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.
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.
- Gorilla Glue
- A board // platform
- 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.
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.
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!
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.