Using tiles and pottery pieces to create a work of art

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Sometimes it's difficult to wake up. For me, most of the time it's difficult. I'm not what you would consider a morning person.

What's worse than Vanessa waking up at 10:30 a.m.? Vanessa rolling out of bed at 6:30 a.m. to get ready for a day at the office.

Like many people, my first stop in the morning is the bathroom for a wash of the face. But every morning I'm confronted by the frightening sight of hair askew and bags under my eyes. There's no way I'm getting out of the house with confidence if that image is the first thing burned into my memory. I need something to distract me from the reflection of myself.

Today's project is the perfect solution. Thus far this column has focused on thrift -- and there is an element of thrift to this undertaking -- but nifty is highlighted today. To make a mosaic mirror, one must first have a mirror in need of framing. And there is a certain amount of cost involved in purchasing a mirror. Plus you will also have to purchase some other materials.

My first mirror cost less than $100 with plenty of the expensive materials left over to work on mirror No. 2. So where's the thrift in that? A beautifully framed mirror could cost more than $200, and this less expensive version can be tailored to fit your style.

The other bonus to this project: demolition. The key is to break the right dishes, the right way, in the right location. So, all of you who melted your parents' record collection and are still sweeping the garage in punishment beware: Grandma's china is not to be broken.

For my first mirror I used mugs, vases and plates purchased at Teen Challenge. Mugs and vases are easier to break than plates, but they can also sliver. The thinner the material, the greater the chance of an injury and the less useful it will be for the project.

You can also get a discount on tile by going through broken boxes at your local home improvement store. You have to purchase by the box, but I went a couple of times and was able to find enough white tiles to complete the entire outer frame of my mirror. And the cost was pennies compared to buying tile off the shelf.

Once you've collected your goods, the proper method for breaking ceramics starts with safety. As Norm Abram says, wear safety goggles and always read the instruction manuals of your tools before you begin a project. In this case, I'm sure most people can figure out how to use a hammer.

The instructions come in controlled breaking. Place the piece you want to smash in a paper bag. Fold the bag closed and place it under a layer or two of old bath towel. You may want to purchase towels for this since pounding with the hammer will make holes.

Put on a pair of utility gloves and safety goggles. I suggest setting up outside on a porch or patio, anywhere that broken glass can be swept up easily and won't be tracked on by pets or children. Then start smashing.


Painter's tape, paper, tile adhesive, rubber gloves, grout, trowel or rubber spatula, cotton rags or towels, ceramics or tile, safety goggles, utility gloves, 5/8-inch particle board in desired size, mirror, mirror adhesive, 4-inch border tiles


1. Have particle board cut to desired size of mirror. Center and attach the mirror to the board with mirror adhesive. I left 4 inches on each side of my mirror for tiles and decoration.

2. Use paper and painter's tape to cover the mirror. Secure a border of tiles with tile adhesive. You may want to lay out your tiles before attaching to make sure your design will fit.

3. Now's the time to get artsy. Place a small amount of tile adhesive on the back you're your broken ceramics and start placing them between your tile border and mirror. As long as the pieces are secure they don't have to be placed in any uniform pattern or at a particular height. The differences in the pieces will give your mirror more depth and plenty of attractive details to notice.

4. After allowing the adhesive to dry overnight, it's time to pour on the grout. Rubber gloves are important to keep your hands from staining. Mix the grout in a large bucket or bowl according to the package directions. Wipe off the excess with a cotton cloth. If you want the design leveled you can add a second layer of grout. I left mine jagged.

5. After the grout sets for a few minutes, wipe the ceramics with a damp cloth to get the residue off.

6. After the grout has dried thoroughly (a few days), uncover the mirror and hang your masterpiece with screw eyes and picture wire. Depending on the size, the finished project may be fairly heavy. Be sure to anchor it so it doesn't fall off the wall or tear a hole in sheetrock.

Vanessa Cook is a former copy editor for the Southeast Missourian who also dabbles in decorating. Contact her at

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