Woman reuses broken china as material for mosaics

Staff writer

Others call them beautiful, even if Peggi Wilson is too modest to.

“The cross is absolutely beautiful,” Phoebe Janzen said about a mosaic cross Wilson gave her earlier this year.

Wilson has made mosaics for years; many of her good friends have them, and almost all her family members, but she has never sold one.

“I would feel bad if I asked for money for them,” Wilson said. “It’s something I do for fun, and I feel like if I sold them it would become something I had to do and lose its fun. I might hold a class on how to make them someday. My friends are trying to talk me into it.”

A few of Wilson’s creations have been sold in charity auctions. She said that is the only way one could be sold for money, if the money was doing good for someone else.

“It’s a hobby I love to do,” she said. “I would mosaic night and day if I could.”

Wilson’s love for mosaics began a long time ago she said, and grows every time she enters a thrift or antique store, or attends a Pilsen Packrats auction.

“I’ve always liked going into a store and finding the perfect plate to use,” she said. “Many of my friends give me broken plates or pieces of china they find.”

She has several boxes that are filled with brightly colored china pieces.

“The brighter the better,” she said. “Someday I’ll get around to organizing them all into colors.”

Many of the pieces will be used to create flowers, Wilson’s favorite pattern to mosaic.

To create the flowers, Wilson takes a pair of sharp flat-edged pliers called tile nippers to break off small pieces of plate until she has the size and shape she wants. The older the plate, the easier to crack, Wilson said.

“You can get quite small with them,” she said.

Sometimes this part of the process can be hazardous.

“It doesn’t happen very often but I do cut myself,” she said. “I haven’t very badly yet, hopefully I don’t. My biggest thing is I can’t let any of the pieces hit the floor or Romy, the dog, will eat them before they hit the floor.”

Some of her crosses have flowers on them less than half-an-inch across. She also cuts flowers out of patterned plates.

“Flowers are my favorite. They’re so colorful and can be made in so many different ways,” she said. “It’s the most common plate pattern I find after solid colors.”

She saves all the pieces, including the tiniest, in case they can be used in a later project.

After cutting out the pieces, Wilson uses industrial strength glue to keep the pieces in place before adding grout to fill in between the pieces.

Sometimes she uses pieces of broken figurines in mosaics. Her favorite are birds, which decorate some of the picture frames, crosses, tables, and other items Wilson has mosaiced.

“I love peace signs so whenever I find a wooden peace sign I get it to mosaic,” she said.

In the winter, Wilson mosaics in a second bedroom in her home, but in the summer time she works out of a shed in the back yard.

“I like working in the shed because I don’t have to clean it all up after I’m done,” she said. “It has a small heater, but in the winter it can get pretty cold. In the summer I hook up a small fan and that’s usually enough to keep the temperature decent.”

Wilson also enjoys taking photos around her home at the county lake. Her favorite is photographing the various birds that live around or on the lake. She also quilts and gardens.

“If I don’t do something a day that is creative, then I have a bad day,” she said.

Wilson is not the only one in the household that makes something unique. Her husband, Jim, creates delicately carved birds out of blocks of basswood.

“I’m always amazed at the detail he can get with them,” she said. “I just love them.”

Several of his carvings grace the flat surfaces and walls of their home and look as if they could take flight at anytime, Wilson said. Her favorite is a blue jay.

Each bird is hand painted, and each feather is hand burned to give it its feathery appearance.

“He’s so patient with them,” she said. “It’s just amazing.”

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