The Art and Practice of Mosaic Recycling
Our beautiful planet
Made by Jane Perkins made from household wate
“And she shows you where to look among the garbage and the flowers…” sang Leonard Cohen in the song Suzanne, a plea for another way of looking at cast-off objects, people, ideas and oneself. That perspective has hit home during the Covid era, when some of us were forced to re-examine our routines, values, thinking and culture. This generated a gush of new work by mosaic artists and craftspeople.
"I grabbed old dishes, cups, sugar bowls, beads and baubles and gave them a new life by breaking these found materials into interesting shapes," artist Ellen Hark said of the mosaics she recently displayed at the exhibition Objet Trouvé, An Exhibit of Found Objects in New Jersey. [see link below] "Each face platter I created had a different theme that let my imagination run wild."
My teacup runneth over
By Ellen Hark
Ellen’s pieces were entitled "Doing Dishes" because, she says, she needed to do art "with some levity and whimsy" to boost her spirits during the stressful corona era. And this was precisely one of the goals of curator Carol Black-Lemon, vice-chair of the West Orange Arts Council, who organized the exhibition.
Some items were less lighthearted. Modern Fossils, for instance, was a body of work created out of detritus that artists David Horowitz and Judith Marchand had found during river clean-ups in their area. “Our artwork embodies mankind's struggle to maintain a balanced relationship with nature,” they say. “Our pieces also portray the environmental message proclaiming the necessity of keeping our waterways clean & healthy.” [see link below]
Techno Turtle – Modern Fossils
A longstanding tradition
Recycling has always been at the heart of mosaic making. In the modern arts world, it fits into a tradition sometimes called ‘junk art’, which has been practiced by eminent figures like Pablo Picasso and Damien Hearst.
‘It was born out of rebellion and a desire to demonstrate that art could be made out of anything,’ says art historian, Silka P [see link] ‘It is the celebration of different materials and the freedom to proclaim that art is born out of a context rather than the rules tradition has put on us that junk art and its authors celebrate.’
Zac Freedman calls it ‘Assemblage Artwork’. According to his website, Freedman ‘repurposes found objects to capture cultural bits of history in his contemporary artworks’. You can, for instance, buy a wonderful portrait of Jimi Hendrix from him. [see link]
Some artists focus on making sculptures from just one medium or item. Sayaka Kajita, for instance, uses reclaimed plastic material to build wonderful sculptures. Look closely at these horses and you’ll see they’re entirely made of plastic spoons.
Jane Perkins, on the other hand, has made a series of waste-based copies of classic paintings.
For more mind-blowing samples of recycled mosaics and information on this topic, click the links below or google the phrase ‘famous junk art’.
Want to make recycled mosaics yourself?
Patty Wongpakdee’s book Art Without Waste: 500 Upcycled & Earth-Friendly Designs, available on Amazon, might be a place to start. Or check out some of the great DIY videos in the links below.
Materials you could use
- old china plates and cups, old household tiles, scrap glass, broken mirrors
- seashells, pebbles, beach stones
- beads, buttons, marbles, dice, coins, bottle caps
- teeth, bone, jewelry, metal, glass and ceramic pieces and figurines
- typewriter keys,old watches, small metal tools, nuts and bolts
- chandelier pieces
Keep in mind that many found objects, such as bones and seashells, are porous. This means they can be stained by grout and damaged by freezing temperatures if water soaks into them. You need to seal such objects thoroughly with a tile and grout sealer.
- Tile stores, flooring outlets and home improvement centers: ask the managers for broken and discontinued tiles.
- Look around the dumpsters at home improvement centers or tile shops for damaged discards.
- Neighborhood construction dumpsters and home renovations.
- Search your garage and those of your friends and family.
- Thrift stores and garage sales.
- Craigslist-check the free listings.
- Discarded stained glass pieces from glass artists.
- Recycled Glass Tiles
Recycled Glass Tiles at The Craft Kit
Americans alone throw away enough glass bottles every two weeks to fill a 1,350 ft skyscraper. The current craze for recycled glass tiles in architectural circles is thus a small step for mankind – literally. What was considered trash not so long ago, is now being used to "beautify" bathroom and shower walls and floors, kitchen backsplashes, and even swimming pools. Users say bathroom floors tiled with recycled glass is a treat for the feet.
Our Ottoman Collection
At the Craft Kit, we are stocking increasing quantities of tiles made in Turkey: our new Ottoman sintered glass collection. These are created by heating colored glass powder and pouring it into molds. This produces a through-color effect. The tiles have a luscious smoothness, greater translucency and a more hand-crafted appearance than other glass tiles. They have been described elsewhere as subtle ‘eye candy’, each piece looking like jewellery.
The Ottoman tiles are made from 98% to 100% recycled materials. Some contain non-recycled coloring material, but many are made with natural mineral oxides. They are stamped individually and annealed through a linear kiln and are exceptionally strong and durable, with excellent colourfastness in extreme weather exposure (UVA- and frost-resistant). Some have a trendy matte, non-slip finish with straight edges for minimal grout space. They cut easily and accurately with wheeled nippers, with minimal crumbling or waste.
The iridized line has a mother of pearl finish with slightly rounded edges for texture. The smooth, even surface reflects and refracts light to produce vivid colour and life, and the range of shades and tones make it an excellent choice for all levels of mosaic. Each tile is 12mm² and 4mm thick.
Our latest and most innovative products yet are petals made from moulded, sintered, recycled glass in a mix of 2 sizes - the same as our bestselling ceramic petals. Both are slightly convex due to the pooling of glass and are approximately 5mm high. We have a lovely range of colors.
Check out these links
Or you can always get in touch with us as the craft kit. we love giving advice, seein