30 May 2011

Smashing broken cups and plates to make a mosaic

I have been collecting my brother John's beautiful ceramic pieces for years. Often they are things he would not approve of  me using as he does not sell many rejects- he smashes them, as his standards are so very high. I rescue some pieces when I can.  Of course I do have pieces that were once perfect too. Things do break.  After some effort, I trained everyone not to throw any broken thing away, although I still lost a few pieces due to family ruffians and ignorant people in my living space.

One quiet Sunday afternoon I started this project, but ran out of John's broken pieces. . I used one of my own pieces, a plate my husband had decorated and one of my earliest teacher Barbara Strauss's stoneware mugs ,  but had to stop and wait a month, before I could get some more beautiful shards from John's Swellendam studio.

I started by smashing them up with a hammer after covering with a thick layer of newspaper. I discovered later that the glass mosaic cutters worked very well on the pieces too. High fired porcelain is quite similar to glass.

I arranged them in squares and the design sort of developed from there. I glued them all down carefully. The 2nd batch of broken stuff I got via my mom included a stunning teapot which had a perfect lid.

Grouting this mosaic was quite daunting as the edges of the pieces are very sharp- and you might see bits of sponge still on the mosaic as the photos were taken while the grout was still drying. Not a good idea to fall against this mosaic- it could be very nasty. So it should be kept out of the reach of small children or wobbly adults.
cracked fish tea party

John's  perfect  and still entirely whole work can be seen on :http://johnnewdigate.com


  1. Hi, regarding the sharp edges of the ceramic pieces, you can file them with an electric file. It's a small instrument, with a small head that is turning fast and just smoothes the edges. you can see one in my flickr link http://www.flickr.com/photos/sbitzu


    1. What surfaces are used to place the mosaic pieces on? Your giraffes are beautiful. How did you make the shape before applying the pieces?

    2. Not sure about these questions? but here are some answers:
      1) I use fibre cement board and sound surfaces- not timber
      2)Giraffes? I made a giraffe tile once- but this is a confusing compliment thanks anyway
      3)I make shapes in clay and fire them in a kiln, but this particular project does not use any of my shapes- they are all broken pieces of plates etc.

  2. Thanks Sigal, I would love one of those for my toolbox. I will see if i can buy one off the www- as I live in a small town.

  3. I ordered a dremel tool with a grinder tip and look forward to receiving it. Nice to have a well equipped mosaicing toolbox- Makes life easier and lovely to have
    beautifully finished artwork.

  4. vos mosaiques sont magnifique , en faite c'est les couleurs qui sont attirantes et bien choisies.
    big job, good job.

  5. This looks great and I've done similar myself. I've been experimenting with broken crockery in outdoor mosaics but find that the frost and rain break it up and it falls apart. Is there a solution to this? Thanks

  6. Well this one is a few years old now, and still in good condition. I do not use a timber backing, and include waterproofing agents in the grout. If water freezes it expands- so keep your mosaic waterproof and dry and protected, and perhaps your chances will be better? Also what glue are you using? All these things matter.

  7. Anonymous12:34 PM

    What kind of glue do you use??

    1. I use ready mixed tile adhesive- it is a white paste. It dries once exposed to air. As long as one of the surfaces being glued isnt smooth and glassy, it works well. I have used clear silicone to glue onto glass and mirrors and that works also. I think tile adhesive is best though.


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