Upcycle Final Report: Mosaic


The goal for this upcycle project is to create an artifact that follows an aesthetic, and construct it mostly out of recycled material. For my project, I decided to create a mosaic art piece out of broken glass, grout, and an old, 2′ x 2′ board. The piece follows an abstract vision of a mosaic aesthetic as it is made primarily out of glass molded together.

Background/ Inspiration

My inspiration for this project all started when I was cleaning my house one afternoon and mistakenly dropped my favorite plate onto the floor, shattering it into a bunch of pieces. Immediately, I thought I should use this for my upcycle project, and that is when I started looking into mosaic art. Not only does the history fascinate me, but I find the significance of mosaic pieces in a different cultures is so beautiful.

Mosaic art originated from Mesopotamia, and is compiled bits and pieces of colored glass, stone, clay, and other materials. The very first mosaic tile was found in Iran around 1500 BCE, but spread into Macedonia, Carthage, and Rome. The Greeks used stones and pebbles to make decorations, but transformed the art into intricate designs. However, the most glorified history of mosaics is with the Roman provinces in Africa and Syria. After the fall of the Roman Empire, mosaics transformed into intricate wall decorations for religious purposes. The Islamic world also developed geometric and mathematical based mosaics, embellishing beautiful palaces and religious buildings (ex. Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem). This was after the Muslim conquest of eastern provinces of Byzantine Europe. This art form especially flourished in Islamic culture and became the main form of wall decoration.


Mosaics have become a popular form of art in modern culture. People use anything from old, broken bottles to tiles to mirrors and compile these pieces into really amazing forms of art (benches, statues, paintings, buildings, etc.) I wanted to use the freedom of this art form to create an abstract mosaic out of old pieces of glassware.


The supplies for this sculpture were very simple and easy for me to find, but ended up being much harder to work with then I anticipated. I asked several of my friends if they had any old, colorful plates, vases, or any glassware they could get rid of, and I ended up with a very good amount of glass. I then went to home depot for the base of my project, as well as the grout I would use to mold the project together. I found this 2′ x 2′ board in the trashcan, and then headed inside and bought grout. I had the rest of the supplies lying around my house.

  1. Glassware
  2. Gorilla Glue
  3. A board // platform
  4. Grout
  5. Microfiber rag


My initial vision for this project was to create a smooth, level mosaic with a multitude of small pieces that all come together to create an image that could be slightly made out, but not clear (abstract). I wanted the image to start in the top left corner of the board and lead down to the bottom. I imagined a bright, yellow sun, with rays that bleed the colors of the sunset, leading into a whirlwind of darker yellows and whites that resemble wind, and flow down into the bottom of the page which is a flowing ocean. My vision changed a lot throughout the project which was very interesting, and although I would love to have continued with the small, glass pieces, I am satisfied with the different outcome of my project.

Design and Fabrication Processes

The design and fabrication processes of my mosaic were closely intertwined, and my design process changed often throughout the fabrication of the piece.


I began by sketching very simple ideas of what I would imagine the sunset, wind, and ocean to be like for this picture. Once I settled on the overall picture I wanted to accomplish, I drew a layout onto my board. When I realized I wanted to use bigger pieces of glass, opposed to smaller ones, I ended up erasing some of the design and making the image less detailed. My design continued to change throughout the whole process as some glass pieces looked better in other places, but once I was satisfied with the design I glued down the pieces to the board and only made a few changes after that. Once the glued glassware was set, I started distributing the grout and spreading it through the cracks. Because of how fragile the glass pieces are, a few of them broke and I had to replace them and change the design.

My ideal design process is typically a go with the flow type of process, working through ideas as I do them and then coming back to the work later and making further adjustments. However, for this project I didn’t have much room for error once the glass was glued and the grout was spread. This encouraged me to think of the design before hand and I actually found a lot of value in sketching out my ideas and planning the process before had.


I began by gathering together all of my glass materials, putting them into color coordinated sections, and breaking them with a hammer. Once I had my glass broken, I got my 2’x2′ board and began laying down all of my small glass pieces. This is ultimately when my vision for the project quickly shifted. I realized that it was not realistic for me to be able to piece together such small pieces of glass and still be able to lay enough grout to fill the gaps, but not so much that you can’t see the glass. I then changed my vision to using larger broken pieces of glass to create my design, and allowing there to be more space for the grout to fill in the board.

