Using broken pieces of crockery or china in mosaics is typically called “picasiette” or “pique assiette.” The literal French translation is “sponger” or “scrounger.” Therefore, the term pique assiette in mosaics means salvaging pieces of china or crockery. This style often results in lovely mosaics because the pieces retain the colors and images of the original dishware and because of the curved and three dimensional shapes of the resulting broken pieces. Picasiette is a cheap way of using unique shapes in mosaics because you can find old china and crockery at garage sales and flea markets (and probably hidden somewhere in your own china cabinet).
Although it’s not rocket science, there’s a right way and a wrong way to break china and crockery into pieces for your mosaic. Don’t simply throw the plate on the floor or beat it with a claw hammer to shatter into a ga-zillion pieces. As always, safety is your primary concern. Always observe and practice common-sense safety practices when working with mosaics. Wear eye protection when breaking materials for your tesserae. Unless broken properly, shards and bits will fly in multiple directions. Obviously, you don’t want them flying into your eyes.
Adequate eye protection (e.g., safety goggles or safety glasses).
Two bath towels.
Rubber mallet (preferred) or standard claw hammer.
Step 1: Fold a bath towel in half and place it on a hard surface, such as your concrete garage floor, driveway, or sidewalk. Avoid using your ceramic tile floor or brick pavers. Don’t risk breaking the ceramic flooring or other hard surface by striking it with a hammer.
Step 2: Place the plate upside down in the center of the towel.
Step 3: Fold the second bath towel in half and place it over the plate. Ensure the plate is completely covered. This will prevent chips and pieces of shattered plate from flying in multiple directions.
Step 4: Using your hand on the towel, feel for the circular ridge on the bottom of the plate. When you strike the plate through the towel, you want to hit the ridge instead of the center or border of the plate. If you hit the center, the plate’s center section may break away cleanly at the ridge line, leaving the plate’s border intact. If you hit the plate’s border, it may shatter into pieces too small to use in your mosaic. Remember to focus your initial hits on the circular ridge on the bottom side of the plate.
Step 5: Put on your safety goggles. Never break china or crockery without wearing adequate eye protection.
Step 6: Hit the plate along the circular ridge multiple times in various locations around the ridge. Don’t haul off and whack it as hard as you can. Instead, hit the plate with just enough force to break it. Don’t expect the plate to break in a nice, even pattern. It will break randomly. Some pieces will be perfectly shaped for your mosaic, while others will end up in the trash can.
Step 7: Lift up the top towel to look at how the plate broke. If you want to break the bigger pieces into smaller ones, then replace the top towel, ensure your safety goggles are properly in-place, and break the bigger pieces into smaller ones.
Step 8: When you’re done breaking the plate, be careful to put aside the pieces you want to use for your mosaic and throw away the pieces you don’t. Be careful because there will likely be sharp pieces and shards that can cut you. Ensure the mess and tiny shards are properly disposed of before breaking the next plate.