One of my favorite principles of garden design is whimsy. It is one of the best methods for really personalizing your garden. Art is great for bringing this element into a setting, but we don't always have the budget for making such a purchase.
An inexpensive and fun alternative is mosaics. You can transform an ordinary garden ornament into a work of art in just one weekend. I asked art instructor Angela Cummings to give me a simple project that would be good for aspiring mosaic artists and she suggested this birdbath. Click here to read the transcript from my meeting with Angela.
An ideal place to do this project is outside on a porch, patio or in an open garage. To protect surfaces place an old shower curtain, heavy mil plastic or a plastic tablecloth under the work area. When you are done clean up is a snap as you can just fold up the disposable drop cloth and throw it away.
- concrete birdbath
- colorful tiles or old plates, glass beads, etc
- cement mortar
- cement based grout with latex additive
- spackle knife
- paper towels
- grout sealer
- two kitchen towels
- safety goggles
- rubber gloves
- tray, box or other container for holding broken shards
- water and bucket
- soft cloths (old tee-shirts are perfect)
optional aging of the birdbath:
- disposable container or small paint bucket
- grungy brown-green paint
First, create your "tiles." Put on your safety goggles. Place an old plate or tile between two terry cloth towels on a hard, level surface. Pound the plate under the top towel with a hammer until you have a nice range of sizes. This turns out to be a great way to release stress!
Repeat this step until you have enough tiles to work with.
Now you can create a pattern. Angela suggests laying your pattern out on a white background so you can see it better and bear in mind the dimensions of the birdbath bowl. I drew a circle template that was roughly the same size.
Starting in the center, begin to organize your ceramic pieces into a design.
Once you are satisfied with the design spread the cement mortar on the interior surface of the birdbath bowl.
Now begin to press the ceramic pieces into the mortar following your design.
With all the pieces in place, allow the mosaic to dry for about 1 hour. When you return to the project the pieces should be fairly firm.
Next you will grout the tiles using a cement-based grout with latex additive. The latex will allow the mosaic to expand and contract with the weather. It is important to wear gloves when you are working with the cement-based grout because it contains lime, which will rough up your hands.
Using your trowel, scoop out the grout and smear it over the composition working it down into the spaces between the shards.
Once the grout is in place wipe off the excess using a damp sponge. Make one pass over the grout and then flip the sponge to the clean side and make another pass. Rinse the sponges and wipe off the area again.
If you see any spots that don't have grout, grab a little and poke it in there.
Now when you've gotten just about all of the excess grout off, get a clean, soft cloth and polish the tile. This removes any film that the grout might leave behind. You may find that folding a paper towel into a triangle and using the tips helps get the grout off of the smallest pieces.
Allow the composition to dry for up to 24 hours. Once trying is complete seal the grout with a grout sealer by following package instructions.
After the group sealer is dry you are ready to place your birdbath mosaic in the garden and fill the basin with water.