I've been meaning to make some stepping stones for my garden for a long time- just not got round to it due to other projects... but with hubby off for 2 weeks and nowhere to go I thought I'd use the time to do "my" projects and have a holiday too.
As a test run for the cement mix I did a sun and moon using molds from Ebay, but I think they won't be strong enough to handle foot traffic so I painted them up and decided to make a wall plaque for each. As I'm heavily into the Elements alot of my work is tied in to them, either just by colours or reference to the actual element, I thought it the perfect theme for the garden.
Acrylic paints cover cement beautifully, but I did paint a sizing layer of diluted PVA on first. Because I used a cement mix of 1 part cement; 2 parts fine sand and 1 part sharp sand, mixed with water and a splash of PVA to plasticize the mix, it settled into the mold nicely and I only had 2 air bubbles, despite some vigourous tapping to dispel any air!
The sun had some fine detail, the moon very little, and the celtic knots are shallow but with lots of detail. Even the knots came out well using that mix. These were also painted with acrylics. Once it's all together it will be waterproofed and sealed.
I laid out my pattern on a table to gauge placement and scale, then set up a trough using one of my silk-painting frames covered with thick plastic. This allows the concrete to be poured into a former that will be easy to remove and remain clean. I also used two straws to create holes at the top for fixing later- it would be impossible to guarantee drilling wouldn't damage the plaque or chip a section out.
I made up a stronger mix for the concrete; 1 part cement, 1 part fine sand, 1 part sharp sand and 1 part fine aggregate. I added PVA to this mix too. This was poured into the former, leveled with a trowel and the sun placed in the centre. With a little wiggling and pushing she settled in nicely and then there was the big rush to add the celtic knots and all the glass nuggets in their respective places. It set a little too quickly so I ended up gluing the tiny mirror tiles in some places.
I think the overall effect worked out well enough, although I love precision and accuracy, sometimes it's nice to be rustic and natural, especially once it gets a bit weathered and mossy.
The coloured nuggets were sunk into the mix, but the clear were added later using an acrylic polymer medium. Once it was completely dry I used a Gedeo waterproofing liquid all over the plaque, and sealed with an acrylic gloss varnish.
This is the sun plaque finished, onto the moon soon... and then I will have the concrete mix perfected for the stepping stones. I'll be using the sun and moon molds again, but the glass will be sea glass that I've been collecting for the last few years.