DIY Decorative Garden Ball Tutorial

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Garden Art DIY: Make your own decorative garden balls

Easy Way To Make A Classic Garden Garden Globe Decoration
Decorative garden balls (also called ‘garden spheres’ or ‘glass garden globes’) are an inexpensive alternative to the classic gazing ball. Plus, it’s a great way to recycle some old household items and turn them into garden art.

If you’d like some ideas, I have a gallery of garden art balls here.

See Empress of Dirt Creative DIY Projects here | empressofdirt.net

Using a bowling ball or thick glass lamp globe (that’s what I use), some decorations, and adhesive (you have to use the right one -see Materials list), you can make a glass garden sphere for approximately $5-20. I’ve provided free instructions below.

Design options include attaching glass gems (flat marbles), pennies, old costume jewelry, and/or paint or decoupage with Mod Podge. Really, you can cover the base sphere in just about anything with a flat side that adheres nicely and can withstand the weather.

Garden Art DIY: Make your own decorative garden balls

The instructions here are for applying flat-bottom marbles

Some product links go to my affiliate account at Amazon.com. I always recommend you look for used supplies at thrift shops and yard sales first.

 

Basic Steps

1. Start with clean, dry lamp globe.
2. Apply the flat marbles using a generous amount of GE Silicone II sealant. Make sure you pick the one that is waterproof, clear, and made for outdoors – either for Gutters and flashing or Windows and doors. This is the only brand I’ve tried that works.  See the instructions below for tips on getting the marbles to stay in place.
3. Allow proper drying time according to the product label.

 Garden Art Ball Materials

  • Lamp globe. I look for globes that have strong, thick glass. Some also use old sports balls such as a soccer or football ball but I have not tried this myself.
  • OR Bowling ball. If you do use a bowling ball, sand off the glossy surface before you start for better adhesion.
  • Flat-bottom marbles or coins,round glass flat stones or decorative accent glass, beads, necklaces, aquarium stones…. Quantity will depend on the size of your ball or globe. Leftovers can always be used for other projects.
  • Outdoor silicone sealant/adhesive. I use clear (not white or any other colour) GE Silicone II and it must be waterproof and made for outdoor use. GE Silicone II sealant is sold as a sealant but works as an adhesive when you apply it fairly thickly, allowing it to grab the flat marbles as it sets. Do not substitute with other sealant products – GE Silicone II is the only one I’ve tested that works. Check the ‘USE BY’ date on the tube to make sure you’re getting fresh product.
  • Caulking gun (if you’re using a tube cartridge). Don’t worry: they’re inexpensive and they’re not guns. They simply dispense the silicone sealant. Phew.

 Garden Ball Design Ideas

There are so many possibilities!

One colour * many colours * create patterns * design simple flowers and fill in around them * polka dots * stripes of colour * form patterns with costume jewelry necklaces *

Garden Art DIY: Make your own decorative garden balls

Garden Ball Instructions and Tips

Read all of the steps before you start.

Garden Art DIY: Make your own decorative garden balls

STEP 1

Assemble your materials – glass globe, flat marbles, and GE Silicone II. Read the product label to understand health and safety considerations, clean up, and drying times.

Garden Art DIY: Make your own decorative garden balls

STEP 2

Make sure you are using the correct product. Other sealants I’ve tested do not work the same way.

Garden Art DIY: Make your own decorative garden balls

STEP 3

Use a bowl to hold the glass globe in place while you’re applying the silicone sealant. Work in sections. You want the sealant at least 1/4″ thick.

Garden Art DIY: Make your own decorative garden balls

Step 4

I apply the first row of flat marbles with the globe upsidedown (see photo, above). Press each marble snugly into the silicone and let the silicone ooze out around it. This will hold the marbles in place as the silicone dries.

Garden Art DIY: Make your own decorative garden balls

STEP 5

After applying the first row, beginners should turn the globe over and work from the bottom up so that each new row of marbles rests on the row below. If you’ve applied at least a 1/4″ of silicone, and let the marbles touch each other, they should stay firmly in place.

STEP 6

Refer to the product label for proper drying time. You may wish to work in sections, allowing one area to dry before working on the next one.

STEP 7

When the silicone has dried for the recommended amount of time, your globe is ready to be displayed outdoors.

Garden Art DIY: Make your own decorative garden balls

I used an old glass lamp as the base for this garden art ball.

Garden Ball Supply Sources

While money can buy anything, if you prefer to keep yours under your mattress where it belongs, look for free or inexpensive supplies. Not only will you save money, but you’ll probably find something cool and unexpected that will make your creation pop. Debt-free living is the Way of The Empress.

  • Lamp globes: Habitat For Humanity ReStores, thrift shops, yards sales, and garbage day are good places to check for lamp globes and all sorts of other glass, wood, and metal items suitable for garden art.
  • Flat-bottom marbles: dollar stores, craft supply shops, department stores. If you want unusual colors or large quanities, search for bulk sellers online.

Garden Art DIY: Make your own decorative garden balls

 Want More?

