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Have you ever broken a favourite dish, and wondered what you could do with the colourful shards? Have you ever held onto a lone earring, wishing there was something interesting to do with it?

Well, our next Craft Club class is for you.

For our upcoming class – livestreamed on Tuesday, July 20, at 7 pm ET – we will be making an eclectic mosaic of found and salvaged objects on a wooden base with London, Ont., artist Jenny May.

“I was always really attracted to this type of mosaic, which is reusing objects that people don’t really use anymore,” May says. “I also really like repurposing things, so taking an old shelf and turning it into something you can cover over with tile and bits of things, and you have this funky little piece of furniture.”

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Jenny May signed up for a mosaic class about 12 years ago and the art and technique instantly clicked.GEOFF ROBINS/The Globe and Mail

For our project, May will be using a wooden heart form purchased at a craft store as a base, but any piece of wood can work. You will also need items for the mosaic, which May says can include: broken china or glass, tiles, buttons, marbles, bottle caps, old jewellery, single earrings, beads, small figurines, coins, fridge magnets, children’s toys, watch faces, decorative spoons, or anything else that appeals to you.

May had worked in both quilting and stained glass when she and a friend signed up for a mosaic class together to try something new about 12 years ago. She says the art and technique of mosaic – in which patterns and designs are composed from numerous smaller elements – instantly clicked.

“I really just loved it, that’s how I caught the bug,” she says. “And I wanted to make more.”

Mosaic is an ancient art, with intricate pieces made of tile and stone dating back thousands of years. May says she was especially drawn to the distinctive look of mosaic, and also how accessible and versatile it is, especially when working with found, recycled or otherwise discarded objects.

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May makes mosaics with found, recycled or otherwise discarded objects such as pieces of wood or broken dishes.GEOFF ROBINS/The Globe and Mail

“If you get into certain things, sometimes you have to buy equipment and tools that are really costly. And this was just basically some nippers, some pieces of wood and some broken dishes, and you can start to create,” she says. “I was always really attracted to that type of mosaic, reusing objects like china dishes, that people don’t really use anymore.”

While May has since moved on to more sculptural work in her own art practice – some of her recent pieces include a large, intricate apple, and a finely bejewelled sculpted pear in what her husband calls her “fruit phase” – she says she appreciates the transformation that is possible through mosaic, an idea that can resonate outside the art form as well.

“I can say, mosaic started me through some pretty tough times,” she says. “It’s just such a healing process, and I think some of that has to do with taking little bits of broken pieces and turning them into something that’s beautiful. It’s kind of a nice analogy for that journey that sometimes we go on.”

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Supplies for making a mosaic

Jenny May wrote a detailed supply list, but these are the basics of what you’ll need for the Craft Club mosaics class:

  • A wooden base or substrate – May will be using an eight-by-nine-inch heart-shaped piece of wood purchased from a craft store, but any base of wood that can be roughed up can work. If you plan to hang the finished piece, attach the hanging hardware to the back before beginning the mosaic.
  • Glue – May will be using DAP Kwik Seal Adhesive Caulk for this project, but says any permanent white glue such as Weldbond will work. For larger projects or if you plan to make more mosaics, she recommends Mapei Type 1 Tile Adhesive Thinset, which comes in larger quantities, either premixed or powdered.
  • Items to make the mosaic - This is called “tesserae,” and can include broken china dishes, tiles and found objects such as beads, toys or jewellery.
  • Basic tools to break or smash the tiles, and place the items in the mosaic. Hammer, plastic or paper bag, wire cutters, utility knife, wooden popsicle sticks or bamboo skewers, a putty knife (or something similar to spread the glue), tweezers and a rag for clean-up.
  • Safety glasses for breaking glass, and a mask and gloves if working with powdered glue or grout.
  • Optional: May will be showing us a way to further finish a mosaic with grout after it has been left to dry. The additional finish requires grout, which is available either in powder or premixed. She will be demonstrating grouting using white Mapei Keracolor U Unsanded Grout with Polymer.

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