DIY: Mosaic Mirror Frame

Here is a DIY tutorial that, while not strictly fashion related, is great for anyone who enjoys upcycling and would like to add something new to their home décor. Plus, like all other DIY projects you’ll find on our site, it is possible to make this craft using materials you’ll find at Urban Thrift (although if you’re a reader outside of Calgary we’ve included alternate suggestions throughout). In this case, you’ll find the items you’ll need not in our fashion section but our Bric a Brac section as well as our seasonally-updated craft materials sections. If you’re planning on starting this project, it’s important to note that this project can span across several days due to drying times. It’s also slightly more ambitious than other projects we’ve featured before, but absolutely worth it and has gorgeous results.

This Floral-Themed Ceramic Mosaic by New-Brunsick based TLDesigns pairs pottery fragments with wire and wood. Photograph by Urban Thrift

This floral-themed mosaic by New Brunswick-based TLDesigns pairs pottery fragments with wire and wood.
Photograph by Urban Thrift

To create this project, you’ll need a mirror, plywood, tiles or smashed glass and pottery, glue, and grout. To hang the mirror on a wall, you’ll need strong wire and wall hooks, as well as picture hangers to affix to the back of the mosaic.

First, sketch or create a general design for your project. This should include the shape of the mirror, the shape of the background, as well as the shape of the mosaic. The two pictures shown here were created by a friend of our staff, and illustrate two different shapes and styles. The first is a geometric, diamond-shaped mirror, and the second is a more fluid flower-inspired design that shows off more of the background. The simplest approach is a geometric one: allow between two and six inches of space on all sides of your mirror, and fill this space with a design of your choice. However, if you are planning to integrate your mirror into a larger design, it is a good idea to have a larger amount of background free, and in these cases it can often make sense to position the mirror at an angle or offside.

Once you have settled on a design, you should decide on the overall dimensions of your project, and
choose the materials that you are going to work with. The same design can look hugely different depending on the materials and colors you use. For beginners, one of the easiest materials to use are tiles of different shapes and sizes.  To create less structured shapes, you can also smash tiles into smaller pieces, or use pieces of beach glass or pottery. You will need grout and glue to hold these pieces to each other and to the background. Use the sturdiest glue you can find. The grout will be visible. You can select a shade that will create a dramatic contrast with your design, or one that will blend in. If you aren’t certain which shade you want, you can get an idea of what looks best using the design from step one. Print off a few photocopies of your design. Colour in the different portions of your mock-up, and use different markers to go over the lines between them: this should give you an idea of how different grouts will impact the style of your design.

Next, you need to choose both a mirror and back panel. The mirror should not come with a frame (unless you intend to remove it). When selecting a back panel, remember that it needs to be sturdy enough to accommodate both your mirror and the custom frame you are creating around it. If you are planning on leaving some of the background visible, you may also decide to use paint, stain, or varnish to get the look you are aiming for. Finally, if you plan on hanging your project, make sure to purchase sturdy wire: the weight of the finished project can be, due to the weight of the tiles and grout, a lot more than you would expect.

Lay all of your tiles out on the wood where you intend to place them. You should refer to your drawing for this portion of the project, although it’s likely that you might change your mind as the craft begins to take shape. This is why it’s important to lay everything out before you start gluing. Once you are satisfied with the way everything looks, glue the mirror down first. Then, start gluing the rest of your tiles or pottery in place one by one. If the pieces are very close together it can help to use tweezers to pick them up and set them down. This part can be frustrating at first, so be patient. If you will be working on this part of the project over several days, it is a good idea to set it up somewhere that it won’t be jostled or knocked.

Once all of the pieces are glued to the background, allow the whole thing to dry overnight. The next step is to grout the tiles. Before you start, use masking tape to affix some paper or plastic over the mirror. This prevents the mirror from getting grout on it, which can be time consuming and messy to remove afterwards. When you are preparing the grout, mix only a small amount of it in a bowl, because most packages are designed for larger household projects. When testing this project, we found that it is easiest to start applying grout at the top end of the mosaic and work your way down and across (think writing on a page), because it’s less likely that you’ll be dragging your hand across wet grout. Once the grout has set between the tiles, remove it from the surface of the pottery using a small sponge or a damp cloth, and then allow the project to dry as indicated on the grout package. Remove the paper tape from the mirror, and clean off any grout that may have gotten under the paper.

Before hanging your project, allow it to dry for another full day. Attach the hooks and the wire to the back. After this, all that’s left to do is stand back and admire your work!


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