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Do Swallows Eat Olives?

This commission for a private customer was a delight to make. My clients wanted a mosaic for their wall outside their house. After initial discussions by email and a site visit I made three drawings and they chose this one.

As my clients didn’t want very strong or bright colours I chose to use stained glass as I could choose colours that were not as bold as smalti but fresher than vitreous glass.

I was also able to use a fair amount of gold smalti. As the gold smalti was thicker than the stained glass I decided to make it indirect on plastic. It would need a fairly deep bed of cement adhesive to make a flat surface. The flat surface would make it easier to clean off any algae that might collect on it over the years.

Once the leaves and birds were complete I received my luscious order of gold!

There is always so much satisfaction when placing the last piece!

I used sand to stop the gaps so I could grout from the other side. Here you can also see the electrical cable flex I used as a temporary edge while I filled the mosaic with cement adhesive. (There’s always a use for broken things one day)


Thick bed of adhesive and levelling before pushing boards firmly on the top. (And piling on the weight to ensure a good hold)

I made a sandwich of light weight cement boards with adhesive in the middle (my partner called it a custard cream) not only for strength but also because the boards were in two halfs; the first layed horizontally and the second vertically.

However it was still very heavy!

After a few days drying it was turned over and the plastic pulled off.

The trunk was made as a separate piece.

Thought I’d learnt my lesson from the last one I made on plastic and I used a weaker pva glue than then, but it was still a devil to get clean.

Brushed out the sand and grouted.

And gazed at the gold…

I had some help with installing it on the wall.

Final touches glueing olives over the screws.

My two boys doing a few hours work for a change!!!

The Olive Tree (2.12m height x 1.20m wide) (stained glass, ceramic tile. marble, gold leaf smalti glass)



One happy customer


One happy me


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  1. Another stunning piece of work. You must be really nervous lifting off the weight and the plastic to see the end result! I probably couldn’t leave it to dry for a few days 😲I’d keep peeking 😂

  2. such a beautifull mosaic ! thanks for sharing all the pictures of the process of making it… this is very helpfull for my own mosaic making. can i ask you why you use the indirect method ? would it not be easier to mosaic straight away on the cement board or on mesh ?

    1. Hi Ingriet,
      I made it indirect so that the surface would be flat. We get a lot of moulds on walls here in this part of the UK so I thought it would be useful for the customer to be able to clean it easily if required. The gold leaf glass was thicker than the stained glass and so it would have made it difficult to clean if it was made direct.

  3. I get a lot of joy in just looking at the pictures of your work! Thank you for inspiring me to start doing mosaics again. PS: Wondering about sealer?

    1. Hi Enna, so nice you are inspired to make mosaics again, thanks for letting me know. No, you don’t need sealer if you are using the correct materials.

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