Summerfield Craft Club members make trivets and photo frames out of plywood and china chips

BARBARA SHERMAN - Members of the Summerfield Craft Club decorate trivets or photo frames with pieces of chipped china during a special meeting of the club led by member Lydia Cooper.Dropping a favorite china plate on the floor and watching it shatter into countless pieces usually causes distress, but that isn't the case for Summerfield resident Lydia Cooper. She not only deliberately smashes china plates but she even purchases them just for that purpose.

Cooper isn't crazy. She has come up with a creative and decorative use for all those colorful bits and pieces of china, and she shared her secrets with members of the Summerfield Craft Club at their Sept. 26 meeting at the Summerfield Clubhouse.

Cooper showed club members how she uses those tiny pieces to make colorful trivets and decorate photo frames, but first she explained how she creates the tiny pieces out of inexpensive plates she picks up.

"I put a plate in a plastic bag on the floor of the garage," Cooper said. "I wear goggles and gloves, and I hit the back of the plate with a hammer. Then I cut the bigger pieces into smaller pieces with nippers."

Knowing this demonstration was coming up, several craft club members had requested specific color combinations or patterns from Cooper, while for the rest of the group, she brought multiple bags and plastic containers of various colored china chips.

"I put together a few kits with all the pieces needed to create a design, but I didn't have time to make one for everyone, so it's first-come/first-served," Cooper said. "The kits have photos showing what the finished product should look like."

BARBARA SHERMAN - Summerfield Craft Club member Susan Burson, right, creates a blue bird out of china chips using a kit made by instructor Lydia Cooper that included a photo of the finished product and china chips the right color and size for the design.Everyone chose a plywood trivet or frame to work on except for Susan Burson, who used a piece of wood the size of two trivets. She had requested a bird design from Cooper, which came in its own bag along with a photo of the finished product and all the pieces needed to duplicate it.

As the bags and plastic containers of colored and patterned china pieces were passed down the long table, members chose what they wanted to create designs.

Cooper showed the group two different ways to place and mortar the pieces, telling them, "You can start your design as I'm talking."

As the projects took shape, Cooper shared how she discovered this technique.

"I used to buy mosaic kits but got bored with them," she said. "This was in the '80s, and the kits were not well thought out. I went into a craft store and saw a dresser covered with pottery chips that a lady had made for her daughter. The drawer handles were mug handles. It was beautiful. It was adorable."

That inspired Cooper to get creative with her own designs, and she showed several photos of elaborate designs, including a dog, that were done by others using china chips. "This is how it used to be done," she said. "They made were more of a design."

Cooper also told the women making photo frames that they could add pieces of old jewelry in addition to the china pieces, "and you can put beads around the edges with Superglue. You need mortar for heavier pieces on the frames and trivets, and some people affix coins, rocks and pebbles."

BARBARA SHERMAN - Some of the finished products made by members of the Summerfield Craft Club were placed in a box for instructor Lydia Cooper to take home before grout was later added between the pieces.One woman brought a concrete frog garden ornament that she hoped to decorate, although she found the irregular shape difficult to attach pieces to.

Cooper continued to discuss the finer points of mortaring pieces onto their bases, saying, "I roughed up the trivets because the bottoms of plates are smooth and don't hold the mortar as well. Use enough mortar so it goes up the sides of the pieces of china – that's what holds them.

"They can be close together or you can leave more space between them," she added. "Be careful when handling the pieces because they are sharp. And don't put the points toward the outside edge for that reason."

Cooper said she would take the finished products home to add grout between the china pieces, but after some of the women said they also wanted to do that step, Cooper said she would bring everything to the next week's meeting for those who wanted to do it themselves.

As they were cleaning up the Arts and Craft Room in the Clubhouse when they were finished, Burson dropped a stack of plastic containers holding pieces of china. None of the lids came off, but Burson joked, "Oh, no, I broke the dishes!"

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