Tropical Glass Ocean Landscape Upcycle

The aesthetic I chose to incorporate into my upcycle project is the tropical aesthetic. I chose this because the topical aesthetics is one of my favorites. I think the tropical aesthetic captures a fun lifestyle that is missing during quarantine. Along with this I think the tropical aesthetic is one that can be well captured within the context of upcycle. For my upcycle project the material that I am using is glass. The reason that I chose glass is that I think it fits well into the tropical aesthetic. Specifically I think that it brings out the look of glass you could find on the beach and tropical drink glasses. I think that beach glass has a strong tie to the tropical aesthetic and will help to bring the vacation and fun feeling into my project. 

Another way I am trying to use the tropical aesthetic in my project is the use of colors. I have found that the tropical aesthetic tends to often have very strong greens and blues. I am using glass with these colors to tie together the visuals of my project with the visuals of the tropical aesthetic. I am especially hoping that my blues and greens help capture the look of the ocean since I think that the ocean is a huge part of the tropical aesthetic. Along with this I am trying to capture the overall look of an ocean landscape, specifically an ocean wave and beach. 

The first step in the process was to select the glass I was going to use. I chose to use a selection of old bottles that I collected that I had in three different colors. These colors were green, blue, and brown. I plan to use these three colors to create an ocean landscape scene. 

The next step in the process was to remove the label from all of the glass bottles. This step proved to be more difficult than I had originally anticipated. At first I tried using a technique that I found on the internet that suggested using an olive oil and baking powder mixture to rub on the labels that would cause them to come off. When trying this technique I found it to be ineffective in removing the labels from my glass bottles. After this I tried a new technique that had me place the bottles in a pot of boiling water and add some dish soap. 

This technique proved to be far more effective than the previous technique though it was also time consuming. One interesting thing I noticed during this was that each of the bottles, green, blue, and brown took different times for the labels to start coming off. The brown bottles were the easiest and the labels started to come off after around ten minutes. The green bottles were the middle and took about 30 minutes. For the blue bottles even after almost an hour in the boiling water the labels were still hard to remove. This leads me to believe that each of the bottles labels utilize different adhesives. Ultimately I was able to remove all of the labels off the bottles.

The next step in the process was to break the glass bottles. The way that I achieved this was by placing the bottles in a canvas bag and hitting them with a hammer. Although this was effective, one challenge that I encountered was that it was difficult to get glass pieces of a consistent size and I ended up getting a lot of pieces that were too small to use in my final product.

After this I tried to select the pieces of glass that I wanted to use in my project. After picking each piece I gave it a quick sanding with some 60 grit sandpaper. The reason I did this is because it both made the glass and final sculpture safer to handle, but as well it gave the glass a bit more of a worn look which fit well into the beach glass look.

After selecting all of my pieces of glass I tried to lay out the design that I wanted to create on a table. I did this in order to help me visualize the final result. As well this helped me verify that I had selected enough pieces of glass and to get a rough feeling for the overall size of my sculpture.

Upon completing this I continued to the final step which was gluing together all of the individual pieces. At this point I ran into a problem that I had not considered when designing my project. Due to all of the glass pieces being taken from bottles they all had significant curvature. This curvature made gluing the pieces together incredibly difficult since none of the pieces would fit flush against each other. In order to try to glue the pieces together I was using gorilla glue. The original bottle of glue I used did not turn out to be enough and I had to go get a second bottle. Ultimately I was able to get the sculpture to stick together by using an extreme excess amount of glue, but it was still not as sturdy as I hoped it would be. Looking back it may have been better to try to glue each piece to a solid back such as a piece of wood rather than trying to make a freestanding sculpture. 

One final touch that I added before I took the final photo of my project is that I hung some spare lights that I had on the back of the sculpture. This created a nice lighting effect through the glass. At the end of all the processes my final result was a large glass wave created using green and blue glass against a beach foreground created using brown glass. The sculpture is a mix of 2D and 3D with the glass curvature creating a wave like pattern.

I think that I was able to achieve both my functional and aesthetic goals for the project. I was originally worried about the wave being recognizable, but I think that it ended up looking good. One thing that I do think functionally could have been improved is the look of the beach, but it was difficult to shape due to the gluing issues mentioned above. In terms of aesthetics I think the combination of the glass, colors, and ocean landscape do a great job of capturing the tropical aesthetic. For the future I plan on giving the sculpture to one of my friends as a gift.

Video of Presentation:

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi Andrew,
    I was captivated by your tropical aesthetic project, especially since I grew up on the coast of Venezuela in South America picking up pieces of beach glass for fun. I really like how you selected the colors for the bottles, the final design looks like a big wave heading for the beach. I wanted to ask, why did you decide to sand down the glass with sandpaper instead of the other common methods for making beach glass? For my project, I thought about using beach glass as one of the components and got a tumbler with coarse grit to simulate the effect of waves and sand on broken glass. On that note, I parted ways with that process since as you mentioned, it was hard to get similar sized pieces of broken glass. If I may add a suggestion on things to add, I would recommend expanding the design further and adding features like palm trees. I would also like to see how this design would have turned out with tumbled glass. As a closing thought, the lights make this product a good decorative component for a home, more so if you have a place by the beach! Great job!

    • Andrew Thorson
      March 2, 2021 12:03 pm

      I think that the idea of using a tumbler is good and if I had access to one that would be a good change. In terms of the palm trees I also think that would be a good addition. I was planning on adding them but I ran out of glass to use.

  • Hunter Meissner
    February 28, 2021 11:24 am

    I was very intrigued by your featured image before reading your post. I had no idea that you used old bottles to create your artifact. Upon reading your post it was very impressive how you utilized broken glass to come up with your wave sculpture. The lights used with the different colors of glass also reflected the tropical aesthetic you were going for. While reading your post I was questioning how hard it was to get consistent sized pieces for your artifact since you were in fact breaking glass, but I think that you effectively got past that obstacle and came up with something great.

    • Andrew Thorson
      March 2, 2021 12:08 pm

      Getting the glass a constant size was definitely a challenge. One idea that was suggested to me was to try to score the glass to get more constant sizes.


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