Often times, when people hear the word “tilework,” the traditional 4- x 4- or 8- x 8-inch subway tiles that are commonly seen on kitchen walls may come to mind. Or maybe it’s the 12- x 12-inch and 12- x 24-inch ceramic and porcelain tiles that are now prevalent on floors throughout common areas such as foyers and living rooms. However, there is an entire universe of tile artists creating custom artworks with different varieties of mosaic tile, which are utilized to craft everything from landscapes and plants to animals and even food.

Lisa Bustamante of Custom Mosaic Creations, Inc., in Portland, OR, is among this realm of mosaic artists, who has spent the last several years creating, fabricating and installing custom mosaics of all sizes. “I enjoy the outward expression of the beauty within, by leading the glass through a dance. A dance of light and movement. A dance that conveys a timeless story of humans verbalizing what is felt in the heart and what is seen with the eyes. Or what is seen with the heart and felt with the eyes,” the artisan explained. “This crusade has become my passion.

“I am a perfectionist who is driven by flow,” Bustamante went on to say. “You might say ‘that’s a contradiction in terms,’ but I believe all artists are reaching for a fleeting moment of time when they put brush to canvas, hand to clay, or like me, through glass and grout.”

Recently, Bustamante created a log fire-themed mosaic for a fireplace surround in one of her client’s homes using a variety of colored stain glass from Bullseye Glass Company in Portland, OR. This particular client approached her with an idea that he visualized, which included a log fire and billows of smoke with gray-colored glass, accompanied by some orange-, yellow- and red-colored glass to emulate the embers. “I usually meet with the client and get a feel for their style and what design they want,” Bustamante explained. “Then, I draw up the design and go back and meet with them.”

For the design of the fireplace surround, various different colors of tile were supplied by the local stained glass manufacturer, Bullseye Glass Company, in 20- x 35-inch sheets, which were then cut-to-size by Bustamante. “I buy stained glass and cut it up by hand,” Bustamante said. “I have a band saw that I use to do some more intricate types of cuts on some types of projects.

“There weren’t any problems cutting,” she went on to explain. “We were installing right on top of black granite. After MAPEI’s Prim Grip, which gives some texture for your thinset to stick to, I used Laticrete’s 257 Titanium, which is a light thinset mortar that’s good for stained glass; it shows the true color of the glass. I also used Dimension RapidCure grout from Bostik in the color, ‘Onyx.’ It actually has sparkle in it.”

The entire project took around six weeks to complete and has been well-received by the homeowners ever since. “They said we got it right on the money,” Bustamante said. “They loved every bit of it.”

Private residence

Vancouver, WA

Designer: Custom Mosaic Creations, Inc., Portland, OR

Tile Supplier: Bullseye Glass Company, Portland, OR

Installation Product: Bostik, Wauwatosa, WI (Dimension RapidCure); Laticrete, Bethany, CT (257 Titanium); MAPEI, Deerfield Beach, FL (Eco Prim Grip)