Introduction: Fun & Easy Mason Jar Mosaics
I love jars. I have all kinds all around my house waiting for a purpose. I was very excited when I knew the Mason Jar Challenge was coming, the only problem I started to have was deciding what projects to focus on. For this Instructable, I decided to go with mosaics. I love mosaics because they can be made with almost anything and put on almost any surface. Grout can be a bit of a pain to work with, especially on a jar, but with practice it does become easier.
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Step 1: Tools & Materials
-Mosaic adhesive (the picture shown above is adhesive I bought at Michaels, it was like $5.99 for the 4oz bottle. I'm not entirely convinced that any other generic adhesive/glue you have on hand wouldn't work just as well. I also prefer something that dries clear so that if there is a light inside the jar, it'll pass through the pieces and make a nice effect).
-Glass cutter (a hammer also works well if you're not looking for a specific shape).
-Goggles (a good idea when working with glass).
-Tile pieces or glass gems (A.C. Moore & Michaels sell bags of tiles in different areas throughout the store. In the floral arrangements aisle I found very clear and shiny glass gems, like what you use in bamboo planters or fish tanks, for $2.99. In another aisle with the mosaic stuff I found the same glass gems, only labeled specifically for mosaics, and duller in appearance for $1.99).
-Cabochon pieces (I tend to order these from eBay. I do a search using keywords such as "agate," "cabochon," "dragons vein," "druzy," "geode," etc. and whatever color I want, which is usually blues, purples, and pinks. If you don't mind waiting for these pieces to ship,you can usually get a pretty decent price. I don't think I've paid more than $3-4 for my larger pieces and they are gorgeous, I haven't been disappointed yet).
-Glass (broken glass, mosaic glass pieces, tiles, mirrors, etc. I bought a couple pre-tinted Mason jars and smashed them with a hammer).
-Beads, bottle caps, sea glass
**the pieces you use for your mosaic are completely up to you and the above is in no way a comprehensive list of what you can or should use. It happens to be what I either had on hand or was able to find for cheap. For instance the white, light blue, and dark blue sea glass I'm using---I have no idea where it came from and neither does my husband. We've had an old pickle jar filled with it since our first apartment together 6-7 years ago. You can even smash clear glass and color with a sharpie (and then seal to prevent the color from being messed up) or use pieces from a broken CD).**
-You can either repurpose an old lamp or buy a Brass Jar Adapter Kit, I got mine at A.C. Moore with a 50% off coupon.
-Bulb (the kit that I bought says to use a 40 watt bulb).
Step 2: Selecting Jar & Design
The first thing you need to do, aside from collecting all your tools and materials, is to decide what jar/container you'll be using, what your jars purpose will be and your design.
I love canning jars, so we have a TON around the house. You don't have to stick with a canning jar for this type of project, really any glass jar/container will do. I'm thinking at some point I'm going to get one of those giant brandy or wine glasses at Michaels/A.C. Moore for a mosaic project.
The first Mason jar mosaic I am going to do will be the base for a lamp. The adapter kit I bought fits the pint, quart, and gallon size jars that I have. Because I'm making a lamp, I don't want something too small so that the final piece looks disproportionate, and I don't want something too big, so I decided to go with the quart size jar.
(The largest mason jar I have I bought at Michaels for like $3.50. A.C. Moore has similar sizes but the prices are much higher).
After you have your jar, you have to decide what you want your mosaic to look like. This can be easier said than done. Sometimes I'll be working on a piece and halfway through want to do something different, so I'll start a second mosaic and leave the first for another time.
It's always a good idea to try and draw out your ideas so you have a rough idea of what shapes you need. Sometimes having a focal point can help create the rest of the design.
In the pictures above I tried to make a spiral design on a 4oz jar, a bit small but in the end it came out okay.
Step 3: Gluing
After you have worked out what you want your mosaic to look like, you can start gluing your pieces. Whatever adhesive you use should have instructions for proper application, but generally you want to make sure your jar is clean and dry before you start gluing.
