Garden Totems
Crafting,  Creative Outlets

What Do a Wine Glass and an Old Christmas Tree Ornament Have in Common?

An old wine glass.

There is only one of them; the other broke years ago, but you haven’t thrown the partner away.

A glass candle stick.

The kind you put tall tapers in, but you haven’t used it in years.

A cake plate.

A cake plate? Where on earth did that come from?

An old ornament for the Christmas tree.

You just have too many ornaments to fit on the tree so many of them have just sat in the box for years.

All those odd pieces of glass in closets, in buffets, in china cabinets, or in unopened boxes stored in the basement or garage.


They’re pretty. They are hard to part with. You might have tried to put them in a garage sale hoping someone will buy them for pennies and give them a new life in a new home, but when the garage sale ends, they sit there begging you to put them back on the shelf instead of donating them to a thrift store. Maybe next garage sale.


What To Do With Those Unwanted Glass and China pieces?

Rather than toss out glass and china pieces (especially those that might have a small chip in the rim), try creating elegant sculptures or garden totems.

Garden Totems
A garden totem nestled in my herb garden,

The piece in the wagon consists of a votive holder (blue glass),

an upside down candle stick,

and a small patterned serving bowl turned upside down.

It added a bit of non-green color in my herb garden.


I Tried Some Others

Garden Totems
Cake plates, Sundae Glass, Vases, and an Old Ornament

The piece on the left is a serving platter, an ice cream sundae glass,

and a mirror and red mosaic glass vase that flowers were delivered in.

AND

The piece on the right is a cake plate turned upside,

a stubby candle stick holder with a large blue Christmas ornament glued where the candle goes,

and then a large vase protecting the ornament.


My Glass Collection

I am a garage-sale-aholic. When sale signs pop up on corners, I just have to stop. I’m choosy though, picking up the possible pieces and turning them right side up and upside down to see what could become of them. Then, of course, I look for other pieces that just might look good together. In addition, I look for the unique pieces: the ceramic teapot without a cover, the ceramic high heel that had once been a planter, and a clear glass Tiki glass. I have several boxes in the shop’s clean room just waiting to become sculptures.

Garden Totems
Some of my glass waiting to be used.

Assembling Your Glass Sculpture

I work outside under the awning of the shop. It’s wide open with good air flow and shaded from the sun. There, on an old kitchen table, I spread out and plan several sculptures. Working out here eliminates the potential of making a complete disaster of my house or my garage.

As I arrange the pieces, I play around with the order. It’s much like trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle. Sometimes the pieces I want to work together just don’t fit, and sometimes pieces that I don’t know what to do with work together beautifully.

When I find the right arrangement and fit, I set set the pieces in a column with the bottom piece (the widest) closest to me. It is essential to prepare the glassware before gluing it together. I usually find that storage has left my pieces dusty or grimy or that there is some sticker to remove. Every piece really needs to be washed and left to dry. I have learned to take a picture of my planned sculptures and then run them through the dishwasher.


Gluing the Pieces Together

When it comes to gluing the pieces together, it is best to choose a day that is not too humid or too hot.

A humid day causes steam to get trapped in the pieces; the moisture can condense on the inside of the glass and even mold. I had to throw away a couple of early sculptures because of mold.

A day that is too hot doesn’t allow the glue time to dry correctly. A day with heat in the 90’s does not allow the pieces to completely bonded. I learned this the hard way the first summer I made totems. It was 90 degrees the day I assembled one totem and when I picked it up the next day, the glue was still soft and the sculpture fell apart and shattered on the garage floor.


Glue?

Any of the glues that adhere one piece of glass permanently to another MUST be used in a well-ventilated area. Some glues even suggest the use of plastic gloves so your skin doesn’t come in contact with the glue. I use E6000 on my sculptures, but there are other glues you can use. If you don’t need a crystal clear adhesive, you can also use clear, indoor-outdoor caulk.


Extra Decorations to Add Interest 

Fishing line allows you to hang ornaments or other dangling items from the bottom of an upside-down vase or the bottom of the piece that covers the vessel. A small knick-knack statue glued to the pedestal of a candlestick adds interest. Glass teardrops or beads glued on the outside of some of the pieces can add an interesting touch of color or texture. If you are going to display the piece inside without the concern of the weather, the sky’s the limit in how you decorate the piece, but if you are going to set the piece outside in the elements, make sure everything you use in the sculpture is weatherproof.


Caring for Your Totems 

During the spring, summer, and fall months; I take time to spray wash my totems as I water the garden. Rain and wind can give your totems a dusty film. Washing them occasionally makes them more of a focal point.

If you live in the northern portion of the country where the temperature dips well below freezing and snow mounds up in your yard, it is best to protect your sculptures by taking them inside – out of the winter elements.


Have fun. Be creative. And then give your sculpture a name.


As you move through your day to day activities and responsibilities, please remember to

live life –

keep things simple –

look for the positive –

and smile.


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