Garden Totem Tutorial

I have received a lot of emails recently asking me about how I make my garden totems. I thought that it is the right time of year to show you and I actually have been making some recently.


I went to thrift stores looking for pieces for the totems and happened to find this cool cement piece for $1.95. Not used for a totem but fun anyway.


I always look for this type of plate to use as a base. These plates actually have small feet on them so you can anchor them into the soil. The decorations on this plate are on the underside and the top surface is flat. It is important to have a flat surface to get a solid seal with the glue. I have used all types of glue but find that aquarium glue works best. I never pay over $2.95 for these plates.

This is a heavy vase from Ikea that I found in a thrift store for 99 cents. These large clear pieces are good to use as stems on the totems especially if you want to add a bird or flowers or something as decorations.


I always look for sturdy heavily decorated glasses with good rims. These will most likely be turned upside down on a totem. The angles in the glass really reflect the light on sunny days. These two glasses were 49 cents each.




I lucked out on these two wonderful plates for 69 cents each.


Fish bowls are great to use in totems. They are cheap, they have wide mouths and are perfect to showcase accessory pieces. You can find these as cheap as 25 cents depending on the size.


Small heavily etched bowls always work well too.


This is probably the lid to a broken container. For 25 cents it will make a great topper for a totem.


This is not a totem yet. I just stacked a few of the above pieces to show you how they work together. From the bottom up you have: one of the decorative plates turned upside down, the Ikea vase turned upside down, the small heavily etched bowl turned upside down, the fish bowl and the 25 cent lid. It is a good idea to try to stack your totem together before you glue it so you can see how it looks. If I was making this into a totem, I would have placed porcelain birds in the Ikea vase and porcelain flowers in the fish bowl. It all depends on the size of the pieces. It is also a very good idea to buy the cheapest pieces you can because if these topple over before you glue them, you are screwed!


Here is a totem I made recently. The base is a plate, then there is an upside down bowl, then a bud vase turned upside down. The next small piece is called a sunflower plate and I find them all the time. They work very well in totems when turned upside down. You might wonder why so many of these are upside down and you might be getting sick of this word. There are two main reasons for doing this: #1 you want water to run off of all of these totems and not to pool. #2 sometimes they just look better used this way. Anyway...back to the totem assembly.


Here is a close up. Sometimes you can find the sunflower plates in rainbow colors which are really great for reflecting light like this one. The crackle ball is a cheap candle votive.


On top of the crackle ball is a small etched dish turned upside down.


Next, I glued a porcelain flower basket to the center of the plate and covered it with a small upside down fish bowl. I topped it off with a glass bell. I don't think anyone that has ever been gifted with a glass bell keeps them. I find them everywhere all the time and are usually about a dollar.




Oops...another thrift store find from yesterday This was 99 cents. I love putting these on my potting table and sitting frogs or birds on them.


This is a smaller simpler totem I made with a plate, 2 fish bowls, 2 porcelain flower baskets and a bell with a porcelain flower.


I tried to get better pics of these inside.


Here is the first one against a black backdrop.


I made this one using a punchbowl base, a plate, an upside down bowl, a small etched bowl topped with a sunflower bowl turned upside down. Then another small fish bowl with a porcelain canary and flower inside and the topper is a glass hurricane lamp piece. At least I think that is what they are called. It is also upside down but you can see where the nub at the top sits in a candlestick and then a votive is placed inside. Once again, these seem to be everywhere and cost about 1 dollar too.

So, if I haven't confused you more than you already were, try to make one. They are so much fun and there are so many variations. You can use colored glass or even pottery pieces. I make so many of these that I give them to everyone I know. I have nowhere else to put any and the ones I left out all winter are still in perfect shape. Go figure!

If you have any questions, just ask and I will try to confuse you even more!


One last find from yesterday. This cost 4.99 and it looks like it was never used. I am thinking maybe it is a rumtopf pot?

Comments

I like Your totems a lot! I´m a bit amazed that the ones You have had outdoors this winter still isn´t broken! Cold weather usually breaks glass so easily.

That cement piece looks fantastic! I wonder what the original use for it was.

Have a great day!
Christer.
That cement piece definitely looks like it's from a church.
I may actually try to make a few garden totems this year. If I can not break everything before I get it made. They are beautiful. Your last jar looks just like the containers I keep my flour and sugar in.
Jayne said…
What's a rumtopf pot? You could always use it to make sun tea.
Mina said…
Wonderful tutorial! I have not emailed you but have been wondering the exact same thing, "How does she do that?" Thanks so much!
Teresa said…
Your totems are just amazing! I'm glad you posted this tutorial.
Barb said…
Thank you so much for the tutorial. I love my garden and like finding fun things to do, so it looks like I'll try one of these.
floweringmama said…
Amazing! Thanks for the inspiration. I just have one question - what is aquarium glue???
Your work is beautiful!

My "what-if-?-side" wonders though... How to clean up all that shattered glass, if one gets knocked over, in some way? Yikes...
petoskystone said…
the sun hitting those etched bowls must be lovely indeed! placed in the garden with thought & anchored properly, there shouldn't be much chance of falling over. if they do happen to break, well then, they're a lot easier to clean up than pulling those roots out of the pavers!
floweringmama said…
Thanks, now I know what to do this spring!
Suzie said…
Flea market season starts next month, so I'm going to be on the lookout for neat pieces!

