DIY Garden Accents: Easy Elegant Flowers from Old Glass PlatesBy Jill M. Nicolaus (critterologist)
September 20, 2013
I came across this idea last year, thanks to a thread posted by HollyAnnS. I put it on my "someday" list and forgot about it until "Camp Aunt Jill" this summer, when my niece and I stopped at the local Goodwill. We started looking for glassware, pretty plates, candleholders, anything we thought might stack together well to create a flower sculpture. We acquired a good "stash" of different items we liked, and we liked the prices too.
The flowers are created by stacking smaller glasses, bowls, and saucers on top of larger items. The biggest plates go at the bottom of the stack, forming the back and outer "petals" of the flower. A luncheon plate or salad bowl often works well as a middle layer. Sometimes a single item is the perfect center, but we liked making elaborate nested combinations of small bowls, saucers, candle holders, shot glasses, egg cups, etc. We moved these centers around, trying them in various combinations with the larger plates.
I think we played with our glass pieces for a couple of hours before ending up with half a dozen flower stacks that we really loved. The next week, my daughter and I found a lot of additional glassware at another thrift store and assembled a dozen more for gifts. Finding the "perfect" combinations is faster when you have a bigger stash to work with, but collecting glassware to turn into flowers is a fascination that could quickly get out of hand! (You've been warned.)
With some glass stacks, we liked matching patterns or repeating elements - like pairing a plain thick glass plate with a heavy shot-glass. With other flowers, the "Aha!" moment didn't happen until we tried a dynamic mis-match of styles. Although we mostly used clear glass items, my niece also found a few pretty china pieces to use as accents. She also created an elegant flower from three simple white china pieces. Deemed "too pretty to go outside," it'll hang on her bedroom wall.
Consider adding color to your flower sculptures. Color multiple components to accent the depth and dimensionality of your flower. Apply paint to the bottom or back side of clear glass pieces, and you won't lose any of the sparkle and shine. I love Porcelaine™ paint, because it's "fired" in a home oven. Most colors are translucent on glass, and Porcelaine also makes paint pens that are easier for kids (and adults) to use. Painting before gluing is best, but an assembled piece can still be painted and "fired." If you want to use acrylic paint instead, let it dry completely before sealing with several coats of clear polyurethane.
Mix, match, arrange, rearrange -- take your time creating your stacks. You never know what unexpected combination will catch your eye. That's the fun of making one-of-a-kind items. When you exclaim, "Oh! That's gorgeous!!" it's time to glue a stack together and make your flower.
Hands down, the best adhesive for this job is E-6000™. It dries clear and slightly flexible. It's also weatherproof, so your sculptures can stay outside year-round if you'd like. Craft and hobby stores should carry it, or you can order it online. Spread a layer of adhesive on the bottom of the next piece you're adding, or run a generous line of it around the bottom rim. For extra strength, put the glued piece down, then carefully pull it up again so both glass surfaces have adhesive on them. Wait 2 minutes, then put them together for good.
Once your flower is glued together, there's no undoing it. After the 72 hours needed for a full cure, you might be able to cut through the bond with a sharp knife, but don't count on it. Nail polish remover (acetone) does work to clean up any goobers before it sets up. Working carefully and cleanly will save you the frustration of trying to scrape off bits of excess adhesive with a razor blade.
How do you turn a pile of plates into a more or less vertical flower sculpture? You'll need a very strong "stem." A length of rebar works well, and you can just pound it into the ground. Leave it as-is to weather to a rusty finish, or give it a couple of coats of an outdoor paint meant for metal. I chose dark green Rustoleum*TM in a spray can and painted several metal stems at the same time, rolling the rebar over between coats for good coverage all around.Now you need a way to join the glass sculpture to the stem. Simply gluing the rebar to the back of the largest base plate might work, but that bond has to support a lot of weight, and one line of adhesive might not do the trick. I've heard of gluing the back to the flat side of an old hockey puck, drilled from one edge nearly to the other to accommodate a stake.
I like my friend Holly's solution best: gluing a flat-sided bottle to the back of her flower. The neck of the bottle slides right over the end of the rebar, no need for glue. Pop them back off their stems for storage, or change things up by moving flowers from one in-ground stake to another.
Flat-sided salt and pepper shakers are a great match for smaller flowers. Condiment bottles, bud vases, decanters with lost toppers... using a variety of items adds interest to the backs of your flowers, also. If necessary, set a sculpture aside for a while until the right finishing touch comes along.
I hope you'll give this fun project a try. The hardest part is deciding which flowers to give away and which to "plant" in your own garden. Hunt up some glassware, pick up some adhesive, and start stacking!
Thanks to my friend Holly (HollyAnnS) for sharing this idea with the Mid-Atlantic Forum. Special thanks also to my niece, Jaqueline R. Nicolaus, whose creative "eye" made this project such fun!
Photos by Jill M Nicolaus. For more information "mouse over" images and links. (Let the cursor hover on top of the photo or linked text for a few seconds, and a popup window will appear).