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  • Writer's pictureLynn Powell

Making history by repurposing broken china

Recently, I dropped one of my great-grandmother's (as I learned later from my mum) china cups and sadly it cracked into several pieces. I'm not one for keeping things on show: I believe beautiful things should be used, so I know there's always the risk that an inherited piece will get broken. I hung onto the pieces of cup hoping that somehow it could be repaired, or repurposed. And, it turns out it could! Here's my wee blog on how I repurposed my smashed vintage china cup into a coaster on a Mossy Mosaic reclaimed china workshop.

Image: my repurposed china cup

I began with my broken pieces of china cup, and then selected parts of the cup and pattern that I thought would look good. Jacky demonstrated how to use the cutters, and I was surprised at how detailed you could be - though, the cut doesn't always turn out exactly as you'd hoped! But I managed to get enough of the special pattern featured on the cup that I wanted to capture, and you can see these below in the centre of my round base.

I didn't have enough suitable pieces of cup to fill the whole shape (it was very small), so I selected another cup from Jacky's second-hand selection that I felt complemented it. I decided to stick with a single, white and gold colour scheme. A trick to getting the pieces to fit around the curved edge is to cut them small. I kept the gold edge of the rim of the cup to the outside, so it became a feature.

Once I was happy I had enough pieces, and in the right place, I began to glue them onto the base. I got glue everywhere! But Jacky reassured me that once I added the grout, it would look fine. What's that saying about 'trust in the process'...

Grouting is the sort of hands-on, messy, creative job I love! It's so tactile, and this is where the hand-made quality shines through. We can worry too much about getting things 'perfect' when - for me - it's the little quirks in what we create that make it unique and special.

Jacky likes to take her workshops slowly, and encourages us to take time with each step of the process. She and I share a strong belief in the wellbeing benefits of getting creative with others, and we knew there would be some downtime in this workshop while the grout dried. I love my tea as well as my tea cups, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to serve up afternoon tea featuring our lovely Shibui teas served in my - as yet unbroken - vintage china!

Photo: my finished coaster alongside a couple of others completed on the day.

There are so many things I loved about this workshop over and above learning new creative skills: it was wonderful to get hands-on and messy, and to have the chance to repurpose treasured and broken pieces of china into something new and beautiful. But it was hearing the stories behind these pieces that made it so special. Because we took time to chat, we learned more about each other and the china we had brought to the table. The final pieces told stories of family love and loss, and it was emotionally rewarding to share the history of these china cups that had sat hidden on a shelf, or inside a cupboard, for too long.

I'm looking into ways of painting the back of my coaster so I can add a wee handwritten history note. I hope this will add a whole new meaning to the piece for generations to come. So if you've got some broken or hidden-away china that tells a story, perhaps consider giving it an extra lease of life by creating something new with it.


You can find out more about Jacky's mosaic making with reclaimed china workshop here.

Jacky is passionate about using reclaimed pieces, and you may spot her hunting for sea-washed glass and china on Edinburgh's beaches, or in charity shops sourcing damaged and unwanted china to repurpose. There's a great range of charity shops in nearby Stockbridge, and you'll find many more in and around Leith, Bruntsfield and elsewhere in the city as sustainable and second-hand shopping grows in popularity.

If you're interested in mosaic making more generally, Jacky runs a range of workshops at The Arienas Collective and you can find them here - search for 'mosaic'.

Jacky sells her pieces at our annual Open Day, and you can follow her progress at Mossy Mosaic Instagram here.


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