Pique assiette is a style of mosaic art that incorporates broken china (plates, teacups, pottery, tiles) and found objects (buttons, jewelry, figurines). This art form has been around for centuries, dating back to the Roman empire. Fast forward to the 21st century’s recycling and repurposing revolution, and you’ll find contemporary crafters making the ancient art their own.
Over the past several years, broken china mosaic tutorials have flourished, made popular by the romantic, shabby chic decor which focuses on pastels in pink, blues, creams and florals. But broken china mosaics (or pique assiette) can encompass many different styles, colors, and functionalities.
For lovers of vintage and antiques, pique assiette is a natural progression for the creative outlet. Best of all, there are no ‘rules’ with this art form; pique assiette mosaics allow the maker to make whatever suits their particular style, their unique set of vintage ingredients, and their sensibilities.
Here I will show you how to create a piece of functional mosaic art. The substrate or base can be a picture frame, a vase, box or just about anything. For this tutorial I have chosen a large soup bowl with a wide rim found at a thrift store.
There are endless possibilities when choosing ingredients for your mosaic: china plates and cups, porcelain or glass tiles, marbles, capodimonte flowers, old jewelry, smalti, etc. If you wish to use pre-cut tiles, there are many online mosaic supply companies that sell all sorts of interesting tiles and accessories. Two of my favorites are Wits End Mosaics and Maryland Mosaics.
Find inspiration for your mosaic. It can be a color, a theme, or simply an item you adore. Here I have chosen a vintage ceramic bunny as a focal point with various blues and greens.
You will need to use nippers or cutters to cut pieces of china for your mosaic, and adhesive to glue the pieces to your base. Here are several types of tile cutters and nippers, and two adhesives I use regularly. For large or heavy tiles pieces, I recommend using a thick tile adhesive or mastic, easily found at a hardware store. For smaller pieces, a good strong glue will work just fine. My all-time favorite glue for mosaics is Weldbond. It dries clear, is strong, and can be used with virtually any substance. Weldbond can be found at craft or hardware stores. I usually order it online by the half-gallon.
Adhesives and Nippers
Contrary to what you may have read, you never want to break your china by using a hammer or throwing a plate on the ground. This method is very dangerous, and you will have no control over the resulting size and shape of the mosaic pieces. (To guard against injury, use of safety goggles is recommended when cutting any china or glass.) To cut a china plate, place the edge of your nippers on the very edge of the plate, and slowly squeeze the end of the handles until the plate cracks. Practice with some old plates until you get the hang of it. Use your nippers to shape the pieces or make them smaller.
Cutting a Plate with Nippers
Play around with placement of your pieces. You may have a specific design in mind, or you may just let the design unfold. There are no rules when designing a pique assiette mosaic … you are free to create what pleases you! Begin gluing pieces, moving and adjusting as you go.
Placement of Pieces and Gluing the Rim
I placed the bunny on the edge of the bowl and surrounded it with some capodimonte leaves and a pink rose, and glued them all with Weldbond. I added some stones from our creek, marbles, and vintage plastic beads – remember: no rules!
Un-grouted Mosaic Bowl
When you are ready to grout, spread newspaper and assemble all supplies. You will need a plastic bowl or plate, plastic fork, water, gloves, rags or paper towels. Grout is available sanded or unsanded; I recommend using sanded grout since it is stronger. Grout is available in many natural colors including white, ivory, beige, brown, gray, and black. You can tint white grout to any color you wish by using a powdered pigment available through online mosaic stores. For this piece I am using standard gray sanded grout. DO NOT start the grouting process unless you have the time to complete it in one go from start to finish.
Scoop some grout into your container, add a little bit of water, and mix with a fork. You will want the finished product to have the consistency of peanut butter. If you mix it too thin, add some more dry grout.
Spoon out a few tablespoons of grout and begin spreading it on the mosaic, forcing it into all cracks and crevices with your fingers. Always wear plastic or rubber gloves to protect your hands. If you dislodge a tile or piece of china while spreading grout, lift it off and plop some glue underneath and keep going; just be careful around that section.
Spreading the Mosaic Grout
After you have smeared the grout over the entire piece, take a clean dry rag or paper towel and start wiping off the surface immediately – DO NOT wait until the grout dries. As you remove the grout in sections it will begin to dry and harden. You may use a dry toothbrush or toothpick to gently remove grout in the nooks and crannies. Keep using clean dry rags to completely remove grout from the surface. If you remove too much grout in a certain area, just add some more and wipe smooth.
Wipe Away the Excess Grout with a Rag and then an Old Toothbrush
When you are done, let your mosaic sit overnight. You can take a damp rag to clean off the surface film and polish it. Even though the grout may appear dry, it will need to sit for several days to fully cure and harden. Here is the final product!
Finished Mosaic Bowl Close-up
Finished DIY Pique Assiette Mosaic Bowl