Craft: Piece it together

By Anna Subritzky

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Mosaic by numbers; Anna Subritzky works wonders with broken china

Applying grout to the mosaic. Photo / Supplied
Applying grout to the mosaic. Photo / Supplied

As proof of my eagerness to try mosaic, I have diligently collected every piece of broken crockery for 10 years. Never having bought a matching set of dinner plates I've instead pieced together a crockery set with an assortment of other peoples cast-offs.
Somewhere along the line I morphed into a 'collector' and developed a penchant for Crown Lynn. Armed with my precious collection of Kiwiana, I reasoned that seeing it had survived this far, surely it would endure the antics of modern family life.

Sadly, this was the case. Despite the 'bash test' story of Crown Lynn salesmen demonstrating their wares' durability by smashing them against the opposition's offerings, many of my iconic plates became cannon fodder for spatially challenged minors.

Sentimental fool that I am, I secreted the fragments away for the day when I would mosaic a garden seat or even a garden path (just keeping it achievable).

Read the word 'fool' again because it seems that mosaics are not for the faint-hearted; they are hard work, but satisfying. Concluding that the garden seat might be too ambitious, I settled on a number for my letterbox instead.

Here's how I did it.

Step 1 - Start small and simple. You will need a base to glue the pieces onto. Choose something non-flexible and non-porous. I used marine ply. Any untreated wooden base should be sealed with an undercoat and kept inside. Cut the base to size using a jigsaw. There are various mosaic methods. I chose the 'direct' method which means that you simply stick everything onto the base. Smash up your tesserae (this is the name given to the stuff you stick onto the base: crockery, tiles, glass, pebbles etc.). There are more professional ways to approach this but I made do with a hammer and an old towel. Place the china face down on a section of old towel and cover. Using the broad side of the hammer smash away, checking regularly on the size of the pieces. A range of sizes will allow you to find a piece for every gap (eventually!).

Step 2 - Arrange your tesserae onto your base using a skewer to help position them. Spend some time considering colour and small pieces versus bigger pieces. Don't be in a hurry, patience is key. Have a stock of pieces to rifle through so you get just the right size, shape and colour. Factor in a small gap between the pieces (up to 5mm) and take care when lining up edges. Getting a good line will achieve a more cohesive and tidy result. When you're done with the dummy run, and you've found a piece for every gap, go back and glue the pieces down one by one. You will need a construction adhesive such as Liquidnails. Woodworking glues or hot glue guns are apparently not suitable.

Step 3 - When the glue has dried, mix up grout following the manufacturer's directions. Apply grout with care, making sure you get into all the gaps and around the edges where the pieces meet the base. I scraped the grout into the gaps with a piece of old Jandal. Wipe away excess grout with a rag and spend some time tidying up the tesserae. Allow to dry.


• Old ceramics, mirror, glass etc
• Non-flexible & non porous base material
• Construction adhesive
• Tile grout
• Jigsaw
• Hammer
• Old towel and rags
• Safety equipment

- Herald on Sunday

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