Creating Glass Garden Flowers: A Walkthrough

Photo of a half-finished glass flower

At least a glass saucer or plate will get added to this project as "petals," but the painting part of the process is pretty much done. I've used both sides of the plate in order to create additional depth. The center piece is a wooden stopper for a long-ago broken decanter. It's decorated with metallic paint pen. I'll finish it off with a layer of something to water-proof it. I was pleased with the look of it overall, though.

When I set out to make the glass garden flowers for Mom, I found plenty of pictures but very few tutorials. So here’s a walkthrough of the process, which should illustrate one important thing about these: they’re not a last minute project. The paint takes time to dry, as does the adhesive, which you will need to do in at least two stages.

What you need:

  • Glass or ceramic pieces to make the body of the flower from
  • Shot glass or small bottle to form back of flower
  • Marine Goop – marine adhesive
  • Glass/ceramic paint and brushes (optional)
  • 3 to 5′ (suggested) length of rebar or other stake-like material
  • Terrycloth
  • Duct tape

Step 1: Assemble What You Have
Assemble the glassware you’ll be using. I suggest checking cupboards first. You’ll want several sizes that can be layered on top of each other, and (usually, depending on your other pieces) something for the center, like a short candlestick, round glass ball, or other object suitable for a focal point.

Go through your crafting supplies and look for beads, bits of jewelry, beach glass, shells, and other pieces that can be used to decorate layers.

Look at what some people have done to get ideas.

Step 2: Find What You Don’t Have
If you can’t find everything you need at home, go shopping. In the thrift store, look for interesting pieces that are chipped or otherwise deeply discounted in both the ceramics and glassware sections. Check the metalware and mirrors as well. My local Value Village has a wall in which they bag oddments and sell as lots. If you have this, browse through it. Things you’re looking for: glass pebbles, large beads, holiday ornaments, mosaic pieces, and other things that can be glued onto plates. Pick up old shot glasses or small bottles to use for the backs.

I prefer to let what I find dictate the piece. You can also try to replicate or improve on an existing pattern or otherwise plan it out. In such a case you may need to visit multiple stores to find what you need.

In the dollar store, look for glassware and remember that you are able to paint it.

Step 3: Figure out the Layers
Bring home the pieces and arrange them, trying to figure out the order in which you will want to glue them. You may choose to work from the front to the back or vice versa. Attaching the shot glass will be a final step.

Step 4 (optional): Paint Glass
Decide if you’re going to paint the glass, which must be finished before any gluing can take place. If so, I used DecoArt Gloss Enamels, which can be used on wood, glass, and ceramics. Be aware painting add time to the process. You will paint the piece in stages, letting each color dry in turn, and then letting the overall piece dry for four days before you bake it to set the colors. Is it worth it? Here’s another of the pieces I painted today.

Photo of a partially painted glass plate.

This plate will serve as the back layer of a flower. I suggest not worrying too much about being meticulous with the paint. You want an organic feel for the flower (in my opinion). I'll let this piece dry and then bake it to set the colors before I start adding anything to it. Because pieces will overlap the center, there's no point in getting too elaborate with it.

Once you have painted the glass, let it dry and bake it.

Step 5: Glue the Layers
Once the step involving glass paint has been performed or skipped, you can begin gluing. I suggest putting down the back piece, gluing the next layer atop it, etc. You can assemble all the front layers and glue them. Set to dry on a level, ventilated surface that is reasonably warm. Let them dry at least 24 hours.

Step 6: Decorate the Layers
At this stage you may glue other things in as decoration. Among what I’ve used so far: Christmas ornaments, gold foil, a cat toy, glass flowers, marbles, large pearl beads, glass pebbles. Let dry at least 24 hours.

Step 7: Add the Back
Now you’re ready to add the back. I use a plastic cereal container to hold the pieces while gluing on the backing, since many of them have delicate front pieces that they cannot rest on. Again let the piece glue for at least 24 hours.

Step 8: Assemble the Stake or Holder
To assemble the holder, if using a shot glass, cut a small piece of terrycloth and duct tape it to the top of the rebar. You can adjust it to make it fit snugly into the glass. Otherwise, you do not need to pad the rebar.

Finito. Now you know enough to make more and probably new ideas have occurred to you already. I’d love to see your creations, please post links if you have them!

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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