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Create Mosaic Yard Art by Upcycling Your Trash

C.S. Alexis works in an art gallery located in the Calumet region of Northwest Indiana. Come see her at One Best Life at Tinker's Attic.

Using a glass mosaic technique on a common plastic piece adds richness to this solar light fixture.

Using a glass mosaic technique on a common plastic piece adds richness to this solar light fixture.

This Mosaic Artwork Technique Is Great for Garden Art

Here is a mosaic method that lends itself quite well to handcrafting unusual art pieces to be used in your outdoor living areas. This technique can easily be adapted to a wide variety of found pieces that will go from trash to treasure with your creative eye.

Using found objects is a very creative and cost-efficient way to add one-of-a-kind artwork to a yard or home garden. Mosaic art is often very durable, making it especially suitable for garden use.

Here I will outline the materials and tools we use in our Adrift Art Studio to take a trashed object and work it into a quality art piece. I will also share some tips and suggestions for making a work of art you will be pleased to display in your own outdoor setting.

With some practice, you might want to consider using this method for making wonderful gifts. There is also a chance that your passion for this mosaic technique might inspire you to create artworks to sell for a profit.

Artwork by Dawn Kovera, mosaic technique on large rock

Artwork by Dawn Kovera, mosaic technique on large rock

Tools and Materials Suggested

  • A glass cutter
  • Stained glass sheets
  • Broken dishes
  • Running pliers
  • Tile nippers
  • A hammer
  • Standard pliers
  • Razor blades, sharp knives
  • Water tub
  • Terry towel rags
  • Adhesive grout
  • Acrylic paint (optional )
Always wear safety glasses when cutting glass or nipping ceramic pieces.

Always wear safety glasses when cutting glass or nipping ceramic pieces.

Where to Apply This Mosaic Technique

This method is especially nice for outdoor use. You must take into consideration the surface you want to decorate with mosaics. The application of glass can be used on a wide variety of surfaces, but make sure the base piece can withstand moisture if the finished piece is going to be subjected to all weather conditions.

It is not suggested to use wood or other porous, organic material if the intention is to display the finished artwork in open weather. Materials such as glass, cement, metal, fiberglass, plastic, and stone are best for outdoor use. These materials will endure harsh weather conditions.

Organic material that is used with this mosaic technique should be displayed in a dry area, such as an all-season room or in the house. This is necessary to keep the wood part of the artwork protected from the elements. That is not to say they cannot be used outside during good weather. This is okay to do as long as the work is brought in when weather conditions become harsh.

How to Cut Glass for This Mosaic Technique

Start by wearing a pair of quality safety glasses before and during the scoring and cutting process. Using a high-quality glass cutter and a pair of running pliers is how we cut the sheets of glass to make small mosaic pieces. These hand-cut pieces are the pieces that we adhere to the surface of our art object. It is probably a good idea to first start on a flat project such as a stepping stone. When you get a little practice in, moving on to a surface that is three-dimensional will seem much easier than trying to begin learning with a more difficult project.

The glass cutter is used to score the glass so that pieces can be snapped off of a larger sheet of glass. Firmly press down on the glass and drag the roller tip of the glass cutter across the glass surface. The cutting motion will make a scratchy, crackle sound. Look very closely at the photo below. In the first photo, you see the placement of the cutter wheel. In the second photo, you can see the score line left behind after completing the cutting motion for the length of the glass piece.

Make only one score mark. Do not repeat the score motion across the original score line. Just make sure to work slowly and apply even pressure to the cutter's wheel when you make each score mark.

Using the Running Pliers

The running pliers have a very slight curve to the mouth of the pliers. This is to allow the glass to snap across the scored mark with ease. Observe in the photo below that there is a line notched in the top middle of the pliers' top lip. This line is used to center the score mark for snapping.

Grasp the glass with the pliers' lips by lining the score mark, centered to the pliers' mark, and squeeze the pliers together. The glass will snap across the scored mark, breaking off in a straight line.

Because every piece of glass is different, there will be times when the break does not run clean. This happens to everybody. The more glass you snap, the better you will become at performing the glass cutting task. Look at the photos below very carefully before you start cutting your own glass.

Adhesive Grout Application

We use an adhesive grout mixture to glue the cut glass mosaic pieces to the surface of the object. This mixture comes ready to use. It has very good adhesive properties and can be used to stick the mosaic pieces on a wide variety of materials. It should be applied in an even coating to each piece of glass.

An even coating of adhesive is especially important to create a good, tight, waterproof bond. Coated glass pieces are then placed in the area intended to cover with the glass design. Excess adhesive can be wiped off from the top of the glass if you get anything on it. This will make the finishing grout process go much easier. Use a damp cloth to carefully remove excess adhesive. Also, try to make sure that the glass pieces are level with each other so the finished surface is even when your work is done.

It should be noted that your finished design can be pre-cut and then put together or you can work as you go. I personally like to start with some of the pieces cut and then work as I go after I get my project started.

When all of the glass has been stuck down with the adhesive, the piece will need at least 24 hours to cure. This is important to make sure the adhesive dries under the glass pieces.

Grouting the Finished Design

After the piece has had time for the adhesive to cure, it will be ready to apply the finished grout. It is a good idea to work in small areas when applying the grout to fill the cracks between the glass pieces. Work the grout very carefully into the cracks to fill them completely. Take extra care not to drag your fingers across the glass in a way that might cut your fingers. The edges of the glass can be very sharp. Be extra careful, and work with caution.

Try to remove as much of the excess from the glass surface as you go. There will be some excess grout on the glass but it is not necessary to waste the grout. All excess will be removed in the finishing step. When working on smaller pieces, it is okay to apply the grout to the entire surface. The last step is to clean the finished work.

Cleaning the Finished Mosaic Artwork

When all the cracks are filled, the piece can be set aside for about 20 to 30 minutes so that the grout has a chance to surface dry. You can leave the piece to set overnight if you want, but the longer it sets, the more difficult it will be to clean. This is why it is best to fill the cracks on large pieces in smaller sections.

The grout will be dry enough to remove the excess from the surface of the glass after 20 minutes or so. Fill a shallow pan with warm water and soak a terrycloth rag with the water. Ring the excess water out of the rag so that it is just moist. Lay the wet rag over the surface to be cleaned for a few minutes. This will soften the smeared grout that remains on the glass.

Using the cloth, very carefully wipe off the excess grout. Take care not to wipe the grout out of the cracks. All you want to do is clean the glass surface. Wipe and dry the surface as you go. If too much grout comes out of the cracks, then refill the cracks and wait about 10 minutes.

When all of the glass pieces are mostly clean, allow the piece to dry well, preferably over night. The next day you can use a razor blade or sharp knife to scrap away any stubborn residue. The finished piece should be bright and shiny, clean glass.

© 2017 C.S.Alexis


C.S.Alexis (author) from NW Indiana on November 03, 2017:

Kari Poulson the tools are mostly things you have around the house. The glass cutter we use costs about $15. but you can purchase a simple glass cutter for a few dollars. Running pliers are about $15.00 or less. Thanks for reading here.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on November 03, 2017:

This sounds like so much fun! Could you give me an estimate of how much the tools would cost? Thanks in advance. :)