Sculpture and painting are in my opinion the two art mediums that combine to create décor tiles.
Ceramic tiles are made of clay – earth.
Their preparation involves firing at high temperatures, 900-1300 degrees Celsius.
There are many different techniques employed in the process.
Firstly, the clay is rolled out into a flat surface, and then cut into quadrangles. Upon the flat surface a painting, using brushes, may be directly executed. Other tiles may be carved, etched or impressed upon, while the clay is still soft (see photos and video). The next step is painting the tile with pigments suitable for firing, and glazes that melt on the tile, giving it sheen and making it waterproof.
Various techniques of décor tile production:
When observing painted and decorated tiles it is easy to misconstrue them all as being made by the same method, but this is not so.
In the automated industry there usually is a design department that designs the decorative tiles to accompany the regular tile editions made in large series by the manufacturer.
The decorations are printed on the glazed, fired tile by silkscreen.
They are then fired for a third time at 700-800 degrees Celsius.
There are artists who use this method too.
Handmade décor tiles:
Painted tiles can be made in a variety of methods:
-The glazed tiles can be hand painted by brush with colors specific for that technique.
-The tiles themselves can be handmade from clay, as is done at our place, employing various sculpting techniques, combined with brush painting. There are endless possibilities of creation in this field.
Techniques for making handmade tiles:
First stage- rolling out the clay, and taking care to burst the bubbles that get trapped in the clay when it is kneaded.
Second stage- cutting the flattened clay, taking into account the percentage of shrinking after drying and firing.
Third stage- sculpture: For a relief tile the process would be: engraving, impressing, carving and gluing. Painting on the tile can be done when it is still wet and not fired, or after the first firing.
Fourth stage- drying
Fifth stage - first firing. Melting of the dry clay, changing it into a strong ceramic substance.
Much optimism is necessary in this line of work, as not all the tiles will be whole after the firing, and one has to be prepared for disappointment.
Sixth stage- drawing and painting of the tiles with pigments and glazes.
Seventh stage- second firing, in order to melt the glazes and permanently affix the pigments to the tiles. In my studio the second firing is executed at 1060-1280 degrees Celsius. The higher the degree of the heat, the stronger the ceramic is, and the hardier.
Gold and platinum may be added to the decoration, so that a third firing is needed.
Sometimes extra firing is required in order to achieve special effects and more color not accomplished by the previous firings.
Loading the kiln with works for first or second firing is a form of art in itself. Careful planning has to be made, in order to eliminate the mutual effects of different materials on each other during the firing process. Different placing within the space of the kiln makes for different results of the firing. This is the type of knowledge acquired by experience of firing ceramics and getting acquainted with the kiln over a long period of time.