Thursday, March 15, 2012

Broken China Mosaic Chair Project

Broken China Mosaic Chair Project 

Hi friends! Here is something different for today: I was one of eight local Lehigh Valley artists who was given a chair to transform into a piece of artwork. The finished art chairs will be auctioned off to benefit the Allentown Freak Out Fringe Festival, which is a annual festival of avant-garde entertainment. (This year's festival will be held in downtown Allentown, Pennsylvania on June 22 & 23, 2012)

I did my chair in the style of a folk art memory jug, using all vintage and antique shards of broken china plates, cups, saucers, etc.
Many of the shards I used in this piece are well over one hundred years old. A few of them were hand picked from the shores of the Themes River, remnants washed ashore from the Staffordshire pottery factories that once operated along the riverbanks there.

Detail of back rest

 Detail of seat

My completed art chair

The theme of my chair is "Half Life"
Half life is a scientific term that means the period of time it takes for the amount of a substance undergoing decay to decrease by half. 

Because I used all salvaged and recycled elements in my chair, I had hoped that I could also send a small environmental message and maybe raise a little bit of awareness about how long it takes some materials in landfills to break down...hopefully helping people who are unaware, realize how important it is to recycle. Take a look at these decomposition rates...

Landfill decomposition rates:

Milk carton: 5 years

Plastic milk jug: 500 years

Aluminum can: 80 to 200 years

Plastic drinking bottles: hundreds of years

 Plastic bags: hundreds of years

Cigarette butt: up to five years & leaches toxins into the ground

Newspaper: 2 to 4 weeks or longer

Glass bottles: tens of thousands of years

Styrofoam: no sign of ever breaking down

Here are a few photos of my finished chair and the mosaic process! 

"Before" photo
The chair had a metal frame with black enamel paint and a curved plywood seat

To begin, I sanded the entire chair, wiped it down and then painted it... I knew from the start that I was going to use an earth colored grout for the mosaic, so I decided to paint the chair to match the grout - a warm shade of nutmeg brown. 

I let the paint dry for 24 hours and then it was time to get down to business!

The mosaic process: 
I used a strong silicone based adhesive to adhere the china shards to the chair. I chose this adhesive because of the material of the chair (wood and metal.)

Because I was using china shards of various shapes, sizes and thicknesses, and because I wanted my finished piece to have a handcrafted, vintage feel, I chose not to create any rigid pattern for my design, but instead approached the creation of the design in sort of a folk-art way; using what I had to fit together piece by piece, allowing the design to form as it was created.

Above photo: allowing the adhesive to dry before grouting

Once I finished adhering all of the china to the chair, I set the chair aside for a few days to allow the adhesive to dry and cure. Next it was time to grout. I used sanded grout in the color nutmeg brown.

I liked that this shade of grout had an earthy, natural feel, and it also creates great contrast to the colors of the china, from the blues to the whites, it really makes the colors "pop".  

Detail of some of the china shards used...I included some interesting manufacturers marks, or "backstamps" into the mosaic. These are the maker's marks that are found on the reverse sides of plates.

Detail of some of the china shards used

 This particular shard on the seat came from an advertising plate from 1909. 
It reads, "Compliments of Peter Schuit, The Cash Grocer"

Want to create a project like this?

Here are some recommended materials:

I used E600 adhesive and Polyblend sanded grout (the color I used was Nutmeg) for this project. The crafts sticks aren't an essential but really do come in handy for helping spread your adhesive and grout!

I hope you have a great week 
Love, Laura

My broken china jewelry is always available for purchase