Progress Pictures: Broken Ties

64 Arts, Projects

Now that I’ve told the story of what inspired the change from trivet to mixed media art, I thought it’d be a good idea to share some in-progress pictures for those that are interested in processes.

prepping the canvas board

Prepping the Canvas Board

First I went a little Jackson Pollock-esque on a spare piece of canvas board–always helps to have extra art supplies around. Don’t agree and hate the extras that come in packs? Email me for my address–I’ll take ’em off your hands.

Actually, even better would be to donate them to your local school system, Ronald McDonald House, nearest Children’s Hospital or Boys and Girls Clubs.

Messing it all Around

Smearing the paint splatter

Next I took a large paintbrush and spread all the splatters around. Since I didn’t need a particular look for the background–most of it ended up covered, anyway–it didn’t need to really look like anything. I added a few more drops of the red, which mostly disappeared, and swirled it with a skewer (leftover from mixing the plaster to make the heart-shaped base.

Mapping out item Placement

Mapping Out Ephemera Placement

While the canvas dried (took overnight since some of the paint was more piled on than others) I worked on the placement of some key items for the mosaic. Some things, like the earring I bought with her while on Sr Trip and the half of the friendship charm from middle school, were directly related to she and I and others were items that I found while digging out the other bits from my old jewelry box or found around the craft room.

These things I wanted in a specific spot so arranged them and then drew a rough outline in pencil to know where not to put the stones and beads and stuff. The glue that gets brushed over the entire surface is clear so you can still see your road map.

Before the Grout

Before the Grout

Again, I’m still astonished at how the grout really pulls all the disparate items together. I mean, yeah, this looks like a total hodge-podge in a what-was-I-thinking sort of way, but it gets better. Never give up, never question, just dive on in.

Great Grey Gobs of Gritty Grout

Great Grey Gobs of Gritty Grout

This is a mid-grout picture. Gorgeous, huh? This was not what I meant when I said it gets better.

Some things were too delicate to glue directly to the plaster, so after I put on the grout and worked it into all the nooks and crannies and leveled certain parts of it I then added the smaller elements to the wet grout. The idea was that they would stick in and save me extra gluing. This mostly worked, some things needed a bit of help.

All Cleaned Up and Nowhere to Go

All Cleaned Up and Nowhere to Go

After 10 minutes I could start removing the extra grout and excavating beads and glass and all. It really did feel like an archaeological dig–hey, great idea for summer projects (outside projects) for bored kids–carefully washing away the extra grout and grit. I managed to uncover almost everything that was supposed to show.

Important lesson: it helps to have things all the same depth. Not only does this lend to a smooth surface, it makes it easier to wipe away excess grout instead of having to dig for it. Tiny stuff can get glued on.

Broken Ties by "Scraps"

the Finished Piece: Broken Ties

After the grout dried I sorta stopped with the picture taking. Basically I was so caught up in the collage part of things that I was just zooming through and not thinking about the blog. But here’s what I did to finish up:

  • pulled out some pictures of her and I, tore one of the two of us at my wedding in half
  • flipped through a nearby Glamour for words and images that worked for the theme or that reminded me of us way back when
  • collaged the painted background with PVA glue (neutral pH adhesive, aka book glue) and a foam brush, diluted the remaining glue and brushed over the whole thing
  • sprinkled on some seed beads to see what would stick
  • adhered the mosaic pieces to the background with a 2-part epoxy–incredibly strong hold, incredibly strong smell; a well ventilated area is key
  • surrounded the mosaic with pearl beads attached with hot glue, added extras to corners and added a few more bits of ephemera
  • took the whole thing outside and sprayed with pink spray paint to make it all blend a little more
  • added captions and notes with silver permanent marker

I still have yet to clean off my work table 😉

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So, do you like seeing things like this–process pictures and descriptions–for a project like this or do you just want to see the finished product?

the Finished Trivet

The Finished Trivet

64 Arts

It’s always fun to finish a project, right? Well, this is no exception.

I’ll be honest: I’m great at starting things. I’d even go so far as to say I’m great at coming up with ideas and plans and researching hows and whys and all. But finishing things? Sometimes it’s tough going not to get distracted by the next fun idea. It’s like projectile-ADD… or something like that. Something that sounds less gross?

And when I decided to go in a different direction with the heart trivet and turn it into a mixed media piece? Yeah, it was almost too easy to set the normal trivet aside and get absorbed in the offshoot.

But I had a little talk with myself. It went something like, “hey, wait, before you take off those gloves and let the grout dry, it looks like you’ve got enough to do the square one, too, and that way you only have to deal with the mess once, right? Doncha think we might?”

Apparently my creative side can be swayed by reason and logic. On occasion. But let’s not make a habit of it.

At any rate, I did get it finished.

Trivet In Progress


the Finished Trivet


What a difference some grout makes, huh? I was really shocked how much the grout toned-down the brightness of the tiles. It probably has something to do with the light not being able to bounce around them as much (what will all but one side of each blocked in).

In the future I need to work on my edges: they sort of taper in some areas and that’s not always a desired feature. Still, it was a fun learning experience, a little messy and ultimately turned into a finished, functional item.