The best garden art projects (with complete instructions) from this site are now available in my new eBook:

Empress of Dirt Garden Art & Ideas.

Garden Art DIY: Make your own decorative garden balls

“Pink Ice” by Karen Weigert Enos

See The Gallery Of Garden Art Balls here.

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Comments

  1. says

    I absolutely LOVE the purple and green one – what product is used between the “marbles” to give it that textured look. It is AWESOME! Great job! Thanks so very much for sharing.

  2. Peggy Hamilton says

    There are always tons of these flat marbles at garage sales – now I know what to do with them!

  3. Karen Fisher says

    I saw depression-type plates attached to a window at a garden center for garden art. They were very expensive. I keep wondering how to do one myself. Do you think the clear silicone would work for that project?

    • Donna Guidry says

      I’ve used the same adhesive to cover a glass sliding door – which had lost it’s seal, causing the glass to have moisture trapped – cloudy looking. I just used the adhesive to attach left over stand glass pieces – in a waterfall pattern. you can use the larger pieces of art – you may have to duct tape them in place til the adhesive dries.(or some other type of support on a vertical surface.

  4. Suzanne Veter says

    I was wondering what material you used between the marbles too. I’ve seen bowling balls for sale on ETSY,but using regular marbles..have you tried that?

    • says

      I don’t put anything between the marbles – just the silicone sealant is there. Yes, you can use regular marbles – you’ll need a thicker layer of silcone sealant to hold them in place – perhaps 1/2″ thick instead of 1/4″. If you want to grout the ball, that’s a separate process – grout over silicone will probably cause problems down the road.

  5. Susan says

    Hi Melissa, I had a problem withy bowling ball. I used E6000 and now know to use the waterproof silicone….but the ball cracked in half. Is our coastal Texas weather and sun to much heat?

  6. mary says

    Susan I have had bowling balls in my yard for several years–now I know why I cannot find them at good will anymore. I have never decorated mine I only have the very colorful ones. I have found that they have to be sitting with holes on the bottom so they dont get wet inside the holes. I always put them inside the shed during the winter. I have 8 and have had only one split. I’m sure its weather changes of some kind.

    • Susan says

      Thank you Mary. Yes, I did place the holes on the bottom. And thank you for sharing that you have had a ball crack and that it is a rare occurrence. Now I will decorate the other… With the glass discs that I saved!

  7. MonikaMCglaun says

    I was thinking about making something like that but not just to put in my yard but put on woodposts on my backdeck, the woodcovers I put on top of those posts have seen better days and I nt quiet sure what to use that would hold up in the outsidclimate but I will givGE silicone a try, thanks for ttip

  8. Dee Anne says

    my mother was going to throw away her three duckpin bowling balls, but I took them instead – now I know what to do with them – can’t wait – thanks for the explicit instructions

  9. Toni jette says

    I am working on a ball using sea shells, it is taking a long time! I am probably not using enough silicone, but will have to wait and see!

  10. Toni jette says

    I’m not sing large ones, but am piggy backing them to create interest and interspersing them with sea glass and marbles. It is a messy job! At least for me, maybe I’m just a slob!

  11. Kerrie says

    I was wondering about the texture between the marbles, as well. As you said it is just the silicone, do I assume that you tinted the silicone before putting it down, as the pink globe has a pink tone and the purple/green globe has purple and green as the back color. You have done a wonderful job! These are gorgeous!!

    • Pat Koltz says

      I asked Melissa if there were tiny seed beads between the larger marbles or stones and here is her response: “There are two balls in the images above by Karen Weigert Enos and she uses Itty Bitty Bits from AC Moore to fill in the areas between the flat marbles.”

  12. Barbara says

    I have a bowling ball, but not thrilled with the color, can I paint it first, or will the flat marbles cover all the color. Any suggestion?

    • Pat Koltz says

      I’ve used some sandpaper to rough it up a bit, then used an outside primer. After the primer is dry I spray painted my bowling balls. Once the last coat of paint has dried according to directions (I used more than 1 coat, but it varied for me according to the condition of the ball I was using) cover the ball with an outdoor polyurethane as a sealer. I also gave the sealer several coats for protection but make sure you let each coat dry completely. If you don’t grout it, the color of the ball will show through; the flat marbles will not completely cover the total surface of the bowling ball.

      • Toni jette says

        I havebeen trying to finish a bowling ball with shells and marbles, song the clear grout. Not totally happy with it, but who is going to walk over with a magnifying glass and inspect it?! That is what I told myself. I nearly finished, I have too many projects going, and it is messy andi have to let it dry inbetween. I need more patience!!!

    • Debbie says

      I have made over 20 old bowling balls into gazing balls. Sand the bowling ball down with a fine sandpaper to get rid of any old oil, then I spray paint it with a primer when dry I spray paint it whatever color I want the ball to be. I then use a Marine Based Silicone to attach the marbles and being in Ohio bring the balls in for the winter. I have not had any break for 3 years now. Have fun mixing and matching colors.

  13. Lois says

    What exactly are the itty bitty bits? I looked on the ac moore website & couldn’t find it. Thanks for any help…..

