Mosaics – the principles of making with Emma Biggs


Ref: S4D12584

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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.

Materials week: Glass 2023
Our February themed week of short courses for 2023 focuses on GLASS, led by talented artist-tutors Emma Biggs (mosaic), Freya Pocklington (self-portrait drawing); Jessica Turrell (enamelling), Sasha Ward (stained glass), Richard Walker (glass gilding).

Each course explores a different quality of this versatile material, which is integral to our lives in so many ways; its ability to transmit light and colour, create unique and patterned surfaces, or reflect our own image.


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

Materials which you think may be of interest or use – found material, stone etc.
Please bring your chosen materials with you. It is recommended that you bring a larger variety than what is planned so other kinds of creative artistic choices can be considered.
Plastic containers for mixing grout and to hold mosaic pieces (e.g. yoghurt pots)
Mixing tools – old spoons or spatulas
A jam jar
Tile nippers – side tile nippers with a spring. These are essential.  Please contact the tutor if you are uncertain as to the type to buy.
Bubble wrap or newspaper to protect your finished mosaic panel
Enclosed toe footwear (essential)
Barrier cream or rubber gloves
Watercolour type paintbrush
A small, inexpensive screwdriver – the kind you might find in a Christmas cracker

Available to buy

Available from shop:
Paper and pencils
Wooden trays (as supports for mosaics): prices from £6 – £15 according to size

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 to discuss this. Bringing your own materials will guarantee getting the materials you need.

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 a Diploma in Art and Contemporary Crafts (10 three-day study blocks, over two years). 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.

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