Mosaics – the principles of making with Emma Biggs

Ref: S5D31763

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About this course

Advance your skills in planning, drawing and designing a mosaic project. Support on creating your own brief, sourcing materials, ideas and designs will be offered and guidance given on colour, texture and light.

Course Description

This course is about ideas, looking at the thought processes that underlie the production of a successful mosaic. Ideas can play just as significant a role in making something visually effective as mastery of techniques – and this course aims to demonstrate how and why. To benefit from this intense course, it is preferable that you have completed at least one weekend beginners' course here at West Dean College or elsewhere. You will have already grasped the basics of how to use nippers to cut tiles.

The first day will be spent getting a sense of what you wish to achieve, with reference to materials, technique and design. It is a day of wholly practical work and class discussion. The next day begins with a slide lecture, with images chosen to illuminate aspects of the project you are aiming to undertake. From this point onwards, the entire course will be a mixture of practical, hands-on work and illustrated lectures. You can attend the lectures or not, as you wish, but the aim is that they should be a useful resource after you finish your week of study. The talks are a way of analysing the point of this meticulous art-form and what it is capable of expressing, based on illustrations of historical and contemporary mosaics, and to use this understanding to go back to the studio and apply it to work produced there.

Lectures will cover the roles of line and cutting, colour and light, form, and finally, texture. You will look not simply at what something does, but why it does it, so the course is based on issues broader than technique alone. By the end of the course, you should come away with a new or a renewed sense of the breadth of the subject, and be stimulated and inspired to take your work in mosaic further.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • The College will provide a lightweight face mask (essential) and protective glasses, some grout and adhesive.

What students need to bring

  • It’s a good idea to bring images of previous work and images that you find inspiring as they can be useful in giving the tutor an idea of what you aim to achieve. Despite what may sound like dire warnings – shoes, and gloves when fixing, are precautionary, and it’s uncommon to hurt yourself working in glass if you work by the methods taught in the class.
  • Bring materials you think of as the basis of your work – some supplementary materials will be avaialble from the tutor.
  • Tile nippers – side tile nippers with a spring are essential (or wheeled cutters)
  • Containers for mixing adhesive or grout and to hold mosaic tesserae (e.g. yoghurt pots, bottom cut off a milk carton, cardboard boxes)
  • Mixing tools – old spoons or spatulas
  • A jam jar
  • Apron/overall (something to protect your clothes when you are working)
  • Enclosed toe footwear (standing on slivers of glass can be painful.)
  • Barrier cream or rubber gloves (Thin latex gloves are provided, but they can be pierced by sharp mosaic tiles.)
  • Small glue brush – the tutor brings some if none are available to you.
  • A small, inexpensive screwdriver – the kind you might find in a Christmas cracker. It is used to lift tiles and amend mistakes.
  • Charcoal, pencils and paper

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • A good variety of art materials, including charcoal, paper and pencils, brushes etc.
  • Available from tutor:
  • Your tutor will have a limited selection of materials available for purchase. Costs should be paid to her before the end of the course by cash or cheque. If you need your tutor to bring specific materials, please email her care of [email protected] to discuss this. Bringing your own materials will guarantee getting the materials you need.

Additional information

Please wear appropriate clothing/aprons for the workshop or studio, this includes stout covered footwear i.e. no open-toed shoes or sandals.


Emma Biggs

Emma Biggs is a professional mosaic artist of many years experience. Her work has been shown internationally and is in collections world-wide.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

Courses of interest

Further study options

Take the next step in your creative practice, with foundation level to Masters in Fine Art study. 

Depending on your experience, start with an Online Foundation Certificate in Art and Design (one year, part-time), a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design made up of 10 short courses taken over two years (part-time) or advance your learning with our BA (Hons) Art and Contemporary Craft: Materials, Making, and Place (six years part-time). All will help you develop core skills, find direction in your practice and build an impressive portfolio in preparation for artist opportunities or higher-level study. See all degree and diploma courses.