I am a firm believer in up-cycling items that would otherwise be thrown away, and making something beautiful and functional from them. I’ve made quilts, bags, and wallets from old jeans, corduroys, and khakis; I still crochet all styles of bags from so-called ‘plarn’ - otherwise known as plastic bag yarn. I turn old windows and picture frames into mosaic art, and small jars into mosaic night lights, and the list goes on. In a nutshell, I love to make things, and I hate to waste things. My self-made rules of recycling and up-cycling require that I use what I already have and don’t spend money I can’t afford on more supplies to complete a given project. I get my plastic bags from other people or save them myself, I get the old jeans and pants from friends, relatives, or dirt cheap on sale day at a local thrift store. I got my ceramic tiles for this project through the For Free listing on Craigslist.
I found a contractor on Craigslist last year who was giving away hundreds of used and new tiles - brought home after his various remodel projects and stacked on the ground behind his shed on a corner of his property. With the help of my son I selected all the small sizes between 4x4 and 6x6 that he had, and that we could fit in the car. We spent several days washing them and baking them in the oven to dry, and finding places to store the bulk of them. And the whole time my mind was wondering what the billy heck could I do with hundreds of ceramic tiles.. something, for sure, but what?
Although I do my research - thank you YouTube - I also like to try things for myself. Digging through my artist supplies I needed to figure out what media would work on glazed ceramic tiles. I thought about making small drawings, especially on the Italian slate, but first I needed backgrounds. I’d been playing with watercolor special effects for a series of drawings and liked the free flow of abstract color so I knew I wanted something like that for my tile backgrounds. I tried acrylic paints - they peeled right off; enamel paints - they stink, were obnoxious to work with, the effects were not subtle, and the paint also eventually wore off; sharpies and alcohol - this came right off; and finally, Copic markers and alcohol …and voila’ - success.
“Adding drops of 91% alcohol allowed me to swirl and blend the background colors and get the effects I wanted.”
The Copic markers were leftover from a small class I’d taken, so yay, still using what I already had.
Adding drops of 91% alcohol allowed me to swirl and blend the background colors and get the effects I wanted. I could speed up the evaporation process if I wanted to, with a hair dryer. I used black fine point Copic markers to draw my images and then let the tiles dry fully (very important). After testing several sealants I settled on a triple strength Krylon spray for the Italian slate tiles with mushroom drawings — not food safe and not to be used as coasters.
Mushrooms, because I love them…
So yeah, these don’t have color…
As I’ve mentioned in my last blog article, the majority of my ceramic tiles sat for a half a year as I ruminated on a coaster sealant, until I started using resin for mosaic project. Now that resin is the solution I have been completing coaster set after coaster set. Just taking the time to play with design and color has been so revitalizing. I’ve become extravagant with color and am shaking off the rigidity and perfectionism developed over months of working in pointillism. I’m thoroughly enjoying ‘playing’ with color. I am also very messy so the process requires gloves. I literally just scribble with markers on a tile, drop on the alcohol, blow it around with a hair dryer, let it set and fully dry for 24 hrs, spray with the krylon to protect the design, let set up an additional 24 hrs, lightly sand and clean then apply the resin. I’ve used a pocket knife and hand sander to remove resin drips, but my dremel sander works best for clean-up. Final step is adding either felt feet or little rubber feet and the coaster is finished!