Mosaic Clay Pot Bird Bath

November 2, 2011

My Maia is a big time kindergartener this year!  The school's biggest fundraiser each year is the auction in November.  There is a silent auction Friday night and a live auction Saturday night.  If you have never been to this type of event, you are missing out (although your bank account thanks you!).  Last year we ended up walking away the proud owners of an enormous, fantastic play set which included professional installation, a kitchen cart FILLED with kitchen goodies, a trip to the zoo, trips to several local museums, a night out at a comedy club, a birthday party at a private pool and several food certificates.  It was so much fun bidding on things!
Loved it!

Some of the big money makers at the auction each year are the class projects.  Each grade creates a unique, handmade item to sell at the auction.  Since I am the "craft-master" (Maia's words, not mine - I swear), I volunteered to work with the first graders on their project this year.  We created a mosaic clay pot bird bath.  It turned out awesome!  The process had a few "hiccups" but now that I am in the know it really is not a complicated project.  I had intended to take detailed pictures of each step so that I could share it with ya'll but alas I got caught up and ended up with just some pictures.

Here is how it's done:

Step 1.

You will need two or three paint colors of your choosing.  I used black, aqua and gold.  

Paint two 8" clay pots, two 12" clay saucers and one 16" clay saucer with one coat of each color.

I started with black, a layer of aqua and a layer of gold, I skipped the aqua step on the saucers.  As far as coverage goes, the idea was to be able to see some of each color after all coats are complete.

Make sure to use acrylic paint that is waterproof since this will eventually be outside.

Step 2.

After all of the paint is dry (I gave it 24 hours) start glueing your pieces together.  I used Glass, Metal & More Premium Permanent Glue that I purchased at Michaels, E-6000 would also work.  The glue is very strong and equally strong smelling.  This step should be done in a well ventilated area, preferably outside if you can.  I did all of mine outside and it still burned my nose each time I caught a whiff.  This step should also only be done by an adult!  Read the warnings!

Apply glue around the edge of the bottom of one of the 8" pots.  Attach the bottom of the second pot.

Apply glue around the top rim of one of the 12" saucers.  Center and attach the bottom of the 16" saucer.

Let these pieces dry for 24 hours.

Apply glue around the top rim of one of the 8" pots which should now be securely attached together.  Center and attach the bottom of the unused 12" saucer.

Let these pieces dry for 24 hours.

Apply glue around the top rim of the other 8" pot.  Center and attach the bottom of the 12" saucer which has already been attached to the 16" saucer.

Let these pieces dry for 24 hours.

**I had a hard time wording this section in a clear, concise way.  Check out the finished pictures at the bottom and that will help.**

Step 3. (I did this step while Step 2 was in the works)

For the students' involvement in the project I purchased 2" x 2" white tiles from Home Depot and had the students each draw a bird on a tile using Sharpie oil based paint markers (you can use any paint markers you like, just make sure they are waterproof).  I am all about finding the best deal, so I bought the markers from and saved like $6 and shipping was free and fast.  The markers were super easy to use with no mess; important things to consider when working with 6 year olds.  It took about 2 1/2 hours over the course of 3 days to get all 26 munchkins' tiles done.  After the artwork is complete it takes about 24 hours to be completely set.

**This step will be different in every project and can be skipped if you are not including any hand-painted artwork in your design.**

Step 4. (This step can be done earlier, whenever you find the time)

Smash some dishes!  I chose plates in a few different colors from Goodwill (all about the deals!).  To break the plates I laid a towel out on my cement walkway (to keep the plates from sliding), laid the plates out on the towel and covered them with another towel (to keep the glass from impaling my precious face).  Then I just started wacking the plates with a hammer until I had an assortment of sizes and shapes to my liking.

Step 5.

Design time!  I laid out 19 of the kids' painted tiles around the inner rim of the bird bath and put the remaining 7 in the inner part of the saucer.  I played around with the plate pieces in the open space until I had a design that I liked.  I glued all of the pieces with the same permanent glue in Step 2.  It sets relatively quickly, but you want to keep an eye on the pieces because some of them will slide a bit, especially if you use too much glue.  This stuff is super strong, so you really only need a little drop for these small pieces.

Let the glue dry for 24 hours.

Step 6.

Grouting!  This was the step I wished I had more guidance on.  I had never worked with grout before.

All of the crevices in my project were greater than 1/8" so I used sanded grout.  Non-sanded grout is nice because you can get it pre-mixed, but it is best used for spaces smaller than 1/8" because it can pull away from the edges.

The sanded grout was not difficult to mix, I just added water in small amounts until the consistency was similar to peanut butter.  You want the grout to stick to the tool you are mixing it with (I used a craft stick).  If it drips off - add more grout.  If it looks too grainy - add more water.  Just keep thinking peanut butter.

If the glass pieces in your design are not all exactly the same level you won't be able to use a floater like the grout container's instructions will tell you to; just use a gloved hand.  Be sure to wear a glove, because grout is not good for your skin and it isn't easy to wash off.

Plop a hefty glob of grout right in the middle of your saucer.  Spread it by pulling the grout with your hand, not pushing.  It works into the spaces more easily this way for whatever reason.  Watch out for any sharp edges on your pieces!  I cut myself while I was working on mine.  You have about 15 minutes of working time which is plenty of time for this project (unless you run into a couple disasters...).

Disaster #1 - As I sat on my porch, grouting away, I realized one of the pictures didn't look right.  Part of it was gone!  Then I noticed another ... and another!  AHHHH!  I went into immediate panic mode!  I was still working on the flat center of the saucer so the paint on the 7 tiles that I had in the center was coming off!  Then I had my "duh" moment - sanded grout is SAND and sand is scratchy - OF COURSE IT WILL TAKE OFF THE PAINT!  My brain went blank.  I didn't have time to have the kids draw new pictures because the project had to be turned in in two days.  Thankfully, the original craft master, my mother, happened to be over and helped me regain my composure.  She gently dabbed the grout off of the affected tiles to save what was left.  Luckily I had noticed the problem before the artwork had been removed entirely.

Disaster #2 - It also became clear at this point that I didn't have enough grout to go up the shallow sides of the saucer; fantastic!  I could only find black sanded grout at Michaels and I had already bought the last one.  I went to a few hardware stores and Joann's, but had no luck finding black sanded grout.  I went back to Michael's because I knew they had black non-sanded grout.  The problem with that, of course, was that my crevices were larger than 1/8" but I didn't have the time to keep searching so I went with it.  I didn't think this grout would scratch the paint, but I could not take the risk.  I filled a pastry bag with the grout and started piping away.  The pastry bag worked great!  I wasn't sure what would happen as it dried since I wasn't using the recommended type of grout, but it ended up just fine!  Because the spaces I had to fill on the sides were pretty wide it took some time to get the grout to set.  I stuck a little space heater in my garage with the bird bath to help things along and within hours it was good to go.  Wipe any excess grout off of your design.  I liked the look of the sanded grout better than the non-sanded, but it still looked great.

I touched up the kids' artwork and we were right back on track.  Learn from my mistakes!

Make sure you have plenty of grout!  You can buy large boxes of white sanded grout at hardware stores and the cost is less that way too, but I wasn't able to find a hardware store with black grout, so it didn't work for me.

Keep the grout off of any hand-painted pieces!  If you are using hand-painted tiles as part of your mosaic design, I suggest using a pastry bag to pipe the grout into the spaces around the tiles.  You can then gently spread it with your finger to flatten it.  If you don't paint too close to the edges of the tiles you will be fine.  The other thing you could do would be to not paint your tiles until the grouting is complete. 

Step 7.

I decided at the last minute to add some pretty gems to the rim of the bird bath and the base.  I decided on the design and glued the pieces with the same smelly glue I used throughout the project.

And then there was a gorgeous bird bath!


Mama loves you said...

I just love your site Jen. I read it to Fred too. He also thinks you are "Amazing" just like your mother... heheh... I love you honey... What's next?? xoxooxxo

Holly said...

I followed your directions for the mosaic and tiles using an already built bird bath for a Tk/k class project. I was quite happy with the end result, especially as I am not an "artsy" person. The completed project was put up for auction at the school's annual fundraiser and fetched $3,000 during a live bid. Thank you!!!

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