Let’s start our French lesson for today, oui? We will be discussing pique assiette. This is the fancy French term for mosaic art made from lots of different things. For many years I’ve used a mix of this and that in my art, and it’s great fun.
Today I decided to look up the definition for pique assiette, and it’s not very flattering. It means “scrounger.” It brings to mind someone cobbling together a dinner from dumpster castoffs. But let’s step away from the literal translation. At its heart pique assiette means the combining of varied pieces, including broken ceramics. I love repurposing, and mixing and matching. Not following a formula. You don’t need expensive materials to make art. There’s beauty in everyday objects, too.
My latest DIY project is in our back yard. It combines two things I love: mosaic and gardening. For me, it’s extra satisfying to create something unique without spending a lot. This forces you to be extra creative, which is a good thing. I’m delighted that I made this garden wall for less than $80.
Here is my cost breakdown:
Latex paint, plants, misc items (already had them) $ 0
Marbles and ceramic plates $ 8.80
Cement blocks, paving stones, tile adhesive $ 62.04
Mortar $ 4.90
Total $ 78.76
My goal for this wall was a bohemian, funky, unique conversation piece. It incorporates items from different places and from various years of my life. I see costume jewelry I had in high school. I see metal buttons I bought from a fashion designer who was cleaning out his storage unit. There are tiles I got from a resale store, quirky items found at garage sales, old family keys, and plastic buttons from my artist friend Sam. This garden wall is like a photo album of my life—one that holds plants.
If you’re considering making your own concrete block planter, it’s not hard. It was satisfying to dream up an idea and then make it happen.
If you’ll indulge me for a minute, I’m going to pat myself on my back. I lifted each of these twenty six blocks myself (multiple times)—and each is twenty five pounds, so it’s a great arm workout! This was my first ever attempt at mixing concrete and trowling it onto concrete blocks to make a wall. Hubby gave me a few verbal tips but I did every inch of this twelve foot wall myself. (I am woman! Hear me roar!) By no stretch of the imagination is my first attempt at cement professional caliber/perfect (I hate that word—too much pressure). But I’m proud that I gave it a try and that I’m not holding myself to standards a newbie can’t reach. I want to do more things that challenge me out of my comfort zone. Perfection isn’t the goal. Stretching myself is.
Art is therapeutic for me. Making this planter gave me a boost every time I selected a marble or a piece of broken plate, and set it in place. When I felt stressed, I turned to the broken plates and the mishmash of found objects, and putting together a unique combination was a balm on my frustration. Creative projects don’t eliminate our stresses, but they help us cope with them. Scientists have found that creative projects boost our moods and lower our heart rate. And if we get a planter out of the experience, that’s a cool perk, too…
Or as the famous French phrase goes: don’t cry over broken plates. Make mosaic. Tres bien!