Upcycled Glassware Totems

One of my tallest totems rising up to about 3 ft., is nicely weighted, anchored with a heavy green glass candle holder, resting on a silver bowl. Other materials include: a glass decor ball, silver teapot, green glass fishing float, silver hand bell. Nicknamed the “Genie Totem.”

An afternoon of building glass garden totems turned out to be a fun, creative way to add color to my space, while unexpectedly leading to personal reflection.

I’ve read that glass symbolizes veils of transparency, reflection, and the barriers between our physical life and the spiritual realm. I have always been drawn to mysticism, the paranormal, and the spiritual like. Perhaps that is part of my attraction to glass. Thinking further, glass offers reflection, it can magnify your perspective; glass can incubate new growth, and it can create fire. But I think it is more the cultural history of particular objects, or their original utilitarian uses or processes that intrigue me. Maybe combining these ideas can offer a unique interpretation: glass allows us to look into, or out upon. Glass gives you a view from the outside looking in to your soul, or windows looking out to the rest of your world. Perhaps we gaze into glass in an effort to glimpse the other-world. Our personal history may distort how we look through our glass barriers, how we see things–like distorted wavy panes, or spotty glass that would change our perspective with a simple cleaning.

As deep as one could go with glass and it’s meanings, the fact is I’m a glass hound. Colored glass, clear glass, old glass, textured glass. I love the history old window panes have witnessed. I love the mysterious reflections of sparkly, worn crystals and glass prisms and the moods a little funky glass can add to a space. I have family photos displayed in glass jars instead of frames, colors of glass insulators throughout my house and yard. I hold dear my carefully chosen glass door knobs and colorful glass slag pieces. I get just as excited about finding glass magnifiers, glass fishing floats, and those thrift store salad or fruit bowls and candy dishes with their angled facets and silver-plated rims, which I fill with anything except the treats its supposed to hold. I even fall under the spell of old wood window frames, just because I imagine they must have once held old panes charmed with bubbled imperfections and wavy, handworked glass.

So many thrift store glass ware finds fill this table full of inspiration.

So you can imagine I was eager to try my hand at upcycling glassware into my version of the glass towers I’d seen as yard art ideas in magazines and blogs. I wanted to create personal “totems” of glass to add color and reflection to my space. So one afternoon my mom and I gathered our found pieces of glass and thrift store glassware and started building. Below are photos of our totems, along with a couple of tips.


TIP: when building your totems–once you’ve found the look you love–we found it very helpful to take a quick picture (using our cell cams) for reference. That way when you dismantle your project for gluing, this helps you keep things in order.


I love these two pieces my mom made. A resin hand emerges from a purple vase, which sits on top of an amber candy dish. Next to this, an Asian-inspired tea cup with a dragon unifies the ceramic dish, clear red candle holder, brass candle holder, green ceramic cup and unique brass lamp topper.
TIP: We found the use of a level very useful when adding bowls/platters. Making sure your additions stay level helps avoid leaning towers. Also, be sure to stand up and look straight down onto your piece when gluing to make sure pieces stay centered, also very important in keeping your tower straight.

Using same colors unifies this piece. I like the way the silver-plated candy dish and platter, along with the silver sugar bowl set off the blue ceramics and the clear glass.

We experimented with a variety of adhesives. Liquid Nails CLEAR and PowerGrab Construction Interior/Exterior are my usual go to’s, but these were both not practical for glass to glass or glass to ceramic (glass glaze). Seemed to do okay with metal to glass. We also needed something to withstand the extreme heat in our area (temps hitting up to 118*F just this week!). Our first attempt did not survive being outside, it fell apart at two levels, due to heat and the PowerGrab adhesive failing on too smooth of a surface. Our other pieces (pictured) are holding strong, but we have not subjected them to the extreme summer heat! Next time I will try “GE II Silicone CLEAR for exterior windows” I saw recommended just recently for this kind of project. If you find something else (in a large quantity that you’ll need) that is weatherproof and adheres glass to glass, let me know!

This entry was published on August 9, 2012 at 9:37 PM. It’s filed under Art and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

5 thoughts on “Upcycled Glassware Totems

  1. Meilani on said:

    Omgs those are AWESOME!!! Pleeeaaase let’s do this for a meetup 😀 Also, this is my fave blog post so far. I love all the thoughts you expressed about glass, something I never really thought about before. To those I will add, glass helps those of us who need the help to see better – I’m talking about eyeglasses here, but now the phrase “Glass helps you see better” has so many layers of meaning, gleaned from reading your post. I love it!


    • You’re right Meilani! So many ways to look at glass….


    • Hi Meilani, and thank you! I really like your comment about glass helping you see better, and the layers of interpretation that alone invites.

      About a meetup, YES! This was a test run to see how this could work as workshop, and I discovered it needs alot of space and particularly time to allow pieces to dry enough for transporting home. I’d still like to give it a try, perhaps with much smaller intentions like the jewelry holders we made, those were quick and the adhesives wouldn’t be an issue. Will definitely find a way/place to add in our meetup schedule, it was just too fun 🙂


  2. Wow…they all look so pretty….I want to make more!
    Loved your musings on glass….


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: