Learn how to make broken china mosaics using old plates with flowers and patterns. This step-by-step craft tutorial shows how to create pots for succulents.
Hello Kenarry readers! We are Jennifer and Kitty from Running With Sisters, and we are super excited to share one of our favorite crafts – making mosaics with broken china!
We love to mosaic. It really feels like we’ve made something when we’re through. And our favorite thing to mosaic with is broken china. For us, it combines crafting and flea market shopping! Dream date!
Where to Buy Broken China for Mosaics
The best place to look is the flea market!
The last time we went to the flea market we stocked up on old china plates. We looked for pretty plates with flowers and patterns around the outside edge and on the bottom. Teacups and plates are cute, but they can be too curved to make nice flat tiles. While we were shopping, we also found some inexpensive knick-knacks topped with little roses. They look like birthday cake flowers made out of china. We thought they’d be cute embedded in our mosaic!
If you’ve never done it before, china mosaic might seem daunting. How do you cut plates? What kind of grout do you use? Well, once you see how it’s done, it’s not that hard. And the finished mosaics are amazing! So here’s how we did it. (And remember if you have any questions while you’re working on your pots, just ask us in the comment form. We’re here to help!)
How To Make China Mosaic Pots
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- 3 terra cotta pots, 4″ diameter
- Spray paint, white
- 5-7 china plates
- China knick-knacks with 3 roses
- 1 lb. sanded grout, white
- 8 oz. mosaic grout sealer
- Permanent craft adhesive glue (choose a viscous and fast-drying glue)
Tools & Materials for Breaking China and Chiseling Roses
- Tile nippers or wheel cutters (these are made and sold for mosaic crafting)*
- Large resealable zipper storage bags
- Protective leather gloves
- Safety glasses
- Bubble wrap
*We have both tools and use the nippers to get big cuts and the wheel cutters for more precise cutting.
- Latex or nitrile gloves
- Disposable mixing container
- Wooden stir stick
- Putty knife
- Paper towels
- Face mask (optional)
- Cup for water
- Pail for rinsing sponge
Here’s What To Do
1. Break The China
To do this, wear your leather gloves and glasses and place a plate inside a zipper bag. (This will catch and contain any sharp little chards.) Use the nippers or wheel cutters inside the bag. Grip the edge of the plate with the nipper blades perpendicular to the edge of the plate. The nippers only need to nip ¼” to ½” into the plate. Squeeze the nippers onto the china. They will create a crack and break the china into two pieces.
Here’s a little video we made to show how to cut a china plate with both tile cutters and wheel nippers. (We were making a different project, but the cutting technique is the same.)
Repeat the cutting process to cut the larger pieces into smaller tiles. We aimed for tiles around ½” square (although none ended up square, of course!). We ended up using about 90-100 cut tiles per pot. So we cut a lot!
2. Chisel The Roses
To chisel the roses off your knick-knacks, make a bed of bubble wrap and cover it with a rag. Wear your safety gloves and glasses. Nestle the knick-knack into the towel. Set the chisel edge under the rose. Strike the end of the chisel with the hammer. It may take more than one blow. (We broke the petals of one of our roses, but we just glued them back on when we put it on the mosaic. No one will know!)
3. Arrange and Glue The China Pieces
Paint the pots (including the inside lip) and let them dry. This next part is like doing a puzzle, so we like to start by laying out all our tiles on the table face up.
Start by gluing a rose to the front of a pot. Next select tiles to tuck under the rose and attach them with a dab of glue on the back of each tile. Leave about 1/8″ between each tile for the grout. Choose straight edge tiles for the bottom and top of the mosaic. Fill in the spaces by scanning your table full of tiles for just the right shape. If you can’t find it, use your tile cutters to create the perfect tile (just be sure to put your safety gloves and glasses back on!). Repeat to mosaic the other two pots.
4. Mix The Grout
Wear a mask if desired and don your latex-type gloves. Mix half the grout package according to the directions on the label. (Ours took one part water to seven parts grout, so we used a little more than one ounce of water for half the 16-ounce bag.) Add less water than you need at first. Stir and add more water if the mixture is too dry. Mix until the grout is the consistency of natural peanut butter. The grout stays workable for about 15 minutes, so be ready to grout the mosaic before you mix the grout.
5. Spread The Grout
Spread the grout onto the surface of the mosaic pot right over the china pieces. Use a damp sponge or putty knife to spread the grout around all the china pieces and roses. (Confession. We also use our gloved fingers to spread the grout. But we are super careful since there are a lot of sharp edges on broken china tiles!) Make sure the top edge and bottom edge of the mosaic are grouted.
As you are finishing, go over the pot with a damp sponge lightly cleaning the grout off the tiles without removing the grout from between the tiles. Clean the lip of the pot with a damp sponge to remove any grout before it sets up. Repeat to grout each pot, mixing up more grout as needed. Let dry for 30 minutes.
6. Buff The Tiles
After 30 minutes, use a paper towel or damp sponge to wipe the grout haze off the china pieces. Be careful not to remove the grout from between the tiles. Wait another 30 minutes and buff the haze again. Repeat if necessary.
7. Seal The Mosaic
Let the grout dry for 24 hours, then seal the surface of the tiles and grout with grout sealer and a paintbrush. Let dry. (Sealant makes the mosaic water resistant, but not waterproof.) Now plant a trio of succulents and sit back and enjoy your little garden!
How do you smooth the edges of the broken china?
Since we published this article, we kept getting asked about smoothing out the edges of the broken china. Yes, you really do have to be careful when you use broken china – it is sharp! But you don’t have to smooth them out before you put them on the flower pots.
Just make sure you are using enough grout. The grout covers the sharp edges and creates a smooth feeling around the pot.
We hope you have fun doing your mosaics. And we’d love to hear from you! Let us know how your pots turned out! And if you’ve done mosaic projects before, we’d love to hear about that, too! What did you mosaic? Please share with us below!
Jennifer & Kitty
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Jennifer and Kitty O’Neil are sisters and authors of several books including Steampunk Chic: Vintage Flair From Recycled Finds. Their crafting, decorating, and flea market articles have appeared in Woman’s World, Craft Ideas, and Create and Decorate magazines and on the web sites of Better Homes and Gardens, Family Circle, and HGTV. Their detailed craft videos can be found on Curious.com and YouTube. The O’Neil Sisters share their enthusiasm and their fresh approach to crafting and decorating on their blog, RunningWithSisters.com.