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.

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    49 Discussions

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    MaryB408

    7 months ago on Step 5

    These are beautiful. i want to make some but really do not quite understand how to mount them on the rebar/pvc....can you help?

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    KellySmith

    2 years ago

    These are beautiful! I'd like to make one for my mom's garden, but I'm wondering how they hold up in cold weather. It gets seriously cold in Missouri.

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    GardensAndCraftsKellySmith

    Reply 2 years ago

    I leave mine outside all year round and they do great. I use Lexel for the adhesive. If you use silicone you might want to bring them inside for the winter as it doesn't hold up as well. I live in central New York where it gets very cold and lots of snow.

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    Helen_B

    4 years ago on Step 5

    Thanks for the great tip on mounting in the garden. I've been making garden art plates and other little objects this summer, but have been having trouble coming up with how to mount them properly. I LOVE your totems! I've been collecting glassware to make one for about two years and almost have enough for a totem.

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    bsfout

    4 years ago on Introduction

    I love making these and the garden art a great way to hang is use a plate at top with a cup glued on its side with handle up hang it by the cup handle with a small sheapherds hook but i have yet found a glue that holds for very long even the e6000 are there certain types of glass that bond better together and I find bud vases work really good to fit over the top of what ever post you use and i like to use the round wood dowels you can get themin different sizes to fitthe bud vases

    GT1.jpgGT6.jpgGT8.jpg
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    bsfout

    4 years ago on Introduction

    I love making these and the garden art a great way to hang is use a plate at top with a cup glued on its side with handle up hang it by the cup handle with a small sheapherds hook but i have yet found a glue that holds for very long even the e6000 are there certain types of glass that bond better together and I find bud vases work really good to fit over the top of what ever post you use and i like to use the round wood dowels you can get themin different sizes to fitthe bud vases

    GT1.jpgGT6.jpgGT8.jpg
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    AmyInNH

    4 years ago on Introduction

    Just saw these again at a community plant sale. I've been saving glass for the past two years since I saw them last time. Thank you for posting instructions, particularly the adhesive recommendations. Trekked over to your blog, will need to spend a (rainy) day there browsing. Thanks for your time posting all this info, very inspiring.

    We have some old glass insulators in our shed; they are so pretty, but guess I'm not creative enough to figure out something neat to do with them.  Did you ever do anything with yours and if so, could you post a photo, so those of us who are creative-challenged can benefit?

    Thanks,
    MJ

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    baublemjreneau

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    This is a beautiful idea GardensAndCrafts. I'll be doing this for sure. Might take apart a solar garden light and put it in one of these glass creations.

    As for the glass insulators, I got some big ones when a telegraph pole on my old street was replaced. Here's some pictures of them in my old garden. The insulators would have been 10 or 11 inches across and were very heavy.

    insulators1.jpg
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    baublejoseph73

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Hi there Joseph

    I've managed to track down the original photo from 2005. I've taken a screenshot of it at full size, but digital cameras back then weren't what they are now...

    So you should be able to see a bit more detail now. It looks like I've used two shackles. I used two instead one just for the extra length. Safety is the most important thing, these shackles are very sturdy as you can see. I've secured the top shackle to the tree using a good sized coach screw. The bottom insulator is secured to the other one with another shackle which also happens to have a split pin through it.

    I was thinking about these glass insulators a few days ago and wishing I could get some more as I left those ones in the garden when I moved away.

    Close up insulator.jpg
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    baublebauble

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I made a mistake. I meant to say the bottom shackle is attached to the top shackle in the last line of the second paragraph.

    Joseph - Those are insulators from an electroc company, most likely. You can find many styles at flea markets and antique stores. I have several myself, but don't have a string of three hanging anywhere...yet.

    I've used some to line a small garden bed and then I made hose guides with a whole bunch of them.  There are pictures at this link of the hose guides.  I'll have to look to see if I have a picture of the garden beds.
    http://www.gardensandcrafts.com/pvccrafts.html

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    I've made several of these garden art pieces and love it! I am not sure how they will last outdoors in the weather. Also, I'm using E6000 to glue pieces together which seems to work the best with the least cure time. What have you found to be the best glue?

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    ladybugmchrissycookie

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I have found that E6000 is very good. In fact most glues can be taken apart with different products, but we are unable to remove anything once the E6000 has cured. We can lift up our totems by the top piece and some are pretty heavy. However you must be sure that all your pieces are clean and free of any finger prints.