Getting the right tools for the trade is essential for all artists and craftspeople. You should always buy the best materials that you can afford as the quality shines through in the final artwork.
When people see a completed mosaic, hopefully they see a beautiful design, skilled artistry, lots of patience, love and care built into the piece. However, the ‘back room boys’ are also very important – the adhesives and the grouts. In fact they are literally the cement that binds the piece and if you use poor quality materials, no matter how good the mosaic is, the end result will be poor and may not stand up to the test of time.
Fellow BAMM member and mosaic artist Jane Bracey arranged for a small group of us to go on a training day with BAL – Building Adhesives Ltd. Based in Stoke on Trent, they are the market leaders for tiling, delivering innovative products and service solutions for over 50 years. Although their main trade is to tilers and floorers, the mosaic world also form a key part of their business so they were delighted to offer us a day of training in the use of their products.
11 of us arrived to be welcomed by David Rowley who has been with the company for 27 years and was to be our trainer for the day. After a short presentation on their history and key products we were dispatched to Research and Development. Here we were shown how they put together the various components that make up the adhesives and grouts and innovative ideas for future products. This whole area was fascinating and it was great talking to real scientists. Did you know that they can use rubber, sand or glass in adhesives? There are a whole range of varying strengths, flexibility and durability to take into account when selecting your adhesives.
We then went to visit Quality Control where it was explained to us how they are able to identify an exact batch of product from a tiny sample using advanced techniques. So although their products are of the highest quality, if there were any problems, they would be able to break down all the component parts in order to resolve the problem.
An excellent buffet lunch – with a huge range of cream cakes – was followed by an afternoon of practical, hands-on demonstrations from David. He said it was quite a novelty training us as obviously their key clients are tilers, floorers, etc. By running this course BAL was able to appreciate the obstacles and challenges us mosaic artists have to overcome and how they may be able to specifically adapt various products to meet our unique needs. There are a lot of us out there so we do form a huge potential market for them.
As David has been in the business for so long he knew all aspects and was an expert in anything tile related – including grouting. When he wanted to demonstrate various grout techniques I just happened to have my Green Man mosaic which David used as the ‘one I prepared earlier‘. So my Green Man has now been professionally grouted by the Grout Guru.
After a factory tour and collecting our Goodie Bags (which included enough grouts and adhesives to mosaic a football pitch) we all made our way home. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day and we all learnt so much. David was happy to answer our numerous questions and queries, some of which even challenged him but he always came up with a solution. Additionally, it was lovely to meet so many other BAMM colleagues. We have all been in touch since and visited each others’ websites and Facebook pages. All our work is so different and seeing their beautiful range of mosaic work emphasised to me yet again how many different styles of mosaics there are and how there is room for us all in this exciting art world.