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.