The Craft Collaboration Project: A Mosaic Bird House


Have you ever wondered what another artist or crafts person might do to one of your pieces if you let them loose on it?

I had never given it a second (or first) thought until Betty Ackerman, a complete stranger, contacted me through my Etsy shop.

Apparently, mosaic artist Betty had been thinking of, and had actually already sold, a project using one of my birdhouses.

 Photos: A Sadler Garden Collections PVCedar bird house before and after a collaboration with artist Betty Ackerman

She had researched the item and knew what changes she wanted me to make for her idea to work.

The item in question was one of my PVCedar bird houses. Betty didn’t want the wooden roof; instead, she wanted me to replace it with PVC, and also change the hanging chain from the back to the center of the roof. These were easy changes to make so I went ahead and made them. She also wanted the entire product to be white.

Photos: Our bird house re-invented to Betty’s specifications – all PVC, the second photo showing the clean-out door

We agreed on a price, she put in a special order through Etsy and I shipped it out to her. This had really peaked my interest and now I was very curious to know what the end result was going to be.

Betty Ackerman from Dancing Light Mosaics worked her magic and turned the bird house into a one of a kind piece of art.

Photo: The finished product

I was totally impressed. Betty had transformed it into a piece of art.

The roof is my signature design. I love the shapes on the old English thatched cottages so I cut and sand my wood to simulate an English thatched cottage. Below is a thatched roof on a building in Dartmoor, Devon in England. You can see the resemblance on Betty’s creation.

I was so impressed with Betty’s work that I asked her to put her process into words and pictures so that I could share it on my blog.

Betty’s work is explained below in her own words:

The Mosaic Art Bird House & Process Told by Betty Ackerman

My collaboration with Pat Sadler of Sadler Garden Collections started with a custom request from a buyer on Etsy who suggested I create a mosaic bird house for her. So I began searching for someone who made weatherproof birdhouses and found Pat.

With mosaics, you don’t want to create something on wood for outdoors as it will not hold up under rain and cold. I liked Pat’s design, especially the English style thatched roof look and the sound construction, so I bought one and asked for a PVC roof instead of wood as I would be covering the entire bird house with stained glass tesserae, or cut pieces that are applied to a substrate. Pat’s service was fast and efficient and he accommodated me with the roof constructed of PVC instead of wood.

I began working on the bird house, creating different motifs of the customer’s liking. I researched English thatched roof images and came up with a design for the front, making it look like an English cottage. I also decorated the roof to look like thatch and it came out so beautiful.

I have been making mosaics for eight years. I learned from an adult school course in run by Fairfax County schools in Virginia. Over the years, I have adapted methods for my own unique designs. I learned a lot from different books as well, and just by experimenting. I work using a double indirect method in which I create the entire motif at once. I like working with stained glass because of its brilliant colors, textures and iridescence. I also use mosaic tiles. The iridescent ones are my favorite.

The process:

STEP 1: I start with the image or design taped onto a piece of cardboard. Then I put a piece of clear Contact™ paper over it, sticky side up, and tape the edges with masking tape. I then have a Contact™ paper covered design that I can see through.

STEP 2: I begin cutting and shaping the stained glass to create tesserae – the term used for the pieces of glass or tile that make up a mosaic (In the below photo on left, it’s a simple butterfly made of eight pieces) – over the image and it sticks onto the Contact™ paper and covers the image. I can change my mind if I want, and this gives me flexibility in my creation. I cover that motif with clear Contact™ paper, making a sandwich (left photo below).

STEP 3: I remove the initial contact paper masking tape so it is free to slide around on the cardboard. Then I use another piece of same size cardboard and, holding the entire design like a sandwich, I flip it over (bottom right photo).

Photos: Removing the cardboard (top left), I am looking at the back of the design. After removal of the clear Contact™ paper it looks like the photo above right.

STEP 4: I can glue the entire motif at once using 30-minute epoxy glue. The glue is very strong and waterproof. It’s a little tricky with a 3D substrate, but the motifs are small enough (like on the bird house) that I can hold the whole completed design in one hand and place onto the prepared glued surface. In the illustrated case, I am using a garden stone and am placing the stone with glue on it over the back of the motif.

Photos: Glue is placed onto the substrate (left). Then the substrate is held over the motif upside down (right).

STEP 5: I hold the stone and flip it over again and remove the cardboard (bottom left photo).

STEP 6: As the glue begins to set, I can slowly remove the other layer of Contact™ paper and move the pieces around as necessary (top right photo). I use a pencil to hold down the glass as I pull off the Contact™ paper (right top and bottom left photos). Once the glue sets overnight, it is ready to be grouted (bottom right photo). I use charcoal grout because the colors pop with darker colored grout. I also seal the grout with a standard grout sealer found in a hardware store.


A huge thanks to Betty for sharing her story and process with us!

See more of her work in her Etsy shop, Dancing Light Mosaics where you can also request one of your own custom made mosaic bird houses from our collaboration.

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