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Pique Assiette – Peek, what?


When china and ceramic pieces are broken into small, oddly shaped, highly decorated pieces, and then arranged in patterns with other found objects to create a mosaic, it is a mosaic technique called Pique Assiette. Wikipedia describes it as: "… a style of mosaic that incorporates pieces of broken ceramics—plates, dishes, cups, tiles—and other found objects into the design. The name comes from the French pique-assiette, meaning 'one who eats from others' plates' ". This last statement "cracked" me up (sorry) as I envisioned mosaic artists eating off of other people's plates then grabbing them and breaking them into pieces.

What I love about this technique is that your pallet of colors, patterns and texture is huge. You finally have justification for cutting up that ugly set of dishes you got as a gift or that costume jewelry you never wear anymore, and repurposing it into a beautiful work of art. Found objects, coins, old drawer knobs, are all great possibilities and the list goes on and on! Sometimes you can even strike it rich at garage sales and flea markets if you're on the lookout for those hidden treasures. This technique offers lots of freedom in the way you express yourself in your art.

Here's some tips and tricks to keep in mind while using this pique assiette technique:

  1. To break your dishes (or whatever) up, you can use nippers or a hammer. I prefer using my nippers whenever possible as I can then be more selective in capturing that perfect pattern. A wet saw can also be a useful tool for cutting dishes and I'm sure there are more tools out there that other artist's use.
  2. Safety – always wear protective eye gear, especially if you're breaking your pottery with a hammer. Please also wear gloves when appropriate.
  3. If you want to have a level surface, use pieces with all the same thickness. If a level surface is not a concern, then just be aware that grouting gets more challenging in and around different heights of tesserae. Otherwise, using the indirect method in order to keep a level surface is adviseable.
  4. Be mindful of cutting pieces that have a lot of curve to them – cut them smaller to minimize curvature. You don't want sharp corners sticking up and being hazardous.
  5. Laying out all your pieces as you go will help you visualize your design so you can make changes and additions as needed.
  6. Objects that are porous or delicate will need special care given to them if you are grouting your piece, for example, if you use objects that may disintegrate over time, they will need to be varnished first.
  7. Also, be aware that there will be different adhesives needed for different objects, so plan for this before you start your project. For example, if you use mirror, you'll need to use a silicone adhesive specific for mirror.

Pique Assiette is a really fun method that you can take to extreme levels. Finding those hidden treasures and using your imagination is a big part of this fun technique.

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