Monday, 1 August 2016

Make a mosaic crockery tray from found treasure



Most days I amble along the dusty old track into the local forest to take the dog for a walk.  Often we've noticed glistening pieces of glass and old broken china.  On one or two occasions we've even managed to dig out complete bottles with the help of a few sticks.  Nothing exotic, an old Shipham's meat paste bottle and a tiny glass one which was probably for some kind of medicine. Several people  have mentioned that this used to be an old dump in Victorian times, but I suspect it's more likely that these broken bits and pieces were shipped in as hardcore to lay the path.  We've spent a couple of happy hours in the local library this week pouring over old maps and local history books, but even Google can't help us in our quest to find out if it was indeed an old tip.


The other day, we decided to go 'digging' for treasure.  Armed with a little trowel, a bag and a pack of wet wipes to clean up grubby hands afterwards, we strolled along the shady path.  Despite being the summer holidays, we saw barely a soul, just a couple of dog-walkers who stopped for a chat, intrigued by our treasure hunt.

We were searching for little shards of blue and white china, and it was not difficult.  Many were laying on the surface, just waiting to be picked.  Others needed a little prising from their muddy setting before we were able to pop them in the bag.


It led to a lovely chat about the different patterns on the pieces we found. Some had snippets of writing on and we were able to tell where they'd come from.  We pondered which were older, whose table they'd graced in the past and what kind of meals they're served.  We were looking for nice flat pieces for our project, but we also found some great artefacts in the form of a pretty teapot lid, and what we think was the china stopper to a Victorian foot warmer or earthenware hot water bottle.

We spent a lovely hour or two being mini archeologists until, grubby faced and excited with our haul, we returned home to examine our treasure and clean it up.


Firstly, we gave it all a cursory scrub in some hot soapy water to remove the bulk of the soil. Then I left it to sit in some bleach for a few hours while we prepared and ate lunch.  Finally, I tipped it all into a colander and ran it through a hot wash in the dishwasher.

Our treasure was to become a mosaic tray, and I had the perfect little wooden tray I found a while back in a charity shop (you can find blank trays for this project in craft shops).  The only other thing we needed was some multi-purpose tile grout/adhesive and a spreader. You can often find china pieces when paddling in streams or rivers, at the seaside or you could try making this with sea glass found at the beach.

Ruby got to work arranging her pattern, placing her favourite pieces in prominent positions.  She remarked how it was like doing a jigsaw, except instead of getting easier towards the end, it got more difficult as you had to locate the right sized and shaped pieces to fill the gaps.



We added a thick layer of adhesive to the base of the tray (this needs to be as thick as your chunkiest piece of china), and gently pushed the pieces in, trying to keep them fairly level.  When the tray was full and the design complete, I drew around the base of the tray to make a cardboard template, and then gently pushed this down on top to make sure all the pieces lay flat and level.

Next the boring bit - you have to wait for it to dry!  I left it out in the sunshine for the rest of the day, and overnight before grouting.  If you've used a particularly thick amount of adhesive, you may need to wait 48 hours until it's fully dry.  Now you're ready to grout.  Just smooth some of the mixture all across the top using a spreader, making sure you push down into the gaps and all into the edges.  Again, leave to dry, preferably overnight, before wiping off the excess with a damp sponge.

We're delighted with our pretty blue and white keepsake.  A memory of a lovely summer holiday's activity of treasure hunting.




Linking up with Trash to Treasure.

40 comments:

  1. As a child, I would go with my friends to "dig for treasure" but we never done anything with the bits we found. I would most certainly do this with my kids, not only is it a fun adventure but when completed it would make a lovely gift!

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    1. Ahh yes, digging for treasure is an essential part of childhood I think! So nice to make something practical from our stash too, rather than just having piles of it laying around the house and garden!

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  2. What an excellent post, and such a useful crafting day. The tray is beautiful, please tell your daughter she is very clever. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Ahh thank you Nadine, I'll tell her, she's rather proud of it!

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  3. Old ordinance survey maps are great for identifying old dumps, I'm seen them free online somewhere but I can't remember where

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    1. Hi Kate! Long time no see. Hope you're well.