    • says

      Sorry you couldn’t find them! I’m in Canada and we don’t have that store, but I am told they are little synthetic pieces that could be used for filling jars for floral crafts or that sort of thing. I have found a similar no-name product here in dollar stores – they are on the shelves near glass gems for crafts. Wish I could help more – I see AC Moore does not yet list its products online…

  14. Marianna says

    Hi! Thanks for the great tutorial! I was wondering if you’ve tried any more traditional mosaic techniques for these garden balls, such as using thinset instead of the silicone to adhere the beads? I’d ultimately want to grout, which is why I ask. Thanks so much!

    • says

      Hi Marianna, I have made some with tile adhesive and grout but did not document them for the blog. No matter what adhesive you use, attaching beads is quite a slow and cumbersome process. But some art is worth it, of course. :)

  15. Gardenguru says

    I think I found my answer about the adhesive. At first I could not access the tutorial, but now I see the answer regarding the GE sealant II.

    Thanks.

  16. Beth says

    What a fabulous idea and what an impressive, informative blog.
    I am signing up right now, and going to look for bowling balls and lamp globes.
    Amazing.

    Thank you,
    Beth

    PS Love the choice of Queen Victoria! LOL

  17. says

    Fabulous fun & Beautiful Idea. Can I suggest everyone find a way to sign your name in the Bulb on the inside & Date it. Just to see how long we’ve had them. I might even ad the city and state I made it in.
    we are all artist, right? why not. I love my Garden and what a nice cool colorful addition my kids and I can do. Thanks ^_^

    • says

      It’s not a bowling ball – I always used old lamp globes and they have openings in them. The lamp base still has the metal pieces at the top for holding a light bulb. I just sat the lamp globe over it and it stays in place (12 years and counting!).

  18. Betty Patterson says

    Your ideas are fantastic and I sure am going to experiment this summer. Thanks for all the information. I love to craft & recycle old stuff such as lamps, rose bowls, fish bowls & glass vases.
    Betty

  19. Eileen Sweeney says

    Melissa! I wanted to make the glass bowling ball a couple of weeks ago…..BEFORE I found your article! BIG MISTAKE! I went off all “willy-nilly”, as my Mom used to say…..and glued the glass discs on with a hot glue gun. Every night since then, one or two discs fall off onto my coffee table! Woopsie! Thanks to you, I know which product to use to make the next ones stick permanently! THANK YOU!

  20. Olivia Siller says

    Great! Great! Great! What is even greater is that I have all the materials needed, except for the glue. I love to “treasure hunt”, and have a 10 X 30 shed full of “junk”
    that I have collected over the last 40 years. Thank you for giving me ideas on what to do with all my “junk”. OST

    • says

      There are commercial silicone sealant removers (strong chemicals) available. I’ve also heard some people use a hair dryer to soften it and scrape it away but I have not tried this.

  21. says

    I see that this project is from some time back and I’m sorry I just didn’t have the time to read all the questions and comments, so I hope I’m not duplicating anyone…I prefer the idea of using the lamp globes, but I am wondering how you dealt with the open ‘neck’ of the globe? Thank you.

  22. Linda Davis says

    I have had a bowling ball for yrs and have not done anything with it. I will surely do this project. Can you use a ” gazing ball ” The one I have was not expensive and the color has all come off. would it be strong enough for the flat stones ? TY

    • says

      Hi Linda, I think most gazing balls are too fragile for this. A test is: if you threw the gazing ball down on the ground, would it break? Another option is simply to repaint your gazing ball with spray paint or by hand with a design on it.

  23. Sue Hamm says

    Have you made the bowling ball globes? If so, do you leave them out year round or bring them in for the winter?

  24. Sue Hamm says

    I also have a question regarding glass totems. I have a problem with them collecting humidity inside of them. What am I doing wrong?

    p.s. love your stuff

  25. says

    I’m adapting this idea to rocks since I don’t have a bowling ball or glass globe on hand. I wanted to get rid of some clear, half marbles I had on hand and attached them to the rock with silicone, I placed the decorated rock in a sunny garden but now I’m wondering if the sun will heat up the clear half marbles and cause the silicone to catch fire (like a magnifying glass)? My altitude is 4,000 feet and the summer temps can be in the 90′s-100′s. Any thoughts?

    • says

      Cindy, I think you may want to read the silicone sealant label thoroughly and look up any further info you need online (at the manufacturer’s site). The stuff I use is not flammable and is tested to stay in place up to 450F. In other words, I have no concerns about it in the examples you provided but you should check for yourself with the exact product you are using.

  26. Warene says

    Hi, I am anxious to start my bowling balls but have no idea what or how to fill the holes drilled for the fingers. Please let me know how or what I am to use. Love your blog!

  27. Barb says

    Would styrofoam balls be ok to use? Glass balls are so expensive in North Bay ON. I have not been able to find any glass balls at thrift stores.

    • says

      Hi Barb, I haven’t tried it so I’m not sure if the adhesive would work with/bond with the styrofoam, or if the styrofoam will hold up in harsh weather. If you try it, let me know how it goes. :)

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