Earth Song Tiles: How our ceramic
tiles are made
Laying out the
design for a carving on a porcelain 'blank'.
That would be
me starting to carve a 12x12 Celtic knot tile.
Wasn't that fast! Actually, it takes many hours to design, lay out and
complete a carving
using a variety of conventional and custom made manual carving tools.
John prepares a wooden frame around the carving
to make a mold of it.
All set to make
John is now
pouring the prepared plaster into the mold box, over the carving.
This part is always a little tense, if anything goes wrong
it's allot of hours of work down the drain.
We have a
reclaimed dryer motor with an unbalanced wooden fly wheel mounted on
the pouring table.
This vibrates the table while pouring the plaster and ensures there's
no air bubbles trapped in the mold.
The carving rarely survives this process and is thrown into the clay
We now have a master mold,
one tile or several in the case of smaller accent and border tiles,
will be made from this and another mold made from it.
This will become the production mold and the master will only be used
when it's necessary
to make a new production mold due to wear or breakage.
The tile making
bench. A large heavy duty oak rolling pin is used
to roll out slabs of wet clay to a specific even thickness on the
canvas covered surface of the bench.
Templates are used to cut the proper shape and size out of the slab to
fit the mold.
The cut slabs
of clay are placed into
the mold, covered with a board and pounded
with Johns very special duct
taped wooden mallet.
Being an industry secret I can't show a clear picture of the mallet,
are trimmed, stamped and set aside until they're dry enough to remove
from the mold.
The tiles are dried slowly in drying racks to
This part just can't be rushed, especially with the larger tiles.
tiles are dry and for some it's now time to start applying the color.
Oops! This is the wrong way.
The tiles are decorated in a variety of ways,
these ones are hand painted with under gaze
and will later have a clear gloss glaze over top.
All the tiles are fired twice at around 2000
degrees in one of our three kilns,
which generally takes two or more days. Most of that time being cooling
another thing that
can't be rushed. The first firing is called a bisque firing,
the clay is now hard and any painted on under glaze is fused to the
A glaze, either clear, colored, gloss or matte is then applied
to the tile and the second, generally final firing is done.
gold, copper or mother of pearl are applied over a gloss glaze
and require another firing at a lower temperature.
Unloading the kiln, still pretty hot.