his projects to covering my own flower pots, then walls and floors, with shards of tile (and bits of mirror and whatever else I can find in the free bin at the local salvage yard). I mosaic tiled every available surface in my last house, and I’ve gone to town on the little back patio in my townhouse (as you can see in the video below), with plans to take on the bathroom as soon as a time window opens up.
I like mosaicing because it requires no precision. You can make the broken tile pieces as big or as small as you like, and the spaces between them don’t have to be uniform. One piece leads to another leads to another, and then you step back and admire how they all go together. Carlos was right—anyone can do it—although now that I’m older it’s tough on the knees and the back. Because tiling truly doesn’t take special skill, I can recruit any willing fool to help (and relieve my knees and back), and some of my best conversations have taken place while I’ve sat with friends, in-laws and family members as we work our ceramic shard puzzles. It’s like a quilting bee, with broken tiles instead of fabric and trowels instead of needles.