MosaicSmith Blog

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mosaic Journey - Learning How to Mosaic a Pot

Spring time brings with it my desire for gardening and this cold, cold winter (yes, even here in Florida!) had me dreaming of mosaicing garden pots.

I did my first pots last December (as gifts) and this was a bit of new territory for me. I did what I usually do and turned to books and the Internet for some how-to. And wow, lots of variations to be found on prepping the terracotta pot: 1.weldbond/water on outside penetrating sealer on inside 2. weldbond/water on outside yacht varnish on inside 3. house paint inside and out 4. weldbond/water inside and out...

I decided to go with variation #2 and to use thin set mortar to attach the ceramic pieces to the pot.

I painted the inside of my terracotta pot with spar varnish. This would seal the interior and prevent water from penetrating and soaking through to the mosaic which would compromise the mosaic's thin set mortar bond to the pot.

The outside of the pot I painted with a mixture of five parts water/one part weldbond glue. This soaked into the terracotta. I chose this method of sealing because it would reduce the water absorption from the thin set mortar. Unsealed terracotta is so porous that it will absorb water from thin set quickly, which weakens the thin set. I also suspect that the weldbond softens a bit from the thin set moisture and then bonds with the thin set resulting in a stronger bond of the mosaic to the pot.

Why thin set mortar? Another common choice would be weldbond. But, I know from experience (glass on glass project) that if moisture gets down to the weldbond- and we are talking about an outdoor pot here! -that the weldbond will go soft and white again. Additionally the weldbond is best for attaching flat surface to flat surface. A silicone type glue would work but I feel the thin set attaches more firmly to porous surfaces. Thin set also excels at bonding irregular tesserae (mugs!) to curved surfaces.

So many choices on what to use to create the mosaic design with. I decided to go with broken plates. (In my location I do not need to worry about freeze/thaw but if you do, look for hardier choices or bring your garden pot inside for the winter.) So I checked my local thrift stores for goodies and also etsy.

These lovely mugs came from ceramic artist Judy B Freeman.

Many ceramic artists on etsy will occasionally offer for sale a box of broken rejects specifically for mosaic use.

To the left you can see that I used thin set under the top brim to even out the surface. And you can see more of Judy's awesome butterflies.

After attaching the design with thin set, I grouted the mosaic as usual (use caution with the ceramic edges- SHARP!) and applied a sealer after the grout cured for three days.

And below are three views of another pot also made with Judy's butterfly mugs as a design inspiration.

I create original design silver jewelry too!!   or


cconz said...

Very cool pots! I've done a few some years ago. This makes me want to do it again.Thanks

Linda Pieroth Smith said...

Thank you, glad to inspire you! I've been enjoying these so much I've been thinking of making a few more too. Love the color it brings to the garden.

Julen said...

I never thought of yacht varnish for the inside; I weldbonded it all and used thinset, but varnish makes so much sense.

The ones I did this winter were all using vitreous tile and glass pebbles; your ceramic ones look awesome.

Linda Pieroth Smith said...

Thanks Julia! Vitreous tile and glass pebbles sound great too - and much more cold hardy!

Sashkale said...

I really like the results!
I did a couple of pots for cactus, they do not need much water, so no need to think about the humidity.
Over 2 years had no problems with mosaics.

Cynthia Monica said...

You've inspired me Linda, to do a pot! I love is so cheery and cute...Cynthia

Linda Pieroth Smith said...

Thanks so much Sashkale- your pots are great. Love the orange grout. Love jasher too. Very fun mix of pieces you used to make him.

Oh, I'm glad to inspire you Cynthia. I am sure you will come up with a cool pot.

Tony Destroni said...

hi good day . nice post you have . id learned a lot. this is one of the best way of gardening even you dont have much space you can still do planting . thanks for sharing this . i hope you have a post about wind spinner other garden and home accessories , im interested on this i hope you can help me . thank you!

Linda Pieroth Smith said...

Thank you Tony, and no I've not done any spinners. Interesting idea though.
I've done poured concrete stepping stones and house numbers for adding color to the garden- click 'poured concrete' in the cloud label for those posts.

Sinead said...

Hi I hope you might be able to help. I made a mosaic with a school and we grouted it in white. This has taken the sparkle that we had from the tiles and although they are polished they don't seem to catch the light any more! Is it possible to tone down the grout if this is the problem? Many thanks Sinead

Linda Pieroth Smith said...

Hi Sinead,

If you have a picture, it would be easier to give accurate advice. Can you e-mail one to me at


Celina said...

Hi Linda,

Thank you so much for this wonderful information. I do mosaics as well, but I've always stayed away from outdoor pieces (I'm concerned about the elements). I think I'll tackle this project. Quick question though, I noticed you wrote that after grouting, you used a sealer. Which brand did you use? I never use a sealer since my mosaics are indoor only. Can you please elaborate a bit on this?


Linda Pieroth Smith said...

Hi Celina,
The purpose of the sealer is to help keep the grout clean and stain free. I have had good luck with TileLab brand 'Surfacegard' Penetrating Sealer. I have been able to find this at Home Depot. If that specific one is not available near you, do see if you can find reviews for products that are available as there seem to be some out there that can leave an undesirable residue. The product I mentioned soaks into the grout and wipes right off the tile itself as long as you do so while the sealer is still wet. Good luck and happy mosaicing!