Tag Archives: clay tiles

Whole Lotta Tiny Tiles

In September 2020 I made about 200 tiny tiles to serve as art-drop-off items (if you wonder what I am talking about, I leave art items in the various places I go for people to find. I chronicle these activities on my personal blog, Sometimes You Get So Confused).

Anyway, here is a selection to view. For these tiles, I used low-fire clay, Velvet underglazes, and low-fire glazes, fired at cone 06. I think this combination shows off the sculptural qualities these tiles have.

Embossed Tiles

Here are two clay tiles I made in my studio clay class in early 2020.

I rolled out a slab of clay and stamped the various designs into it. These stamps were ones that I had made myself. How did I do that? Well, I formed tiny sculptures with raised or incised patterns on them and then I bisque fired them. Then I could use them to press into clay as I did here.

Some of these stamps were simply tiles, and others resemble cylinder seals of antiquity. To use the latter you roll it along, and it makes a continuous pattern in the clay.

To glaze them, I applied various washes or glazes over one another. Primarily I dip glazed the tiles, rotating them as I put different sections into different glazes. As you may remember, glazes are chemical soups, and combining them is not like combining paints, where you can predict the outcome. Instead, the chemical combination of two glazes can give unexpected and surprising results. Which I like!

Tiny Tiles

These tiles are the end of the work I have to show you that I did at my studio clay class that I attended in fall 2019 and winter 2020.

I made the little people by collaging clay on top of a slab. The small tile was made with one of my personally-created stamps.

Both of these were dip glazed and are done in stoneware clay fired at cone 6. They are about 2 inches each, more or less, in size.

Maybe there will be another clay studio class in my future. Time will tell me that answer to that.

House at Norristown Farm Park

Maybe three or so weeks ago my husband and I took a walk in Norristown Farm Park. You can read about it here on my personal blog, Sometimes You Get So Confused.

We did some art drop offs and took photos. Some were of this house on the park’s property. I took my favorite shots and drew vignettes in a sketchbook at home. Here’s the array of drawings:

House at Norristown Farm Park 3-20 four views001

And here are the photos that inspired them.


Tile Project – Let’s See the Results!

The tile project I’ve been working on for the past few days has been glaze-fired and the results are in. I will show you in just a minute. First, a couple of comments:

  • This project completed itself in no time flat, when usually clay projects take weeks to go through the processes. This one was quick because
    • I used already bisque-fired commercially-made tiles – I did not have to form them, wait for them to dry, and fire them.
    • I could underglaze the tiles one day, glaze them the next. Often I don’t have time to get the steps done so closely together.
    • I had a large enough project to fill a kiln. Glazed tiles take a lot of room in the kiln – they must not touch each other nor can they be stacked. So, this time I did not have to wait for enough items to make a reasonable kiln load – I had plenty, given those requirements. Full speed ahead!
  • I mentioned my worries about the tiles sticking to the kiln shelves. No problems at all. Let me show you three samples that reveal the situations that emerged:

Tiles examples - back - 3-20001

The top tile cleaned up well, the wax did its job, and there were no glaze blobs to speak of in the indentations and none on the raised areas. This is a best result.

The next tile, bottom left, had glaze blobs in indentations and on raised areas. The white parts are where the kiln wash pulled off the shelf. No damage to anything, but it’s unsightly. Note: the red color is underglaze that somehow got onto the back of the tile. It does not adhere to shelves, and though I usually clean the backs of tiles to remove underglaze, I must have missed this one. It just looks messy, but is not a problem.

The third tile shows glaze blobs in the indentations but nothing on the raised areas, so there was no kiln wash adhered to the back. It’s imperfect but acceptable.

Remember that if these tiles were intended to be adhered to a wall, none of this would matter. The tiles could be set and do just fine. It’s when you want to sell the tiles as an item of decor that the back starts to matter. People look at both sides when they buy, in those situations.

Now… Time to see the tiles.

Note: I am not a good art photographer and my aim was to make photos that do a decent job of portraying the tile, but I am not great with reflections and so on. I did my best, and I think you can see enough to get an idea.

If you’ve got any questions about a specific tile, as to how I achieved the effects you see, just ask a question in the comments!

Here are the bird tiles, as individuals:

and a group shot:

Clay Bird Tiles 3-20 Group013

Here are the head tiles as individuals:

and a group shot:

Clay Head Tiles Group 3-20 4x4001

Well, that’s it. Soon I will be taking them around with me to leave out in the world. If you follow my personal blog (Sometimes You Get So Confused), where I post my art drop-offs, you may see where they end up.

Thanks for going along with me in this tile journey.

