Each step of this process is overseen with care to craft top quality ceramic tiles that will last a lifetime.
It all starts with the sketch of an idea. Drawn carefully onto a page of my the sketch book that I carry with me wherever I go. Once I get the drawing exactly as I want it, it gets carefully traced onto a sturdy piece of construction plastic with a fine point Sharpie. The plastic helps me position the sketch carefully onto a slab of leather hard clay. Using a stylus, I trace back over the design on the plastic to leave an impression onto the slab of clay.
Now the carving can begin. This is my favorite part of the process. I enjoy watching the image emerge from the flat slab. My sketch taking form and building character with the addition and subtraction of the tiniest bits of clay. I use a variety of tools to get the look I am after. Ranging from the tiniest of loop tools to dentistry tools for fine the details. And much larger loop tools that can move large amounts of clay off of the slab. After carving, I cut the tile to size and cast in plaster. Depending on the intricacy of the design, the carving process can take anywhere from a few hours to multiple days.
Once the carving is complete, I cut the slab to size and cast it in plaster. The original tile will not make it through this casting process. But don’t worry…with this plaster mold, I can cast up to 200 copies of the original.
It takes anywhere from 24 hours to a week for the plaster mold to dry, depending on the weather. When the mold is dry, I hand press stoneware clay into the mold. I score the back and stamp it with the Fire Creek Clay Logo. The mold is set aside while the plaster pulls moisture from the clay. This allows the tile to release easily from the mold. The tile is transferred to a drying rack and will dry slowly for several days.
Once the tile is bone dry, I will often use semi-moist under glazes to add color to the tile. The water color effect that I can easily achieve with this medium gives the design depth and intrigue. I also use a wide variety glazes that work well with deep relief tiles. Through this process every tile is unique. The tile will go through its first firing. This takes about 15 hours to reach temperature and another 15-16 hours before the kiln is cool enough to open.
When the tiles are cool, I hand brush the tile with a glaze. Tiles go back into the kiln to fire again to a high Cone 5, almost 2200 degrees. This firing takes about 10 hours to fire and another 10-12 hours until the kiln is cool enough to open. I love to open the kiln after a glaze fire. You will often hear Ceramicist and Potters say that opening a kiln after a glaze firing is like Christmas. It’s fun to see the transformation from the dull, unfired glazed pieces to brilliantly colored beautiful tiles.
My process, though lengthy, lends to beautiful, unique and durable hand crafted tiles. It can take 6-8 weeks from drawing the design to a completed tile. I lovingly handle every tile through every step of the process. You will not find a C & C machine here to craft our designs!
I hope that each tile helps you decorate your home in a way that is meaningful to you. I want to help you live in a home that reflects your authentic self!