Intro: Garden Art - Glass Totems
Here is a great little project to use up any glass dishes, lamp shades, or other glass pieces you might have lying around the house. It's a fun way to recycle and create art for your yard and gardens. I have more pictures on my website along with complete instructions. http://www.gardensandcrafts.com/totems.html (Update: 11/21/17: I have closed down the gardens and crafts website. Visit our new website www.VintageLiaison.com).
You will need assorted glass dishes that have a flat surface area for the glue. I prefer to use cut glass as it hides any condensation you might get if your totems are displayed in the sun. Good examples are plates, salad bowls, saucers, vases, goblets, hurricane lampshades, toothpick holders, desert bowls, etc.
If you don't have any glass dishes to use, you can find them inexpensively at flea markets, garage sales, thrift stores and online. I don't know what is more fun...collecting the pieces, or actually making the totem. I've also gotten them free by waiting until the end of a yard sale or garage sale. There is usually a box of stuff by the road that they don't want to keep. It's amazing what people will throw away.
Colored glass works well to, but is usually more expensive, plus you need to be careful that the glass you are buying is not painted because the paint will peel off when exposed to the elements for a period of time. I don't like to spend more than $2-$5 per piece, and inexpensive colored glass is usually painted.
You will also need an outdoor clear silicone glue to glue the pieces together.
This project was also featured in the Woman's Publication Gardening & Deck Design (April 2009 Issue).
Step 1: Collecting Your Glass Pieces
Look for pieces that will stack well together and have a flat gluing surface on the bottoms. This will help prevent water and air from getting inside once they are glued together and it will help the totems look level when you have a flat gluing surface to work with.
Personally, I like to glue a plate between each piece. I think this adds to the overall look as well as helping the pieces be sturdier once glued together.
Step 2: Preparing the Glass Pieces
Clean all glass well with warm soapy water and make sure they are thoroughly dry and lint free before gluing. I used a microfiber cloth to "polish" the glass before gluing. You can use denture cleaning tabs for hard to clean vases (1-4 tabs per vase usually works).
Step 3: Gluing
Use a clear silicone glue or Lexel for best results. Make sure the adhesive you use is weather resistant. Glue up pieces in sections, letting each section cure before putting them all together as one piece. Try gluing the pieces during low humidity to reduce condensation.
Step 4: Displaying Your Totems
You can make free standing totems or use an upside down vase glued to the bottom to mount them on poles. Copper is a popular choices, but with prices being so high these days, I use PVC conduit pipe (the gray stuff in the home improvement stores). I paint it using a spray paint specifically for plastics to give it the look of copper or any other color you may like.
Rebar is pounded into the ground first and then the conduit is placed over that. The great thing about conduit is that each end is slightly bigger than the remainder of the conduit so you have more flexibility in what you use on the bottom of your totems. I've found the short wide mouth vases that narrow as you get closer to the bottom and toothpick holders work great.
Step 5: Displaying Them in Your Garden
They really sparkle in the sun and look great in the garden. The options are endless.