Friday, June 3, 2016

The $20,000 Glass Plate Flower

"There are three kinds of pipe. There's aluminum, which is garbage. There's bronze, which is pretty good, unless something goes wrong. And something always goes wrong. Then, there's copper, which is the only pipe I use. It costs money. It costs money because it saves money."

Cosmo Castorini, Moonstruck

Oh Cosmo, if only you had plumbed our house.  Now that I think of it, Jose from 1-Day Repipe reminds me of Cosmo.  So perhaps our plumbing is safe for the future.  We've spent money to save money.  But I digress from my story of the $20k upcycled glass plate flower.

My inspiration source is everyone's favorite source these days, Pinterest.  I'm not a huge fan of Pinterest, especially when I find the pinned photos are just that, photos, without accompanying textural substance. But I have found some great inspiration for my craft and DIY projects on Pinterest.  And when my friend Allen,  the mobile manager for Pinterest, asked me to do some beta testing, I thought, why not.

As an aside, I have not found a single bug or issue in all my testing.  What I have found, are glass plate flowers.  I started pinning like crazy, enamored with these upcycled glass pretties.  
While copper pipes are not the only options for flower stems, I was about to have a ready source of copper stems, as we decided, after the great plumbing disaster of March, to have the entire house re-piped.  That seemed to be the only way to guarantee against another disaster. ( Walter: I'm not trying to tell you your business but you haven't even looked at my pipes. Brad Shirk: I looked at them three years ago. You figure they've improved with age?   The Money Pit).
Or was l?  Ron of 1-Day Repipe (no, they cannot re-pipe a house in 1 day, but again, that's another story) was not crazy about the idea of turning over our used copper pipes.   He mumbled something about pipes always getting pilfered because, as Cosmo knows, copper costs money.  Can you believe I actually had to steal my own pipes?  As they were being passed out of the crawl space under the house through one of the foundation vent holes, I swiped them and hid them under my garden bench.  (Remember, these are my copper pipes!)  I later got caught, by Cosmo/Jose, as he was looking at our pool pipes, but he was more sympathetic to my cause, telling the story of how his family uses leftover PEX pipes to make hula hoops.  So, I got about a dozen used copper pipes, plus some brass fixtures, to use in my garden art projects.  Cost?  Approximately $20,000 (truth be told, with revised estimates, changes in fixtures, etc, the real price was less, but the story sounds better with $20k).

Glass supplies were easy to come by at Savers, my local thrift mega-store.  In fact I was amazed at how many curvy curly flowery, gilded pieces of glass I was able to find, supplemented by a few glass bowls for making glass garden mushrooms, but that will be another, shorter story. I spent over $30 on glass supplies, which is a lot to spend at Savers, but I should get four glass flowers and a couple of mushrooms for this amount, plus I got a tax deduction for my donation, and I even got a Tuesday Senior Day discount.  The old lady strikes!

The next critical piece of the puzzle was the means of attaching the "flower" to the stem.  Options included bent forks or spoons, small glass bottles, or, the most attractive choice, copper bell fittings. I kept peering through our plumbers' supply boxes to see if they had any (I would not have stolen them, honesty, I would have asked to have them throw in to our job, something you are entitled to do when you are having all the plumbing replaced in your house at great expense).  An online search revealed their availability at Lowe's, but not at the Lowe's near us, of course.  I waited for an opportunity to go to Lowe's in Sunnyvale, likely concurrent with a trip to the library, since I dislike the distance and traffic involved in going to Sunnyvale.  But the other day, I had to go to Safeway, so while I was in the area, I thought I would pop into the Cottle Rd Lowe's and take a look, just in case their online inventory was incorrest.  Supposedly they had 1 in stock, less than the four I wanted to start out with, but enough to to do a concept test.  

Upon entering Lowe's I asked for copper plumbing fittings and was directed to aisle 26, right side. I spent a good 20 minutes poking through boxes of copper joints, T's, elbows, caps, all sorts of things, but no bell fittings.  I thought about alternatives, and almost settled on a 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch 90 degree elbow, but it was over $5 for one, and I had already spent $20,000 on the copper pipes, so I wanted to minimize further expense.  I started walking out, then noticed an aisle of additional plumbing fixtures, and thought maybe I could find something workable.  There were three Lowe's workers in the aisle, who asked if I needed help finding something.  I said I had already looked unsuccessfully, but I would ask anyway, for copper bell fittings.  Enjoying one slightly dropped jaw and a couple of raised eyebrows, for really, how many little old ladies come into Lowe's looking for 1/2" copper bell fittings, one of them invited me to follow him.   (Old lady strikes again!).
It turns out there were additional copper fittings in aisle 27 (yes, the Lowe's man agreed, they should all be together).  I had to poke through boxes again, since the 1/2" and 3/4" fittings were mixed, and found four of the prized fittings, $1.57 each.  I excitedly considered this a good day. (Insert crafty geek cough).
I spent my usual long time auditioning arrangements of plates, undecided on how to proceed, but finally settled on the design of at least one flower.  The first step was to glue the copper bell to the back of the plate.  As with all my outdoor mosaic projects, I used GE Silicone II for Windows and Doors, the 30-minute set.
I went back outside to my "craft studio" (aka the second garage) after about an hour, tested the fitting on a pipe, and it came off the plate.  This was quite troubling, so I repeated my research and tried again.  The second time, I used more silicone and let it set for 24 hours.  It appears to be holding, although I am mentally preparing myself to one day find a pile of potentially broken glass in my garden.  No problem, I will upcycle it again in a mosaic project.  Upcycle squared!
The next step was to add the plates one at a time.  The biggest challenge of this step is to note exactly where the plates will contact each other and be sure to get sufficient silicone at the juncture, without making it look too messy.
Here's the first completed flower.
The back plate is a decorative plate I got at Savers.  There was a picture and writing in the center, easily covered by the next layers.  The next two layers are gold-rimmed plates I had in my mosaic collection, from the time I bought an entire box of rimmed plates from the ebay seller who was going out of business (for the cost of the shipping!)  Most of these got used on the Great Mosaic Wall in the back yard.  These plates have the center focal areas cut out, which made it a little tricky to attach them, but I managed.  You can see the slits in these plates where they were cut.  The next pretty aqua ruffled candy dish (?) I got at Savers, as well as the final layer, the perfectly pretty rose-shaped candle holder.
I haven't yet set this in the garden, as I want to make a few more for group impact, and I want to find a cap for the copper pipe stems so they don't get too yucky inside.
But I love it!
I'm already done with the second flower, backed with a clear egg plate highlighted with gold glass gems, another gold-rimmed plate from my mosaic collection, s similar aqua candy dish (?) from Savers, a very heavy glass flower-shaped candle holder from Savers, and finally, a large glass gem from a bag of aquarium decor I bought in the clearance bin at Petco for about $1.50.

I've also started on the third flower.  In case anyone thinks I should be using my plates to eat instead of making upcycled garden art, note the warning on the back of the plate.

I have enough supplies for at least four, so I will have to make additional trips to Savers and Lowe's.  I'd like to make at least ten flowers, thereby reducing the cost of each to approximately $2000.
Anyone want to buy an upcycled glass plate flower?


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