Glass-on-Glass Mosaics, the basics

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If you want to make your own glass-on-glass mosaic window….. I’m not surprised! People have been making mosaics for thousands of years! It’s kind of addictive – that wonderful idea of taking broken or discarded objects and creating with them to form a new treasured object. The scope is unlimited! To me, having a stack of discarded glass inspires in a way that a blank canvas never could. Somehow I feel that the glass already knows what it wants to be and I just have to help it along. But that’s me and I guess I’m kind of quirky.

The first thing of course is collecting the glass pieces for your design. Thrift stores and yard sales are great, as well as letting your friends know to save their broken or chipped glass pieces. I started with a broken wine glass from my kitchen. My daughter had a glass kiln for her beads and I wondered what would happen if my wineglass pieces went in and got melted. The desire to create expanded from there in a big way.

Many of the elements of my mosaics are made from kiln flattened “kitchen” glass – that’s one way I get the interesting textures and it’s how I am able to use recycled glass including objects like vases, goblets etc. which, if left unmelted, would be too “round” to stick to the flat base glass. I also make molds of plaster to give texture – slump the glass over a plaster seashell or heart and you have some beautiful embossing when the kiln is opened.

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If you don’t have a glass kiln, it’s usually possible to rent kiln time at places that do fusing classes. They will most likely have lots of information to help you along the way. The most important thing you need to know about kiln formed glass is that unknown pieces of glass are not likely to be compatible with each other. You can’t layer them or fuse them together in the kiln in case they expand at different rates. That will lead to cracking!

Some of the other elements in my pieces are stained glass “cast offs” that I have collected over the years from yard sales, or scraps that have been given to me by stained glass artists who have leftovers from projects requiring larger pieces. My collection takes up a lot of space in my home but it’s great because I have lots of colours at hand.

Of course you can go to a glass store and buy the colours you want in new sheets, but it can get very expensive.

Also, the edges of the non-melted stained glass bits shouldn’t be sharp so you need to grind or tumble them. A tumbler isn’t too expensive and would be available at a rock-collecting store. You could get a small one for about $70 and do your pieces in several batches.

Hopefully you have a well-ventilated space for the assembly of the pieces as the two component epoxy has strong fumes. So does marine silicone which is another choice for this type of work – (the silicon flows less but is freeze resistant and works outdoors) The epoxy I usually use is called Envirotec Lite and is available at Michaels and some specialty stores. I have found the marine silicone at some hardware stores but not all stores carry it. Make sure your base glass is clean so the glue can adhere effectively. Dish soap and water and then rubbing alcohol leave a residue-free surface.

If you’re wanting to learn more about working in glass in general, there are lots of online resources. Warmglass.com is good. In general, I use their kiln schedule for making bottle platters when I am melting my glass pieces. I do a longer anneal than they suggest and a very gradual coldown because different glass requires different schedules and it’s a bit of a guessing game – by slowing it down I’m optimizing the chance that everything comes out properly annealed.

Old windows make lovely starting points for mosaics. But you can get creative with old picture frames or make mosaics on plain glass (as long as you smooth out the edges, install the glass in your own window or cover it with zinc).

The mosaics are heavy – so another important thing to keep in mind is the safety of where and how you will hang your piece.

Enjoy the process – your design will be your own and, unlike a drawing or painting, you can’t erase or work over a section that you aren’t quite in love with. Once the glue sets – You Are Done! If you use epoxy, you don’t have a lot of time till it sets up. Have all your pieces ready – a general layout with lots of extra pieces in the important colors because things won’t always fit the way you think they will. I rarely cut any pieces during the final layout because I have to sand them (diamond sanding blocks in water – you don’t want glass dust around) and dry them and there really isn’t time. Silicone gives you more time, but I actually prefer the method that forces me to work quickly. That way I don’t get caught in some sort of attempt at perfection 🙂 I just go for it!

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This is my project called “Memento” installed in 2013 in Richmond BC. It was commissioned by the City of Richmond to be part of their “art in unusual places” initiative and it is located at (how appropriate is this?) their recycling centre.

Hope you can visit my Etsy Store where recycled glass and felt incorporating recycled fibre (as well as vintage items that need a new home) are available. I collect, I make stuff and I share!

p.s. if you’ve tried to contact me at ewellburn@pinc.com – please note: it’s an old email address that no longer works. My new one is the same up to the “@” — then it’s “shaw.ca”

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