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.

Tile Project

If any of you follow my personal blog (Sometimes You Get So Confused) you know that I have a practice of doing art drop-offs, where I leave art (usually clay) in parks or other places for people to enjoy and if they like, to pick up and take home.

I am working on a small project of tiles to leave out in the world.

I was prompted to do this project by the news that this year’s Tile Festival at the Moravian Tile Works in Doylestown, PA, is cancelled. Every May for the past 10 years or so I have done this show and I will miss participating this year. I felt sad.

I wanted to try something to cheer up people around me even if just a little. And me, too. I always feel better when working on art.

Yesterday, I took some commercially-made 4″ x 4″ terracotta tiles that I had on hand. All I needed to do was come up with their decor, since they are already bisque-fired. I decided to make two series – one with a bird and one with a person’s head. In this way the tiles could be similar but different, in case I set more than one at a location.

I used stencils for the images, flipping them to have the figures face different ways, and then I added individual details.

I colored them with Velvet underglazes. I’m showing them to you with the color on, dry, and ready for the next stage. In the past I have left the tiles unglazed, enjoying the matte surface and the look of the colors. I’ve decided to glaze them just to be doing something different.

Things went fine, except for when I knocked over a bottle of underglaze. Thankfully it was a small one. The amount on the table was about 25% of what went on me or on the floor. Good-bye, Light Red. I will get some more when I have the chance…

Clay tiles in process for giveaways 3-20 (1)001

When these are done, I will find locations for them, depending on circumstances. I do not have to rush to set them all out at once, I remind myself. Let everything go as it goes.


OK, here are the tiles in their current state.

Let’s Talk Texture and Clay

Back in the fall I was working away in my clay studio at home and doing various things to finish up a bag of raku clay. I had bought it in anticipation of possibly doing a group raku session but it didn’t work out, so I thought I’d use it in regular projects at home.

I’m not very fond of this clay. I find its color bland and though the clay is fine to work with, it’s not grabbing hold of me in any way. Long story short, I had made some things with it and had some almost-too-dry scraps left. I formed them into tiles. Then, on a whim, I used various tools and objects to impress into the clay. I fired them and then washed them with Jet Black Velvet underglaze, and then dip-glazed them. Here were the results.

Clay tile 11-19 @ 4x4 group - two relief tile studies2

I liked the look of them and I decided to make a couple of vessels using the same impression techniques. I rolled out a slab:

Impressed clay 11-19

I cut it and formed it into two cylinder vessels. I then followed the same production path as for the tiles. Here are the results.

Vessel #1 in total – I’ve left it small so you can see the whole progression – click on the images if you want a detailed view.

And the second vessel:

I used Jet Black Velvet underglaze to coat the interiors of the vessels rather than leaving them the clay color as I might have done if I liked the clay color better!

Impressions Vessel #2 1-20 View 5 top

And here are a couple of portraits, larger sized, Vessel 1, first, then Vessel 2.


Stencil Tiles #4

This month I will show you an array of tiles I made, at my studio clay class or at home, using the stencil method of applying images. For a full explanation of this method and some tiles I made in the fall of 2019, look here.

I made these tiles in fall 2019 at the studio tile class. They were bisque fired after the class ended and I picked up the project when we got back to class in January 2020 to glaze them. This time I used no resist but glazed the entire surface. (I think I was wanting to be finished with the past projects and get on to the new ones!)

These tiles are all @ 4″ x 4″, except for the last one at 7″ x 7″. You may notice I am using a different clay here, a very dark stoneware selection. It fires at Cone 6.

You may also notice some repeated shapes – the house, for instance. That is a good thing about stencils – they can be reused. Now, for this application I use magazine paper as the stencil material. It’s fine for a few passes but of course it disintegrates pretty quickly. You can cut your own stencils out of film, or of course there are millions of pattern stencils you can buy.

Additionally, you can see in the last tile the two birds – one made from the positive image, one from the negative. In other words, I cut out the bird shape and also kept the residue shape, and used them both.

You can also flip your stencil over and get a reversed image, such as the two heads looking at each other in the last tile.

OK, we are all caught up on stencil tiles! Thank you for following along with me.

Stencil Tiles #3

This month I will show you an array of tiles I made, at my studio clay class or at home, using the stencil method of applying images. For a full explanation of this method and some tiles I made in the fall of 2019, look here.

I made these tiles at home, after the fall studio class had ended. More from the same group I showed you in Stencil Tiles #2.

Velvet underglazes, raku clay, clear glaze, fired at cone 06, all about 7″ x 7″ except for the small one at the end, about 3″ x 3″.