I am planning on developing three different styles of tiles. My working titles are descriptive, not final: Arts and Crafts-style, Cottage Look and Urban Life. The first will focus on the classic styles of the Arts and Crafts Movement, with its themes from nature, characteristic stylization and associations with Art Nouveau. Next, Cottage Living will be akin to what you see with my new Escutcheon tile below. Cozy and sweet but not cloying. Urban Life will be characterized by crispness and a modern flair. A couple of summers ago I made a prototype tile depicting the northern lights. The stark black background and bright colors of the aurora. It has just the amount of zing I’m looking for with the Urban Life theme. I’ll show you what I come up with as I develop these three styles.
Today, I resumed working on projects I had put on the back burner while I was prepping for the 6 x 6 show. I had a number of things waiting in the wings. What you see above is my escutcheon tile times six. Tis part of the first batch I produced! What appears above are white clay tiles which have been dipped in Cottage White glaze but have yet to be fired. They are about 4.5″ x 3.5″ and are meant to be a sweet little decoration a woman might put up on the wall in her bedroom, near her jewelry, scarves and perfume. It is an intimate little piece with meaning she alone will ascribe to it. An escutcheon is a door plate and this one is modeled after an antique one. They were often highly decorated, made of copper or bronze with fine detailing. I like the idea of it because it speaks of symbolism and mystery.
In this close-up, you can see the detail. A vine begins on the upper left, winds its way down and around the keyhole. I want it to be soft looking and, to that end, I have used quite a thick coating of Cottage White. Because it is a matte glaze, there isn’t visual interference from glossiness.
This is a photo of a glaze test tile. I divided it into fourths and put a different treatment in each corner.
- Across the top half, you can see lovely Cottage White glaze in its fired state. Nice and creamy… At the top left, I painted green and red glaze detail over the cottage white. I am not really happy with the way it turned out, but it’s closer to the effect I want to achieve.
- At the top right, the cottage white glaze has completely concealed the red and green glaze underneath. I thought it would show through as muted or pale colors but it was completely covered.
- The results on the bottom right were quite surprising. This is actually Electric Shino, and Pauline thought it might have turned out as dark as it did because it was on the lower shelf in the kiln. It is a light, rich brown with undertones of red. The effect I was trying to achieve was the brilliant, glossy, transparent, light gold version.
- The bottom left shows a glaze called Cinnamon Toast, another brown. It looks a little grainy here, but the actual effect is something I might want to work with. One goal is to make a version of the tile that looks old and aged. In order to get what I want, I may experiment with stains.
While at the studio today, I did a full tile test using red, purple, and green detailing in the form of underglazes, over which I painted a glossy clear glaze. This was over the cottage white shown above… I have a feeling it will be a little too bright for what I want and will experiment with it this week. Stay tuned…
Several months ago, I had a real eye opener. I had posted the Smithsonian interview with Michael Cohen and wanted to learn more about him. He is a tilemaker. I found his site, read through it, and looked at his slide show. Wowza! (It’s down at the moment, but here is his link.) He first started working in ceramics in traditional ways, throwing and such, but soon found his niche in designing and creating tiles. I like his method of tile creation so much, I am going to attempt it myself. He uses stamps. According to his interview, he has designed 100 stamps but uses only 30 some to produce tiles. His stamps look like bisqueware, but I could be wrong… Maybe they are plaster or Hydrostone. In any case, he designs and carves an original, creates a reverse and uses it as a stamp. This week, I started tinkering with this, my new project. I thought of the time involved, too. Creating designs, carving, drying and firing them. It adds up! So, I got to thinking and studying and found a woman named Virginia Cartwright through Ceramic Arts Daily. She makes stamps of polymer. Click here to read her article (you’ll have to sign up for the site but it is well worth it). Evidently, she is also on the workshop circuit, teaching people how to make these stamps. The attraction is this: polymer does not shrink, needs no drying time, and it is baked in a 270° oven for 15 minutes per quarter-inch. As soon as I saw that bit of news, I was sold! So, then, I did a bit of investigation, looking at sites for sculptors. I learned that Super Sculpey is more durable than the regular form. Using a 50% off coupon at Michaels, I bought a pound over the weekend. You can buy a softening agent, but I just kneaded it in my hands for a bit and it didn’t take long before it was soft enough to handle. (By this time, I had come up with the idea of making a stamp that had a thickness of about a half an inch, then gluing it to a wooden knob or block. That way, I wouldn’t have to use as much polymer and I could use the knob for leverage when using the stamp.) Taking my softened polymer, I fashioned it into a square about 2 1/2 inches wide and a half-inch thick. As I was working with it, I realized my clay tools weren’t right for it and that I needed carving or sculpting tools. A fettling knife, trimming tools, pin, and ribs would only take me so far. Therefore, I decided that it would be best to make my original out of clay because I don’t have any other tools (yet). I will make a polymer impression from this original. From what I have read, fine detail transfers well. Can I can make a polymer stamp mold from dried, unbisqued clay first, though? I will make a small relief tile to find out. I will fire the originals, of course, but if I can successfully mold a dry original first, I will do it to buy time. I also have many things that need firing and glazing, but I’ve been overtaken with a turn of season cold and am working at home instead of going into the studio. Tomorrow, I will make some other tiles and work on my first stamp design, an Arts and Crafts-style pine cone. Next, I’ll carve a simple relief tile for my polymer test. Toodles and will report my results soon!
