Words and water meet in Bay couple’s marvellous mosaic

EVERY summer Nelson Mandela Bay graphic design lecturer Inge Economou identifies the one DIY project she most wants to tackle during the holidays.

It’s a savvy plan that ensures she and her husband, Christo, always see some form of decorating progress at their creative Humewood home.

This past December and January, Inge decided to finish off a project the couple had started last July – a mosaic fountain in the courtyard at the side of the house.

“I’d spotted a fountain at Builders Express and noticed it was broken. It stood there for ages and eventually I persuaded them to sell it to me for much cheaper,” Inge said.

She and Christo repaired it with cement, but were frustrated to discover that the bowl at the base was too small, causing water to splash everywhere whenever they turned on the pump.

“We decided to get someone in to build a broader base around it with a slight downward slope so the water could run down into the bowl instead of all over our courtyard,” Inge said.

She initially decorated the top of the base with the phrase “We are Water”, spelled out in black mosaic tiles and inspired by the writings of Japanese author Masaru Emoto, known for his water consciousness.

“I wasn’t planning on doing the rest of it, but during the holidays played around with some designs and got stuck in. I’d wanted to mosaic the whole courtyard but, realising how much work went into the fountain, decided it’s probably not such a good idea!”

Having never done any “proper mosaic work” except for a rectangular water feature she and Christo built a few years ago, Inge says she’s still not sure “if I did it the ‘right’ way”.

“I marked out my design in chalk and glued the tiles on using a big tube of No More Nails!” she chuckled.

“Usually you would use tile adhesive. I went through five big tubes of glue and about 16m² of mosaic tiles in various colours.

“I’d been collecting the tiles for a long time. Some were display sheets I’d persuaded the shops to sell to me for less.

The tiling was “back-breaking” work, often under full sun. Inge was soon working under an umbrella by day, but found early mornings (and evenings by lamplight) kinder.

Tools such as a rubber spatula for grouting are worth acquiring. “It’s also important to use a cutter and ‘nipper’ designed for mosaic tiles as they are thinner and smaller than normal tiles.”

Once the tiles were in place she roped in Christo’s nephew, Marc, to do the grouting “one shot”.

“We chose black grouting so algae wouldn’t show up as easily. You should also mix in a bit of bonding liquid, like Bond It, to make the fountain more water-proof.”

The end result is a unique feature visitors are in awe of. It’s even more appreciated by the couple’s dogs, Zara and Smoke, as they enjoy nothing more than splashing about when the heat is on – which is exactly what Zara insisted on doing while Inge was slaving away at the tiling!

Inge plans to mosaic a bathroom this December.

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