Tile Project – Let’s Glaze

I told you about a tile project I’m working on right now – I will be making tiles for art drop-offs around my neighborhood (wherever I can walk to, pretty much). I have done art drop-offs for years (look at my personal blog, Sometimes You Get So Confused, to see what I mean).

I had some commercially made tiles that I knew I wasn’t going to use in other projects – they might sit in my studio forever, maybe. I didn’t want to waste them, and I decided to use them to make simple artworks that might make someone smile. Including me.

Look here for Part 1 of the creation process. Here I will show you the glazing process, which took place on March 27. Take a look at my overall setup in the studio.

Tiles 5 3-20001

I’ve got a dilemma as to how to glaze these tiles. I want to dip glaze them. The process makes a smooth beautiful finish to the face of the tile. Usually I’d just wax the backs of the tiles (to form a resist) and dip the tiles, washing off any little glaze specks lingering (because glaze will adhere to the kiln shelves in firing).

But, these tiles have a raised grid pattern on the back. This helps to bond them firmly to the wall or surface when used with thin-set mortar. And these tiles were manufactured with that purpose in mind.

But, it presents a problem. Or two. One, how to most efficiently wax the backs? Two, how to clean the backs well enough they would not stick to the kiln shelves in firing?

And how about Three? Should I attempt to glaze the fronts and leave the back bare? If so, how would I do it?

Well, after some thought, I decided to wax the backs. And then to do my best to clean them. Here is what I did. I took the liquid wax (it comes in a bottle and is quite runny, but dries almost immediate when applied to the tile.

I poured a small amount in a shallow container, like this:

Tiles 2 3-20004

I carefully lowered the back of the tile into the wax, and equally carefully carried it to stand on end for a bit, to dry. Here you can see tiles standing up and the backs of tiles whose wax has dried (They are the brighter green ones and show the grid pattern.)

Tiles 3-20005

Remember Option Three, glaze the fronts and leave the back bare? I would have used a shallow container for this process, but filled it with glaze instead. I decided not to go this way because I was afraid I could not get a nice smooth coating of glaze nor keep it from dripping to the back. Others can do this, but I do not have the skill for it. So wax the backs it was.

Once the wax dried, I dip glazed the tiles in my bucket of clear glaze. You hold your hands under the tile facing up, lower it into the glaze, swish one two three, and raise it, slightly angling it to let excess glaze run off.

Tiles 4 3-20002

Then I took each tile to the table to dry. Here is the same photo as above, with the glazed tiles in aqua.

Tiles 3-20005

You know, glazing this way is messy. You are in glaze up to your wrists. The tile continues to drip on its way to the table and you do too. I guess I could have put my table closer to my glaze bucket? Right? Guess I didn’t think of it until too late. Whole lot of drips on the floor.

Tiles 3 3-20003

Well, the floor needed a mopping anyway.

When I had accumulated a certain number of dried glazed tiles I turned them over to clean the corrugated back as best I could. I made sure that the parts in contact with the kiln shelf were wiped well. But I could not get glaze out of all the crevices.

I understood that these left-behind glaze bits could drip in firing and adhere to the kiln shelf. I felt I could take the chance because the glaze amounts were small, and…I have kiln washed my shelves (meaning I have painted them with a substance that serves as a pull-away coating for the surface of the shelf).

If there are drips, the kiln wash will be stuck to the back of the tile, but it will allow the tile to pull away from the shelf, though leaving a white blob of kiln wash glued to the tile. If I were selling these tiles, it would be disfiguring enough to reject the tile. For this project, I figure, it does not matter. No one will care about the backs of the tiles, I think.

After cleaning the tiles, I loaded the kiln. I fired it on March 28. I plan to unload the kiln later today, March 29. And I will let you see what the results were of this process.

3 thoughts on “Tile Project – Let’s Glaze

  1. Pingback: Tile Project – Let’s See the Results! | Claudia McGill and Her Art World

  2. tierneycreates

    Ha – I was immediately thinking before you got to it – “she got glaze on the floor!” I was wondering if it was permanent but I guess not since you said you will mop it. Lovely tiles and you have another blog? You are a busy woman!

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. Yes, the glaze is just water with chemicals added, mops right up (in this stage of the process. As you know, try getting it off kiln shelves…) Good thing the basement doesn’t mind the casual way I treat it. Yes, I have a blog where I chronicle personal things that might be interesting or that matter to me, in addition to art and poetry. That is where the art drop-offs get their mention.

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