This week I moved forward, I’m happy to say! Jane Street Clayworks is now an approved business name. In addition, the business is now registered in B.C. and my license is being processed. That’s the good news and it is indeed sweet to hear. I still have plenty to do: the site changeover and site redirect. I will also start working on a pine cone tile design tomorrow. I saw some lovely copper tooled versions and want to make some tiles with that motif. We have a shore pine in front of our house and I might go with that type. They’re long, slender, and smallish. I remember the enormous pine cones I once got in the Yosemite area. I have one in our office still. Gee, it’s enormous. It’s a three-day weekend here and everyone’s getting in a holiday mood. Canadian Thanksgiving is on Monday. I actually have not planned a big dinner and we won’t be having turkey. It’ll be a two-person affair; low-key. Will do some fall clean-up, especially around the tall grasses, ferns and garden. Later, in November, we’ll be heading down to celebrate U.S. Thanksgiving with my family for the first time in ages. I’ll get my cranberry sauce fix then. It doesn’t mean the Spirit of Thanksgiving will be missing from our home, though. We have plenty to be thankful for and I acknowledge the many ways we’ve been blessed.
Tiles by William De Morgan, 1872-1882, manufactured by Josiah Wedgwood and Sons. Source: Wikimedia Commons
This summer, I learned that a tile I’d given for Christmas wasn’t being displayed. Well, I know that when it starts belonging to someone else, it is their business and what they do or do not do with it doesn’t pertain to me. Still, it did ‘ouch’ and brought up an issue: my lack of sources for displaying the things I make. The display hardware I’ve seen consists of wooden racks, Chinese style, and brass plate hangers that grip the piece from behind. Neither works well for my style of work. So, I decided to investigate, as I’ll soon be needing some. What I’m looking for are nice racks for my artisan tiles, something that would be sturdy, yet not detract, and nothing that feels modern. My tiles are Arts and Crafts style. This timeline spans the second half of the 19th Century in Great Britain and 1905-1925 in the U.S. In addition, Orientalism was the rage for a decade, starting with the 1880s. Think Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado.” Ostensibly, these modern Chinese stands could be used, but I think they would detract from my tiles because of the ornamentation. Originally, such tiles would have been inset into wooden furniture, wall panels, and around fireplaces. Plate rails would have been used, too. But not all tiles would have been displayed that way. Because I am unable to try any of these out on my tiles, I am going to do a bit of photoshopping…will ‘place’ my tiles one-by-one behind the racks to see what I think looks best. If you know of any sources I might like, in addition to the one listed below, please let me know. I’d appreciate it! — Jan
Part of a panel of tiles designed by William Morris for Membland Hall and executed by William De Morgan, 1876. Source Wikimedia Commons
Tile Racks: Fine Home Displays carries some nice items. It also has Better Business Bureau accreditation and takes orders from Canada. The following are called plate holders, but they could easily double for tile racks, ones that hang.
- The Loop Design is black with a matte finish and retails for $12.89-$14.89; comes in two different sizes.
- The Scroll Style holder goes for $15.89-$18.89; comes in these colors: gold, steel, dark steel and black. Two sizes.
- The Iron Easel is black and quite plain and I like it. Sells for $15.89. It’s quite large and can double as a bowl rack.
- Chair Motif Bowl Holder for $19.89. Lovely; must include it! Wrought iron, an antique gold finish, it is now out of stock, but you can be notified when it’s in.