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The Broken Shard

Updated on September 27, 2011


Welcome to the Kiln Goddess' Clay Pit of Mosaics. You might ask what is one of those dusty, mud cover, clay artists doing talking about mosaics. Well, I have a lot of shards.

A broken bowl, a cracked plate they all accumulate into a big ole pile of mosaic materials. At first I used the shard in the bottom of gardening pots for drainage but some shards were just too pretty to bury.

One day I was making show tent anchors out of cinderblock cubes and wished they were prettier. Solution...mosaics. I got a book at the thrift store on laying tile and adapted the method to mosaicing my shard collection to my cinderblock anchors. I've learned alot since then. I thought I should share what I have learned with other clay artists, beginning mosaic students and whoever else cares to. So lets go break something and start creating.

Great Books on Gaudí and his Creations on Amazon

Needed Tools

  • Tile Nips- Used to nip and shape your shards to fit where you need them

  • Hammer- Used to smash those plates and tile. This can be great fun. Go break something for your art.

  • Wet Dry Sandpaper- Used to smooth the sharp edges on your shards.

  • Safety Glasses- Used to protect your pretty peepers. You only got two and they are very useful so protect your eyes when smashing and nipping shards.

  • Dust Mask- This is to protect your lungs when mixing thinset and grout. You don't want to breathe this stuff.

  • Masking Tape- To tape your design while breaking.

  • Kitchen Spatula- Used to mix your cement media and to apply thinset and grout. I like a large one to mix the thinset and grout and the small ones to apply both to your project.

  • Nylon Scrub(like on the back of a kitchen sponge)- Used to remove the excess grout from your creation.

  • Soft Sponge- Also used to remove the excess grout from your project.

  • Rags- Used to help remove the haze after the grout excess has been removed.

  • Small Bucket- Used to mix your cement media and to hold water to remove excess grout.

  • Gardening Gloves- Used to protect your hands while handling and breaking shards.

  • Rubber/Latex Gloves- A must to keep your hands from drying out while applying grout.

Mosaic Musings

tips and hints

Since my mosaic beginnings I've moved on to mosaic stepping stones, flower pots, boxes, picture frames etc. I also now use shards from plates I have found at the thrift and glass from empty wine and beer bottles as well as glass scraps given to me by a stained glass artist friend.

Here are some important things I have learned:

Safety glasses are a must, don't skimp and get the cheapest as they will continuously fall off when you look down. Spend a few bucks more on a nicer better fitting pair.

Tape the the design that is on a plate before breaking the plate to keep the shards from falling all over and you having to reassemble the design. The tape will keep the design roughly together as it breaks.

Wet your stepping stone or terracotta planter before applying thin set so it doesn't dry too fast.

I like to break my plates inside a paper grocery sack to keep the bits from flying all over.

Don't buy the cheapest pair of tile nips as the spring will soon fall off making the nipping of tile and shards not so fun.

Use the plates that have the design in the glaze for stepping stones and the like cause if you use the plates with the ceramic decals instead the design gets scratched up quickly.

Uneven shards from the foot rings of plates and bowls and such work well on the sides of stepping stones.

Great Mosaic Stuff on eBay

Ebay can be a resource to get fabulous mosaic tile and shards that you might not be able to find locally.

Breaking Tile

I found a very easy method for breaking flat tile safely. Get one of those flannel backed cheap vinyl/plastic table cloths. Fold the table cloth in half with the flannel on the inside of the fold. Place table cloth on the ground or sturdy table(if you do not wish to mar the surface of the table put padding of flat newspaper sections between table cloth and table). Open the fold of the cloth and place your tile on the flannel with the glazed side of the tile down. Now fold the cloth back and take hammer and hit the cloth covered tile to break it.

The advantages to this method is that the tile being in the cloth fold keeps the shards from flying everywhere and you can do a lot of tile rather quickly. Do use care and wear your safety glasses when smashing tile as accidents can still happen and it is good to protect your eyes.

Mosaicing with Dishes and Pot Shards

One of the biggest challenge when using broken shards from dishes and pottery shards is that all your shards are different thicknesses. If using thinset to adhere your shards you can fix this problem easier by using a thicker layer of thinset and floating and sinking shards into the thinset depending on their thickness. Thicker shards get sunk into the thinset while thinner shard are more floated on the thinset. This will give you a smoother mosaiced surface.