And that’s even better than perfect.

Little Tile Steps

64 Arts

So my base finished drying out overnight and I could start on the fun bits.

Trivet In Progress

Trivet in Progress

First thing was to brush the entire surface with the adhesive and then let it get a little tacky (which didn’t take much time) before adding a bit of glue to each tile and arranging them on the plaster base.

I went with a pretty basic pattern and then just filled in the edges because I didn’t exactly center the design. But perfection isn’t what I’m going for, here, it’s an experiment.

The heart shape, well, that’s a project for another post, we’re going to stick with the square for now.

Next is the grout. It’s a good thing I bought an extra packet because I mixed the powder with the recommended amount of water and it was way too thin. So, learn from my mistake: mix a little at a time (the package describes it as oatmeal consistency).

Then you have to glop it all over everything. Gloves are suggested and I don’t think it’s because it’s harmful to your skin (though your manicure might suffer) but more because you can’t just wash this stuff off in the sink. Gloves make it easy to clean-up quickly.

After you mush the grout into all the spaces you let it set for about 10 minutes and then take a damp sponge and wipe away the extra from the tops of the tiles or whatever. Here’s some things the package didn’t tell me that I learned by trial and error:

  1. Use an almost dry sponge (seriously, squeeze almost all the water out) and use a disposable foil pan for your water. If you want to do more than one project you can reuse it or you can ditch it without clogging drains, etc.
  2. Work from one end to the other to avoid smearing damp grout onto the area you’ve already cleared.
  3. Rinse the sponge after every pass.
  4. You can mold edges and at this stage by using a little more water to shape the not-quite-hardened grout.
  5. Leaving some grout on the edges or in crevices within the tiles gives a neat beachy look.
  6. Worried that your tiles are too many, too bright, too whatever? Don’t: the grout tones down the look of the piece.

More pictures this weekend of the finished trivet.

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Looking for something a little more advanced? A while back I wrote an article on Beaded Card Embroidery with a funky art-deco example. It’s a lot like a mosaic but without the grout and other messy stuff. Check it out and give it a try!

the 9th Art: Mosaics

64 Arts

To decorate the floor with small chips of emerald or other stones.

Why don’t we leave the emeralds out of it for a while, okay?

Any picture created from bits of glass, beads, tiles or broken stuff held together by some sticky medium can be called, at least in my opinion, a mosaic. Granted, the original mosaics, at least those that first come to my mind, were made of very small tiles and incredibly intricate.

Being a Latin nerd for 4 years means I’m a little familiar with the tiled floors of Roman ruins and, the summer after my Freshman year I made a valiant (if somewhat pitiful) attempt at my own version of the traditional Cave Canem (beware of dog) entrance mosaic. At least I think it said Cave Canem but I distinctly remember putting the evil eye (as a ward against it) in the center. Probably because it was easier.

Come to think of it, this could be why I didn’t even place in mosaics that year (it was for Nation Latin Convention–yes, I was that much of a nerd). But I got 1st in my division for jewelry, so it’s all good.

It might also have been my workmanship. You know, today I’d consider it pretty diy of me to take basic 1″ bathroom tiles and paint them the colors I needed rather than spending a fortune on special tiles and tools. And since we’re not competing or being judged, I think I still will.

Because this is no-holds-barred anything goes mosaic we’re talking about now, in the real world, not trying to be like the old guys in sheets.

If you want to play along with me, here’s what you’ll need to make your own mosaics:

A Base

Could be wood, metal, glass or something you’ve molded yourself out of plaster. Cardboard might be a little too weak to support tiles, glass or heavy beads but for small pieces with tiny elements, you can always try. Go for something sturdy, though: no sense in wasting effort only to have your foundation let you down.

Pieces of Stuff

Very technical term, yes? But this could be anything, which is why it’s a little vague. Yes, tiles are traditional, as are glass beads like you find in the floral aisles for putting in vases or on tables. Also consider pieces of broken china and pottery, sea glass, buttons, beads, bits of metal or molding and just about anything else you can think to use. Seriously, branch out and try some new stuff.


I put this third because it depends heavily on what you chose for your base and your stuff. In the specified area of your local craft store you’ll probably find something called mosaic adhesive. Sure, this will work great sticking tiles onto plaster or glass, but it might not work if you’re using a more eclectic mix of bits in your piece. Your adhesive could be anything from standard Tacky Glue or something stronger like E6000. If you’re really not sure what to use, head over to, pick your materials and use their suggestions when you get to the adhesives aisle.


A little less subjective, grout can be found in the craft store in small packages or at the hardware store in bulk. You might find it powdered or pre-mixed and you can find it in different colors or buy tints specifically for it. White is nice and all-purpose, black a little edgy but great for decor and, of course, colors for creativity.

Miscellaneous Supplies

Newspaper or drop clothes to protect your work surface, a container and dowel or other stirrer for mixing grout, a trowel or spatula for spreading the grout, gloves to protect your hands from chemicals or sticky stuff, and a sponge to wipe away the extra grout at the end.

Of course, you can also find all of these things in a handy kit, too, depending on the sort of project you want to start with.

So, gather your supplies and let’s make something fun this week, okay?