Some people also recommend going over your jar with sand paper to help the pieces stick to the jar.
I'm using Mosaic Merchentile's mosaic tile adhesive and it says to clean your surface and then add glue to both the jar and the pieces. It should start to set within 5-7 minutes and will be cured within 5-6 hours. After you have added all of your mosaic pieces you should wait until the adhesive is cured before you start grouting.
Step 4: Grout
When you mix your grout, you want to follow the directions specified by the grout supplier.
You can add color to your grout by mixing a little acrylic paint in after you've mixed your grout. For best results, use white grout. In addition to giving you grout color variety, acrylic paint is supposed to also strengthen your grout.
There are also commercially made grout colorants you can buy, but why spend the money if you already have acrylic on hand? :-D Also, with lighter color grouts you can stain them after they dry and before you add sealer.
The grouts I'm currently using are from Mosaic Mercantile and are a sanded grout (means they're not pre-mixed). Pre-mixed grout is also available at Michaels/A.C. Moore and most likely are easier to work with, but are also twice the price. This is the first time I'm using the black sanded grout and I found it a bit more difficult to work with than the lighter colors.
Anyhoo, once you have your grout mixed use a craft knife or other small tools to smear the grout onto your mosaic. It's okay to cover your embellishments since you'll be cleaning the excess grout off later anyway. You want to make sure to get the grout in all over your piece, in all the little crevices and try to get it as even as possible to save you time later (this is also when having even-height pieces adhered to your jar will help).
***Grout is not a requirement for making a nice mosaic. I've seen a lot of mosaic pieces where grout was left out. In some cases the embellishments were glued closer together, in others they were just sporadically placed.**
Step 5: Cleaning Off Excess Grout
After you've applied your grout, you want to wait about 20-30 minutes (or however long your grout manufacturer specifies) for it to dry before cleaning the excess.
To clean the excess grout and get those nice little lines, use a damp sponge. I suggest only rinsing your sponge in between each wipe so you're actually getting the grout off and not just moving it around. I've also read different comments saying not to pour your grouty-water down the sink or in the toilet because it could cause your pipes to get clogged. So after the grout in your water has settled, I suggest doing your best to pour out the excess water out and then throw the leftover grout in the trash or try re-using it.
Of the two colors I'm currently using from the Mosaic Mercantile brand, I have to say the charcoal/black sanded grout is much harder to work with than the white sanded grout. When I was cleaning the excess grout off, there were areas that hadn't completely tried or were thinner than I realized so it came off glass.
If you wait too long to clean the excess off, you'll run into problems.
Step 6: Curing & Sealing
After you've wiped the excess grout off, put your mosaic somewhere it won't be disturbed at let it cure for at least 24 hours. After the 24 hours have passed, use a sponge and put a thin layer of sealer over your piece. I'm using the Mercantile Mosaic sealer which isn't water proof, but is supposed to repel some water. After you seal, let it sit for a couple of hours.
The sealer does give a nice shine to your mosaic and gets off what dust is left from the grout and protects your piece from yellowing and other discoloration.
Step 7: Finishing Touches...
Any size mason jar can make a nice candle holder. I like to use tea lights and votives with 4oz and 8oz jars. You can add filler to raise your flame or leave it as is.
You can also pour in candle wax and turn your piece into a candle. I have the supplies on hand for doing both parafin, soy, and beeswax candles. The beeswax tea light shown is one I made about a year ago. Still smells fantastic.
As far as lids go, its up to you if you want to turn the lid into a matching mosaic piece. Doing so can make for a nice little hiding place or piggy bank.
Mason jars filled with something heavy can also make nice bookends or decorative pieces on a shelf.
If you use a canning jar lamp kit, all you have to do is remove the original lid and pop on the lid w/lamp attachment from the kit and you're good to go. If you're repurposing a lamp, just cut the appropriate size into the lid and slide the socket through. You can usually find appropriate sized lamp shades at Michaels or A.C. Moore for $2-3 and they tend to have a variety of colors.