Its not always necessary to have a completely level surface on your mosaics, Usually stepping stones can have a little variety in surface level but tabletops will be better with a flatter surface. It all depends on the project.

Remember if your mosaic surface has a unlevel surface pay close attention to the edges of your shards, make sure the edges that are raised are not sharp, you do not want to cut yourself walking on your stepping stones or handling your mosaiced objects.

Using Floor Tile

Floor tile is thick. This thickness is what makes floor tile so durable but thick shards are hard to work with especially when working on 3-d objects like flower pots or going around the edge of a stepping stone. I find using smaller shards and leaving wider grout lines leads to a more successful mosaic when using floor tile for mosaicing.

Stepping Stone Molds

Lots of things can be used to make stepping stones for your mosaic projects. Cake pans, pie pans, serving trays, spring form pans, etc make wonderful forms to cast stones in. Sometimes you can't find a pan or tray in the shape or size you need. Here are some stepping stone molds available from Dick Blick, I especially like these first two as I've not found any everyday item in this shape that would work for a stone mold.

Stepping Stone Mosaic Molds

Make your own garden stepping stones with unique designs. These reusable, high impact plastic molds have beveled edges and rounded corners to release stones from the molds with ease. Note - Mosaic pieces and cement are not included.

Glass on Glass Mosaics

Lately I have been doing some glass on glass(GOG for short) mosaics. I got a good deal on some glass vases and decided to give gog a go. When using glass shards on glass you need to use clear silicone instead of thinset. I use clear GE II silicone either kitchen and bath or door and window. You grout your creation as normal but using care not to get it inside your vessel(if you are mosaicing a vase). Here are some things i have learned while making GOG mosaics.

  • Make sure your silicone covers the bottom of your glass shard completely else your grout will leak under your shard ruining the translucent effect of glass on glass.
  • Frosted glass is much harder to remove the grout from. Masking each frosted shard with a bit of masking tape will keep your shard from looking dirty after grout removal.
  • Alcohol will remove silicone while the silicone is still wet.
  • Test each tube of silicon before you use it on a project. Make sure the silicone sets up properly by squeezing a bit on a newspaper and waiting a half an hour and then touch it to see if it is still gooey. If it hasn't set up take the tube back to the store and get another. Improper storing of silicone such as in a hot semi truck can make it fail.
  • Clear or translucent glass shards on a colored glass or mirrored surface gives a lovely effect.

Silicone from Amazon

GE II Silicone makes a perfect adhesive for your Glass on Glass Projects. Either of these 2 types will work for glass on glass projects. Don't forget the caulking gun.

Mosaic Art and Style: Designs for Living Environments
Mosaic Art and Style: Designs for Living Environments

Wonderful book. Lots of photos. Not a technical book but a wonderful book of contemporary mosaic art.


Mosaic Madness

After the mosaic bug has hit you, you might find the world is full of things that you can mosaic with. Here is a starter list of everyday items you can use in your mosaics, this is of course in no way the only things you can mosiac with. What can you think of?

  • Beads
  • Marbles
  • Glass Gems
  • Pennies/Coins
  • Pebbles
  • Pasta
  • Nuts, Bolts, and Screws
  • Game Pieces(Dice, Dominoes, etc.)
  • Buttons
  • Old Jewelry
  • Bottle Caps
  • Almost Anything

Unusual Mosaic Stuff on Amazon

Here are some fun items I found that would make great mosaic media. Add these to your shard mosaics to make your mosaics your own.

Mosaic Forums

Places to go to talk about mosaics, ask question, share successes, or just lurk and learn.

I welcome your feedback. Would you like something added? Know a good link or book? Did I manage to misspell something? Did you find a dead link? Let me know, afterall this Kiln Goddess isn't all knowing ;-)

Suggestions and Feedback

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    • KateHonebrink profile image


      6 years ago

      Great info in this article - love the stepping stone mosaic molds! Kudos on such a super lens!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      love the info!

    • cdevries profile image


      7 years ago

      Great Lens! I once did a successful mosaic table top using the little sample tiles architect's offices are given by tile companies.

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 

      8 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      I liked your lens. I got to see some of the links too. The birdbath was lovely. I think I would like to try this sometime.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      Here's a few links to a piece of folkart that's been made into a state park.

    • littleliz lm profile image

      littleliz lm 

      12 years ago

      Great lense! I'm all inspired now. Hmm I wonder if we really need all those cups and plates in the cupboard ^__^


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