Once all of my pieces were laid onto my board, I glued them all down and let them sit for about 2 hours so they were secure. I then began distributing the grout in between all of the glass pieces. I got into a process of distributing little bits of the grout, smoothing it down around the glass, and repeating this many times.

This was when I ran into my biggest problem of not being able to smooth the grout around the glass because of their unique shapes and sizes. At first, this made me extremely frustrated because I kept breaking glass pieces and would have to find new pieces to replace them, and it was not at all what I originally intended to make. However, after placing all of the pieces down and smoothing the grout as best I could, I cleared off all of the glass tile pieces and was able to clean most of them completely. I let the final piece dry for about two days before I cleaned off the final pieces and touched up the sides.

Functional Goals

I achieved my functional goals for this project. I wanted to create an abstract mosaic art piece with broken glassware I collected from my friends.

Artistic Goals

My final product was not how I has originally pictured it to be, and at first I was pretty disappointed. I had imagined more of an image to be captured, and for the picture of the sun and ocean to be more defined. However, I do like the aesthetic that this project did end up accomplishing! I think the different shapes of the glass makes it a unique take on mosaic art, and while it’s not smooth and perfect, the rough grout adds texture to the image that I originally couldn’t have accomplished. Considering neither art nor the engineering field are NOT my strong suits, I am very pleased with this piece and glad I put in the time to make it!

What Next?

This piece itself is finished, mostly because the dried grout would be very difficult to work around. However, I would love to try a mosaic piece again and find materials that are similar in size to create the piece. I would also use glass cutters to make the perfect shapes to show an image.

Live Presentation

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9 Comments. Leave new

  • Hailee, the finished project looks wonderful. The use of different colors the way you did in order to mimic nature was very powerful. the whole thing blends together really well. You might think that each color might be super distinctive compared to the rest, but honestly they blend together perfectly. I think that shows the power of this type of art. You can really do anything. Right when you came in the room i noticed your project, not only becuase it was big, but becuase it truly looked like a piece of artwork. The difficulties with the shapes of the broken pieces actually make the piece more 3D and genuinely look better than if you had all flat pieces with the same shape. If you could change one thing about the process or could force something to be a certain way, what would it be.

  • This reminds me of my time working with my jewelry. I love the texture and overall use of the grout. The colors are very pretty and work well with the grout. I think if you wanted it to be less abstract, you could have made your “canvas” smaller. This will help bring your pieces in together, giving your objects more definition because there is less grout. This might help with having to buy so much grout, but there may be unexpected problems working with a smaller canvas.

  • Hailee, nice work! Even though it ended up being different than you originally intended I think it turned out really well! I like that you used a plate that meant something to you to start and whatever old dishware you could from there to finish it out. I also think it’s really cool that you were able to create a scene with the sunset/beach to push the design past purely abstract. Really cool work and nice job pushing yourself to learn something you haven’t done much before!

  • This is a great take on mosaic art. Especially regarding upcycling. Your presentation was very well laid out and gave plenty of detail on how you developed and created your project. The amount of time you invested into the project is also outstanding, and it shows in how well your piece turned out. It is very artistic and innovative. The quality, especially regarding an upcycling project, is astonishing. I think you did an excellent job all around and the only thing I would have to say in order to improve for future projects that would be similar to this would be to create a mosaic piece using full ceramic plates. Just an idea. Other than that this was a fabulous project!

  • I like how the project has a very earthy, recycled feel, almost similar to the beautiful stone sidewalk patterns found i gardens. This project depicts the outdoors, and I feel that the materials used (a reused plate), the almost stained-glass aesthetic of the entire process, and the general “pottery” feel really helps bring those all together.
    I’m curious why you made the project so big, and if the grout gaps were made wide enough to offset the splash of color versus the grey of the grout.

  • Awesome piece of art. You should definitely hang on to it and hang it somewhere I think it looks amazing. I really enjoy the different sized and shapes and curves of the different pieces of pottery. As well as the “rough” grout. I think a little bit more tile would look good, but I really really love the way it came out. Nice work!

  • If you hadn’t mentioned you didn’t take art, I never would’ve guessed. I had a similar experience when going through my project, and having the materials not work the way you wanted. The rough grout actually adds to the abstract art aesthetic and gives it a realistic feel. Good job, I really like it.

  • I really like the free form feel of it and how open it is. It doesn’t feel overdone and the organization of the colors is really nice!

  • The idea of recycling your own used plates was really good. I think you’ve come up with an amazing aritfact. The idea of the sun, sunset and the ocean is pretty cool. You’ve nailed it. Great job done.


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