A few months ago I wrote about how I was struggling as many were with quarantine brain and the only antidote was activities that put me in a state of flow. Even though life has returned a bit to normal and I am going out a little more, including to a few stores and a few restaurants, I’m still finding that activities hands-on activities are enjoyable. One new one recently has been making mosaics.
I was inspired after visiting Grandview, in nearby Hollandale, Wisconsin, in May. Grandview is the homestead of an Austrian settler, Nick Engelbert, who after I suppose being homebound himself after spraining his ankle in the 1930s, created a concrete statue.
In the next 20 years he created more than 40 more statues of animals, gnomes, and other oddities, decorated with bits of shell, glass, and other mosaic pieces. The whole house standing on the family farm is covered in concrete and pieces of glass and shell and other beautiful oddities, as are newer buildings, where a new foundation has carried on his work.
My First Work
After visiting Grandview I bought a kit from Michael’s to make a stepping stone, since I had only ever done this type of art before at a studio in Door County, where I made a frame, but I only arranged the stones and the employees did the harder work of grouting the piece for me.
The stepping stone was fun to make, but only whet my appetite for another project since I only had so many choices with the pieces that were included. The kit included a mold to make the stepping stone in, glass pieces and the powdered cement, which I mixed with water. To make it, I poured the cement in and arranged the pieces on top, pushing them in far enough so they would stay adhered to the mortar.
My Very Own Piece
The stepping stone was fun, but I was ready for more. I have always liked the look of mosaic tile tables, and the table I have on my balcony has seen better days, so I decided I would take this on as my next project. The table I had would be perfect, except it doesn’t have an edge so I started looking for something else I could use.I started making mosaics after visiting Grandview during lockdown. Nick Engelbert started making mosaics there after being home-bound for breaking his ankle 100 years ago. Click To Tweet
During the lockdown, our local Goodwill started offering items for sale online and then for curbside pickup. Since I was missing in-person thrifting, I looked there and found the perfect item to make my mosaic on. It is a two-tier shelf, a little smaller than I wanted, but had a lip on the outside of each shelf, which would make the project easier. It also was about the right hight for a drink while sitting in a chair outside.
Now I only had to find the materials to make the mosaic. I looked again online for mosaic tile and even broken dishes. I found lots of different options on Etsy and online craft stores, but some were more than I wanted to pay. By now the thrift stores started to open, so I looked there for old dishes to buy and break, but didn’t find any that I loved.
I ended up with glass round clear gems from the Dollar Tree along with some I found at St. Vincent de Paul. I ordered outdoor powdered grout from United Art & Education.
Luckily, just then, my issue of Better Homes & Gardens arrived in the mail and there was an article on easy mosaic projects. That article recommended using adhesive fiberglass mesh which is a bit sticky when laying out the tile.
In the end, I’m glad I used it because it kept my glass in place, but it wasn’t as easy to find as the article suggested. At one hardware store, no one had heard of it. I finally did find it online after much searching at Amazon, but it was called Sticky Mosaic Mesh.
Laying out the Tiles
I laid out the tiles a few times before I ended up with my final design. I cut out a paper bag in the size of the final mosaic to practice on. Once I decided on the first layer, I cut the mosaic mesh into a circle the size of the table and set it into the tray. I put the glass pieces on the mesh and then repeated it with the other layer.
Finally it was time to grout the tiles. This was a little nerve-wracking because I wasn’t sure how quickly the grout would dry. You basically cover all the baubles up and then let it dry a little bit before removing the grout from the top of the marbles so you can see their color. Then repeat with the next layer.
In the end, I really like how it turned out. The grout is pretty level and I was able to remove a lot of the grout so you can see the pretty colors beneath. I am proud with what I ended up with. Next step is to seal it, even though I think it looks too nice to put outside now.