Jesmonite Terrazzo Coasters
Updated: Jul 26, 2020
I first heard about Jesmonite when I was doing the Concrete Planter workshop with Concrete Everything last year – Alvin showed me some beautiful projects he was working on. Now that we’re confined mainly to our homes due to Circuit Breaker measures, I thought it was a perfect time to get a DIY Jesmonite Terrazzo Coaster kit from them!
In case you want to figure out what the entire making process is like, Concrete Everything uploaded a demo video on their IG TV, so you can get a sense of it.
The steps are pretty simple, and I only needed to use my own kitchen scale, disposable cups, and chopsticks – everything else came in the kit. There is also enough material to make at least 4 coasters (I’ve made other things with the extra jesmonite, too!)
I wanted to get a feel for the process, and picked a basic colour combination of all the pastel chips against a white background:
That’s the back of the coaster while its hardening, with no chips visible
One of the most therapeutic (but time consuming) things about the process is to sand surface to reveal the terrazzo chips. The kit comes with sandpaper of 3 different grits / coarseness, and I generally take about 45 min to an hour to finish all the sanding. I think I could have sanded a little bit more, but was still quite pleased with the outcome of my first piece:
After making the first coaster, I got curious about the possibilities of creating other coasters differently (even though the set came with just 3 colours of terrazzo chips). To my pleasant surprise, Concrete Everything’s IGTV also had a video on how to make terrazzo flakes. This opened my world to so many possibilities and I got really excited!
I then decided I wanted to make each piece inspired by different landscapes that I love – the first one somewhat represents pastel skies. I also wanted to make others that represent the milky way, the beautiful fall colours in New England, and the colourful ocean life in the sea:
Clockwise from top left: Pastel skies from Favim.com, Fall in New England taken by my husband (during our 2 month backpacking trip!), Milky Way from Paul Stewart on Flickr, underwater coral reef from ONCA
The kit comes with a few basic colours, and I managed to mix them to create different coloured terrazzo flakes and base colours:
Creating the terrazzo flakes to represent the fall coloured leaves
Each coaster represented a learning opportunity:
For the milky way one: I was wondering if it was possible to “control” the placement of the chips by pre-laying them out. I realized that not all of the them were properly “flat” on the mould (due to their odd shapes), hence the final coaster ended up having little gaps near the surface, which I reduced from sanding (but didn’t manage to eliminate)
Taking lessons from that one, I then avoided placing the main flakes onto the mould first – except for the really tiny small flakes which I could be sure were definitely flat. The rest went into the the mix (as per the instructions). I managed to squeeze some white flakes in on the top as the clouds!:
The final piece allowed me to learn other lessons:
1) that if your weighing scale is acting strange, don’t wing it. The proportion of powder to liquid needs to be precise. Some of my jesmonite mix ended up too dry, after which I added some liquid based on my gut feel.
2) Adding too much pigments can also mess with your final mix – my purple terrazzo chips ended up being a little funny cos I added sooo much pigment when I couldn’t find the right shade of purple. It took a longgg time to dry, and also ended up drying soft (flexible and can bend a little), vs hard and brittle that breaks with a crunch.
3) I tried to do the intentional placement of the large pieces after dipping each piece in the blue jesmonite mix, but that took a bit too long, and these intentionally placed pieces ended up starting to dry up first (before I could pour the rest of the mix in), which I believe affected the structural integrity of the final product. Two parts broke off when I was sanding it 😦
This is the second time a Concrete Everything project is teaching me about wabi sabi, and the beauty in imperfection. I use my kintsugi kit to fix the pieces together (you can see it in the final photo). I even messed up while doing the kintsugi parts – I wasn’t holding the pieces together very well, so the coaster fell face down, and you can see on one side of the gold joint getting smudged (a thicker but flatter golden joint on the left, versus the right)
This is what the final set looks like:
It was a lesson of experimentation and patience – the final product looks somewhat mismatched, but perhaps when looking back at the original inspiration board, you can see an abstract level of how they were translated into the terrazzo format:
P.S. One other trick I used to save more coloured terrazzo flakes – after the base jesmonite (used as the main body in the coaster) is dried out on the plastic cup, I “squeezed” the cup to break the “crust” into pieces, and saved them for future use! That was how I got the white colours (remains from the first coaster!)
Duration: 1-2 hours per coaster (most of the time spent on sanding!)
Price: Bought the Terrazzo Coaster DIY kit from Concrete Everything for SGD 52 (excluding shipping)
Level of fun: 3.5/5
If you just make the same coasters with the same basic materials provided, it could get a bit boring after some time, but when I realized the possibilities of creating my own terrazzo flakes in difference colours, trying to mix different colours of the base, and even trying to vary the sizes and placements of the chips, the fun factor increased a whole lot!
There is another video which shows how to create a marbling effect with jesmonite which I haven’t properly explored! The possibilities seem limitless, and I have fallen in love with this medium ❤ (Bought some other moulds and extra jesmonite)
Level of difficulty: 2/5
Making the basic coasters itself wasn’t very difficult – just takes some persistence, especially in the sanding. Following the demo video basically got me to roughly the right output on my first coaster!
Exploring what else you can achieve with the materials can be a little trickier and takes a little bit more practice, but is really exciting!