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Materials and Tools

Plan D

Tammy Schmitt

Tammy Schmitt

November 20, 2014

When I was a kid growing up in California, I was always reminded of my grandfathers Swedish heritage. He came from a family of immigrants who had come through Ellis Island and made a life out of nothing. But my baseball loving, cocktail drinking, poker playing grandmother was English and German, a fact that was rarely mentioned. In her sewing room sat an old blue Carr’s biscuit tin covered with drawings of English royalty. Queen Elizabeth the First stared off into the distance while fat King Henry and prissy Sir Walter Raleigh glared from the sides.

old button tinFull of buttons, I found it fascinating and would pour over the contents, always looking for something new. After my grandmother died, the button tin moved into my mothers craft room and when she died onto my shelf.

This winter I became convinced I had an ugly pot problem that could only be fixed by creating something with all those buttons. Maybe I’ve just spent too much time at my favorite DC art gallery drooling over the mixed media art, but at no point during my delusion did it ever occur to me that I have no ability to create anything artistic. I just knew I was one button away from absolute amazingness.

Game Fish by Larry Fuentes, created using found objects, is one of my favorite pieces of art.

Game Fish by Larry Fuentes, created using found objects, is one of my favorite pieces of art.

I spent my weekends and snow days pouring over my grandmother’s buttons, ordering more when the tin didn’t offer what I felt I needed. Grand designs began to hatch and my latest project soon migrated to the dining room, where it stayed for months. At some point my confidence should have wavered, stumbled, and crashed, tumbling into the black depths of self awareness. But it didn’t.

Artistic Fantasy

Auguste Renoir - The Luncheon of the Boating Party

Auguste Renoir – The Luncheon of the Boating Party

Harsh Reality

kids painting

(Just to clarify – I rarely work topless.)

When Plan A, a design that required hours of wire wrapping, only looked good while lying flat on the table but resembled Kindergarten Craft Hour when placed on the planter, I knew I had to start over. Super Simple Plan B worked well for a few weeks but soon fell apart and Plan C never made it past the mental design stage before I finally realized I had zero ability to create it.

button mosaic on old potPlan B originally called for three button swags of varying sizes. But several of the buttons cracked and faded in the sun before falling apart so I never added the additional strands.

With the new school year fast approaching and my free time shrinking, I knew I had to face up to the fact that I have only two artistic skills: 1) making a huge mess and 2) sticking stuff to other stuff. Since I have only ever successfully made one thing, it seemed wise to replicate it – with buttons.

So I did.

button mosaic on birdbath3Using tile mosaic mortar, I covered an old metal birdbath with buttons and beads and then coated it with marine-grade epoxy resin.

buton mosaic2I also used beads and charms that say “Be Yourself”.

I created the design as I went along.
Many of the buttons are reminders of people I love.

button mosaic 4My birdbath reflects me: quirky and colorful.

button mosaicConsidering the recent shootings in Ferguson, Missouri, I paused before adding the Pittsburgh Police button. The mystery of why my grandmother kept this uniform button intrigued me, but adding it to the mosaic served to remind me that the actions of a few do not define the whole. It helped turn an old birdbath into my own time capsule and political statement, even if the only person reading between the lines was me.

Birdbath with button mosaicOnce I had finished the design, I was ready to paint the bird and coat it in resin.

protecting the bluebirdI used blue exterior spray paint.

The entire design has been coated in resin. A thicker layer covers the bottom of the bowl to protect the design from standing water. This waterproof resin is designed for boats and is UV-resistant to prevent yellowing and cracking.

button mosaic5My design is safe under a layer of resin.

How to make a bird bath mosaic:

1. Find a metal birdbath and clean it off.
2. Mix up a batch of Mosaic and Glass Mortar until it’s the consistency of cake frosting.
3. Spread it on the birdbath.
4. Stick stuff in it the mortar.
5. Coat it in resin.
6. That’s it.

birdbath Mosaic collageThis was a really easy project.


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helen mckerral
helen mckerral
9 years ago

Tammy, I laughed out loud when reading your blog post! Artistic fantasy… harsh reality is what so often happens to all of us gardenes, isn’t it?
Wonderful stuff – thank you!

Lois Davey
Lois Davey
9 years ago

I loved your birdbath.As for your garden not being perfect I don’t think any garden is ever perfect , it’s always an ongoing project . Perfect is boring anyway.Good luck with future artistic endeavours .

Johanna MacMinn
Johanna MacMinn
9 years ago

Fantastic! I loved the results of Plan D!

Jan barry
Jan barry
9 years ago

Isn’t it wonderful knowing you aren’t the only one who poured over Granma’s buttons, I was brought up in the country and in those days 20 miles from town was a long, long way on very bad roads so a trip to town didn’t happen too often and ther wasn’t a great deal to entertain a young girl but my Mumma’s button jar was amazing. I played with it for hours, sorting them out into matching sets and setting aside the ones that I really fancied. I had a big jar of buttons when I married but now am lucky to find one when I need it. Good on you brought back a happy poast.
Another thing that she had a a very large book with postcards and old cards and it was treasured and the pages had tissue paper between them.