A stained glass mosaic is a piece of artwork made with glass pieces. The artwork is normally made by hand and can range from very small one color pieces to huge multi-colored works 20 feet (6 m) tall. The most common place a stained glass mosaic is seen is in churches where they are used as decorative windows but they may also be used in furniture, accessories, and homes.
To create a stained glass mosaic, the artist must first sort the glass pieces by shape, color, and size. Though each piece may be slightly different, keeping them sorted by stained glass type helps the artist create a cohesive design. Once the decorative glass has been sorted, the artist draws a template of the art glass design.
There are three main assembly methods for a stained glass mosaic. The traditional method is called leaded glass mosaics. This method requires lead strips, called cames, to be shaped into an outline of the design. The glass pieces are then fit into the space between the lead cames and at each intersection of lead cames the artist must heat the lead and solder the joints together. This is often used for large windows due to the thickness provided by the lead.
Another assembly method for a stained glass mosaic involves using copper foil tape. A thin strip of copper foil is wrapped around each glass piece and the piece is then soldered to the next piece by heating the copper foil. This method is known as the Tiffany method because it is used extensively by the Tiffany company to manufacture lamps. The Tiffany method is preferred by artists working on three-dimensional designs since the copper foil is lighter than lead and easier to mold.
The third stained glass mosaic assembly method is to use silicone or cement. Instead of soldering the glass pieces together using lead or copper, the artist pours a mold then places the glass pieces into the mold while the material is still wet. Once it dries, the artist pops the piece out of the mold and lightly cleans the surface to expose the glass design. This method is most commonly used by crafters to create stained glass mosaic stepping stones and is also used by artists to create stained glass table tops, mirrors, and picture frames. The main drawback to this method is you cannot see through the design, so it should not be used for windows.