Mosaic furniture can be made from glass mosaic tile more easily and more affordably than it can be made from pieces cut from antique china and other patterned dinnerware. It’s also much more colorful! The choices available range from bright rainbow colors to soft pastels to different color families, earth tones, black and white.
You can even render portraits and landscapes on things like headboards because you have a complete rendering tool.
When you use glass tile instead of whatever you could scrounge up from months of yard sales and thrift shops, you start with a lot of horsepower on your side.
Janie Wright’s recently completed Mosaic Chair is a good example of what is possible when glass is used instead of china. I want call attention to Janie’s seamless color transition from red to yellow up the back of the chair and the quality of the execution of the piece as a whole.
Janie’s Chair Mosaic is definitely worth sharing based on its craft work and skill, but it also came at just the right time to illustrate what I have been thinking about.
Here is why I would like to see more people try glass as an alternative when considering pique assiette furniture as a project:
Problems With Pique Assiette?
Pique assiette mosaic is made from cut pieces of patterned dinnerware, and it is usually mounted on furniture where every exterior surface is encrusted in mosaic.
I am a big fan of found-object mosaic and of sculptural mosaic, and so you would expect me to like pique assiette furniture much more than I do, but I don’t.
Most pique assiette furniture made from traditional patterned china is too white for my tastes because those classic patterns contain a lot of white. It doesn’t matter that the lines of the patterns are an intense blue or green or brown if the spaces between are white.
No matter how many great patterned antique dishes you consume in making something like that, the overall color impact is going to be white, unless you stick to Blue Willow or something like that and discard most of the dish.
And that is the big problem, the waste, and there is a lot of it required to do pique assiette work with what you can find thrifting.
Even if you try to use every piece of the dish that has some color on it no matter how badly cut or off-centered, there will be waste. Even if you use a wet saw (powered tile saw) to saw up the plates and minimize bad cuts, there will be waste. Here’s why:
- Most patterns contain areas of blank space that can’t be used.
- The circular base on the bottom of plates interferes with cuts and produces pieces that can’t lie flat.
- Most tea cups and many saucers are eggshell thin and too curved to lie flat.
I can’t justify cutting up so many antique plates only have to throw most of it away and still produce something that is much whiter than what I would prefer.
But all that being said, I still see some pique assiette furniture that I really like.
Furniture Becomes Sculpture
No matter what material is used to make mosaic furniture, the furniture becomes more sculpture than furniture once it is mosaiced for several reasons:
- It’s heavier to lift, and the added weight makes the joints of the wooden pieces flex more when the furniture is moved, shortening the life of the piece if it’s moved often.
- There are safety concerns: the edges of tiles exposed at the corners of the furniture can cut shins and bare feet or any exposed skin if someone were to stumble into it.
That means you need to think about how you use mosaic furniture and where you display it.
For example, I might use a mosaic chair as a stand for a potted plant in a corner or bay window and not as a chair people were moving around and sitting in because I think in terms of children and careless people and random accidents.
There are ways to minimize exposure to sharp edges:
- Always use a diamond file to smooth cut edges on tiles
- Nest tiles at the edge of a surface to minimize the number of cut glass edges exposed.
- You can use a wood file to found and flatten 90 degree corners of wooden furniture.
- Use a small grout gap and grout flush to the surface of the tile.
- Use thinset mortar for grouting so that the “grout” is stronger and less likely to erode over time.
And so there is at least one person more crazy about art than I am. Janie mosaiced underneath the seat of her chair! I love it.