When life hands you broken china, make a mosaic. Glass, stones, ceramics and a little bit of grout make an ordinary piece something special for your garden or outdoor room.
Ready, set, create!
Mosaic is an antique effect that has a long history throughout most cultures. Creating patterns or pictures using small pieces of glass, stone, ceramic, or other material can be as simple or complex as the maker desires. Mosaics are among the world’s most sublime works of art.
Turning shards of found or purchased pieces into beautiful or whimsical works of art is rewarding at any level of expertise and is a wonderful craft to enjoy with friends or older children. Gather broken bits of china and glass, marbles, small pebbles, and shells—anything that catches your artistic eye. Find a surface for your mosaic, such as a terracotta pot, a tabletop, or create your own shape for a steppingstone or plaque. Whether you glue a pattern of pieces onto your surface and cover with grout (many colors are available) or embed your pieces into a prepared mix of concrete, you will have a lasting impression of your artistry for the garden.
Terracotta planters are easy first-time mosaic projects. The larger the pot, the larger the pieces can be in either random or orderly patterns. To create this look, attach tile pieces to a clean, dry pot with tile adhesive. Allow to set for about 24 hours. Mix grout according to manufacturer’s instructions and apply to the spaces between tiles. With a damp sponge, wipe the grout away from the tiles and work it into the spaces for an even coat over the entire pot. Let dry completely.
Covered with mosaics inside and out, like this pot, the piece becomes a bright work of art to display alone or with plants inside.
Use small pieces to create new mosaic patterns or break ceramics carefully into segments to retain a semblance of the original item. Here, a broken plate sets a porch-perfected side table in perpetuity.
Make a base for a sundial or armillary sphere. Start with a Sonotube, available at home improvement stores, and decorate with mosaic pieces in the same way as the pot outlined above. When covering a curved surface with flat tiles, be sure that pieces are fairly uniform and apply any longer ones vertically so that they lie flat.
When your hollow tube is decorated, place it in the garden and fill the bottom third with concrete mix to provide stability. Let it dry and top with a round garden paver. Place your focal piece on the paver surface.
Clematis climbs one side of this unique handmade iron archway, balancing the heaviness of the mosaic base on the other side.
Several neutral shades provide texture for the background of the black-and-white sculptural arch base. Adding a three-dimensional object, such as a flower’s center, invites even closer inspection.
Using black tiles to highlight the house number on this address plaque gives it better visibility. Keeping the color palette to three colors while using at least four types of tiles also adds to the coherence.
When placing mosaic pieces, maintain uniform spaces between your tiles to create a finished look. This is even more important when the tiles are arranged in parallel rows as seen here.
Steppingstones are useful, beautiful, and one of the easiest projects to start with mosaic. Don’t miss our next post where we will guide you through the process of making a concrete steppingstone.
Embellish steppingstones to create a one-of-a-kind walkway. The row of evenly spaced stones guides your eye and beckons visitors along the path.
When setting them in grass, concrete, or brick, sink steppingstones deep enough that feet don’t catch the edges and, in the case of a lawn installation, so that you can mow right over them.
A charming birdhouse uses mosaic in an allover pattern, which adds color and stability to the simple wood construction.
Teacup handles as ears put the finishing touch on this smiling garden greeter fabricated with a wink and a smile on an inverted shovel. A teacup and saucer fashion a jaunty chapeau. Glass beads add sparkle and are the perfect shape for an eyeball and column of necklaces.
A collection of shells is the inspiration for an ocean-themed wall mosaic. The sparkle of iridescent glass recalls the reflection of sunlight on water.
Incorporate complete found objects into your patterns for added dimension. They may need support while the adhesive dries.
A broken pottery dolphin is the focal point for this ocean-themed mosaic. Coordinating shades of blue and foam-white suggest shimmering water while the mix of shapes implies the dynamic movement of foamy waves.
When covering a large area like a mural, an easy way to boost interest is to group mosaic morsels in colors and then apply whole blocks like large puzzle pieces.
An eye-catching mosaic mural like this one provides a decorative solution to a bland retaining wall, fence, or garage. Design the entire scene before starting and create it in sections. This garden scene consists of two large panels but could also be made in smaller segments before hanging as one work of art.
A broken plate becomes a cheerful sunflower that repeats as a motif throughout the mural. In each appearance it’s made from different materials.
When creating a design, consider the color of the grout and whether you want it to contrast or complement the tiles. The grout color can play a role in the overall design, too. Here, it mimics earth in a garden bed.
Although a three-dimensional object adds interest and depth, resist the temptation to overdo. A touch here and there is most effective. The flower candleholder (upper left) works as a 3-D ornament because all sides are visible from the front and it has enough surface area to stay firmly attached. Figurines and other shapes may need to be angled or cut to be most effective.
Make Mosaic Magic
Improvising artful mosaic accents for the yard yields interesting, personalized garden decor. Here are guidelines to get you through your beginner projects:
Start small and flat. While you’re getting the hang of the art, resurface a small table or steppingstone.
Work with large pieces. While designs may require small bits to fill in spots, it’s much easier to work with large fragments overall. You can easily snap a large piece into two or three smaller ones. If you’re breaking old plates with a hammer (wear safety glasses), a few taps will do the trick—don’t smash things to bits.
Lay out your pattern. On a flat surface, loosely arrange pieces to create your design so you can adapt it as needed and get an idea of where big pieces will go before you begin.
Use a cement-based adhesive to secure tiles. For outdoor applications, this will create a strong bond to withstand the elements, and also helps to hold tiles on curved surfaces.
Tracing is A-OK. If you’re making a specific motif, such as a flower or landscape scene, using a pencil or some chalk to outline the design on your substrate will help when the time comes to apply your mosaic pieces.
Use frost-proof and waterproof grout. Once you’ve secured all your tile pieces to the substrate, you’ll fill in gaps with grout that withstands the elements.
Opt for a concrete matrix. You can also pour concrete into molds and then, when it’s beginning to set, push mosaic pieces right into it.
© Caruth Studio