Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Island of Opportunity?

My family is very blessed.  We were able to have a week away during school vacation to go to a glorious place called Maho Bay on the island of St. John, US Virgin Islands.  Our days were filled with hiking and snorkeling and eating and drinking. Truly paradise. I could write on and on of the joys of Maho Bay Tent Camps, but today I will just tell you about one aspect of their "Trash to Treasures" recycled art program.  I was so excited to discover that they had begun making cement counter tops, as I am dreaming and scheming of doing that myself here at home. 
Dan, a staff-person at Maho, was generous and friendly and tolerant of my taking pictures all week as he made a custom counter top for the art gallery at Maho.  Maybe Dan is Maho's version of David Berry?  He was just as tolerant and friendly. Here he is scraping labels off of blue wine bottles for use in his counter top.

At Maho, they look for ways to use the glass bottles that come from their restaurant.  Recycling on an island is both difficult and costly, so Maho has found ways to reuse their own glass. The counter tops are just the latest product.  The primary use has been in the glass-blowing program. In addition to the recycled bottles that will go into the counter top, Dan is able to use pretty glass cast-offs from the artists in the glass-blowing studio: shapes, canes and other pretty things.

 Here is Ginger, from the Art Gallery, arranging the glass pieces that will become the design in her gallery's counter top.  The blue mold edges are foam and the bottom of the mold is stainless, with lots of wax on top to allow the cement to release when its done.

Dan measures out the glass.
...and mixes it in with Portland Cement and a few other key ingredients that you can find at Fishstone supply.  He uses loose fiberglass fibers and a fiberglass netting to lay in to the mix that offers stability for the final product without excess weight and thickness. There are pounds and pounds of crushed bottles in each piece.

When it's dry and complete, it is amazingly thin and light.
Here is my friend Maria looking at the dried counter before Dan has ground off the extra cement (no pictures of that, as we were off snorkeling when it happened.)

The grinding and buffing exposes all those beautiful glass shapes and colors. 
 The counter was installed at the Gallery the week after we were there.  The folks at Maho blogged about it here.  Please surf around their website to see the other ways that they reuse, recycle and upcycle their waste. See a beautiful sink that Dan made of cement and glass here.

Looking at these other table tops has my mind reeling about the bottles and glass that I might work into my counter tops at home. For now... I'll focus on the sand between my toes and the warmth of Maho.  My last note has got to be a note of thanks to my pal Julie back in Maine who, with her husband Cam, made and installed their own cement counter tops with stones and glass and even trilobites, and got me dreaming about this whole mess.  Here is a shot of Julie's kitchen. You should see her bathrooms! Drooool.
Please comment, friends.  Anyone out there made their own? Care to share your experience?


  1. katie and MariaMay 03, 2012

    Great photos Kate! Maria says you should be a photographer. I say, you are!!

    1. Thanks, you two. When I'm ready to arrange glass pieces in my own counter top, I know I can call on Maria for design help. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Thanks for this,
    I can see it working good as a hearth area around and behind our newly renovated summer kitchen porch.

  3. Great post. We agree that Dan's recycled glass countertops are fabulous and had him design one for our St John villa (Great Expectations). You can see the finished product on the photo page of our website: We think it is pretty stunning (and helps the island too). Win-win...

    1. Beautiful counter top in a beautiful villa. If I ever tire of a Maho tent, I just may visit you. Thanks for sharing this, Kristin.


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