      Ye we looked through some old OM maps in the library - they were locked away in a big case - exciting! Still couldn't see anything marked but maybe they weren't old enough. Would love to know if I can access older ones online. x

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  4. That is absolutely gorgeous! I never would have thought that you could make something so fabulous with little pieces of broken china, you've definitely inspired me!

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    1. Ah that's great to hear Niki, thank you.

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  5. I can not believe that all those beautiful bits of pottery were from the path you walked on. What a wonderful make and finds. I love this

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    1. Thanks Jen. I know! Incredible really, most of the pieces are just laying on the surface - who knows what's beneath?!

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  6. Liz I adore this and such a great explanation of how to make it too. The blue colours on the tray look stunning and such a professional finish too with gorgeous photography. I love how you share the whole search for pieces too and the history of the area. I'm going to see if I can adapt a quick variation to do in activity hour with the children staying here as I think it would be really popular. May be we could make clay coasters and go hunting for treasure to fill them down by the river.

    Thank you for sharing a wonderful idea on #Trash2Treasure

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    1. Thank you Fiona! WE had such a lovely day making it, both collecting and putting it together. Love that you're going to try something similar, it would work really well as a kids activity on the farm. Can't wait to see how you get on, coasters in air dry clay or plaster of paris would be cool.

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  7. That's so beautiful. Next time we hit the beach am totally going hunting for bits and will do this with the littlies. You're so clever!

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    1. Thank you. We've got a tonne of sea glass, I fancy trying it with that next.

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  8. This is so beautiful, I have lots of pretty sea glass so might have to do something like this with that x

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    1. That's my plan next too, I think it would look lovely!

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  9. What a wonderful summer activity and something that you can use time and time again and recall the summer you found all the different pieces

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    1. I hope we can look back on it and remember a lovely summer holiday - she's growing up too fast!

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  10. what a brilliant idea - I would never had thought of doing something like this.

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  11. THat's just beautiful! Is it wrong that I want to smash some teacups that I have to make my own x

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    1. Hehe! Not very frugal though eh? x

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  12. I love this so much. It's so pretty and such a unique idea. I think Amy would doing something like this x

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    1. Ahh thank you Carolin, let me know how you get on if you try it x

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  13. I love this idea. When I was growing up I would find bits like this on walks with my dad and we would put stories to the items, always wondering if we would uncover some artifact that could make us rich!
    Thank you for sharing such a lovely post and you have inspired me to look into doing this myself.

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  14. I love this idea, what a simple but effective project

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  15. This is fantastic - I love the end product but even more so that you in effect when and picked up rubbish and made it such an interesting, and educational thing to do outdoors! Recycling it and turning into something beautiful and useful.....whilst spending time together!

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    1. Can't beat some proper up cycling! x

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  16. What an absolutely brilliant thing to do. And I love that way that it links to local history too. Fantastic!

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    1. Thanks Penny. Inspired a trip to the library to trawl through local history books and old maps too - bonus!

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  17. i bloody love this idea, the tray looks so beautiful and expensive! i think my two would love to do this , so thanks for the idea x x

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    1. Yay! Thank you, hope you try it, I'm sure they'll love doing it. Ruby's super-proud of her tray. x

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  18. That is a brilliant idea! I once upcycled a tray I found in a charity shop. I decoupaged it with sewing themed craft paper for my Mum, and she uses it in her craft room now. I love this plan with the found treasure, especially since we will be collecting sea glass on our upcoming family holiday later this month. :)

    https://spookymrsgreen.com/2013/09/08/my-crafty-creations/

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  19. What a lovely idea! I like the idea of reusing those old bits.

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  20. Oh that looks brilliant! I might try something similar with seaglass x

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  21. This is great! We have buckets of sea glass and sea porcelain after moving to the coast so will give this a go :)x

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  22. Oh it is beautiful. Love the idea that you went on a treasure hunt and used the spoils to make it. We have lots of broken china that we've dug up in our garden. Been meaning to make a mosaic with it. I like the idea of a tray. #Trash2Treasure

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  23. A great idea, with such a fantastic result. I now want to go treasure hunting! #trash2treasure

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