You continue to provide us all with inspiration!
Melynda said…
Thank you! I think these will be fun.
Rosemary said…
Jaz thanks for the tutorial I see glass totems springing up everywhere... in my garden for sure.
loved seeing this too...they look wonderful...you sure have GOOD LUCK in the thrifting department...
Autumn said…
Wow, they are beautiful! Thank you for sharing how to make them!! I love shopping at the thrift stores so I see making one of these coming up soon!
Holt House said…
Thanks for the lesson, I think I have all the "ingredients" for one in my antique/junk store!
Mama's Thyme said…
I'm so excited to try these - thank you! One question - do you have any problems with the sun being magnified by these and scorching any of your plants? My mother has a glass paperweight sitting on top of her radio in a sunny window, and the sun refracted through the glass actually melted the top of the radio!
Blue Rustic said…
Jaz, thanks so much for the detailed instructions - I'll link to this post in my website, if that's okay - very valuable information, and so inspiring.
Marsha said…
What type of glue are you using to glue glass to glass. I have used a few different ones and just wondering if you've found one you're completely satisfied with. Thanks!
Ginger Burch said…
This is so cool I'm going to see what I can find to make one of my own for my yard. Great Job! I know my Mom would love to have a glass totem in her yard too.
NickiLee said…
Thank you so very much for sharing this - love it!!! Just moved my MIL into Assisted Living and have boxes full of all her old glass wear - so excited to get started on a totem for my gardens. Yours ROCK!
Wondering how to clean up "all that glass" if it topples over? Really? You get a broom and a dustpan and go to town! I think this is a great tutorial! Looking forward to giving it a go for my garden.
heidi bonner said…
I love your work.... my mom and I have made a couple and we have had a problem with moisture getting inside them. Any tips?
heidi bonner said…
I love your work.... my mom and I have made a couple and we have had a problem with moisture getting inside them. Any tips?
Pat Cottingham said…
Please help me. I have made several totems using the clear
and table dishes, but my problem is glue. I have used E6000, GE silicon and loctite but I am still having problems.I clean,sand and wash but sometimes it won't stick sometimes after 3 days. WHAT IS THE PERFECT GLUE TO USE PAT
catlady520 said…
I've been thinking of making a totem. I guess more then thinking since I've started collecting pieces from the local thrift shops, lol. My question is, do you drill a hole in the center so it can be held to the ground with a re-bar spike? Where I live we get some high winds.
Janie said…
I've been thrift store shopping etc, collecting different pieces to hopefully start some totems & stakes. I'm still researching & reading about so many different tips & I just want to do it right the 1st time. You mentioned you prefer aquarium clue best...what do you use to clean the glass with? I don't want to find out after I've glued the pcs together, that a cleaner or soap I used foggs up later. As for the contact areas to be glued...do you lightly sand or wipe with something? I've heard rubbing alcohol can leave a residue that may prevent glue from sticking??
bk said…
What would you charge for your large totem??? Jon
catlady520 said…
Thank you for your tutorial. I've been accumulating glassware for multiple totems in amber, green, red, blue and clear. I try to not go over $5 per piece. Unfortunately the local thrift shops are going though a vintage phase and it's hard to find bargains. It's not impossible just difficult and hard to keep in mind all the shapes I'm dealing with. The red and blue are going to my daughters in law for Christmas or birthday this year. I'm thinking of doing the small flowers too. I thought about the aquarium glue you mentioned but most people say they use clear all weather silicon sealant. Have you ever tried that? If you have I'd like to know your opinion. Thank you again for posting this. You do beautiful work.
catlady520 said…
Hay Janie I use soapy water with a vinegar water rinse.
lizzy0921 said…
I am going to make two for my stepdaughters bridal shower and then use them as raffle prizes at the end :) thanks for sharing!!
I am just getting into this and it looks like fun and they are beautiful. You said to use plate with flat bottom.....hmmmmmm..... so many are not flat at the bottom. Any suggestions on how to use them anyway.
I love your site and and beautiful things you have created
Ginny
Ginny Kemmerer said…
I am just getting into this and it looks like fun and they are beautiful. You said to use plate with flat bottom.....hmmmmmm..... so many are not flat at the bottom. Any suggestions on how to use them anyway.
I love your site and and beautiful things you have created
Ginny
Absolutely!! What a beautiful piece of art!!
Unknown said…
have you ever done them with colored glass?
What stunning work!!
It was so nice of you to share all your secrets.
You have inspired so many people, including Me‼️
Thanks very much!
Karin said…
I apologize ahead of time. Did you say what adhesive you used?
Nan Gerike said…
Waterproof marine sealant/glue (Home Depot). Moisture inside on several pieces turning to mold. Biggest mistake - base plate had impressions on the under side. Upside down, seal not tight enough, allowing moisture to seep in along those. Allowed totem to set in vinegar, but still some mold. Couple others have beaded moisture inside. Gave to husband to remove base. Wishing him luck.