Tile Process

I use three different processes to make tiles. The process that I use the most is running a slab of clay through my old fashion etching press with a plate that has a design or plant on it. The plate is usually a matte board with a cut-out design glued to it. Other plate methods use a copperplate etching or engraving, or a blank matte board that a plant is laid onto.

A second way I make tiles is to impress clay into a plastermold that I have made from a original. This is how most of traditional tile makers have made tiles.

Yet a third way is to impress stamps that I have made into the surface of a slab. Usually, I use stamps on the back of my tiles to make the back look more interesting. Occassionally, I’ll put a fish stamp on the front corner of one of the plant impressions as a sort of “chop” mark, an identifying symbol used by printmakers and potters on their work.

The bulk of my work is the cut-out designs on matte board. I use 140 lb cotton rag etching paper for the cut-outs. The negative space of the cut out is gesso-glued onto the matte board, and when the plate is pressed into clay, raised lines are created that help keep the different colored glazes separate. I mix my own glazes that I read about in books and magazines, and sometimes the recipe has to be altered slightly to work on my clay body.

The clay I use is a mix of the local Cook Inlet glacial clay found in the mud flats next to Anchorage and various other ingredients. I’ll keep my recipe to myself, but one can find plenty of recipes on line and just replace the local clay with whatever clay you have available.

I fire to cone 6 in an electric kiln.

2 thoughts on “Tile Process

  1. Hello! I’m studying ceramics at Colorado State University (about to graduate this spring woohooo!) and am moving to Kenai this May. I’ve been told about the glacial clay in the area (around the Cook Inlet at least), but haven’t really been able to find out much information about it (except how to exfoliate my face with it…haha..). I was just wondering if you are able to build and fire the clay without adding much to it or if you’ve had to mess around with it until you got the right clay body/strength/flux, etc. If you wouldn’t mind getting back to me, it would be really helpful to have a better understanding of the clay. I honestly can’t wait to try it out…Thanks for your time, and great work! -Lindsey

    1. Hello Lindsey. The glacial clay has a lot of flux and will melt at high temperatures, so you do have to add other stuff to raise the melting point. My first test of the clay was to mix it 50/50 with another clay body and it worked fine for low fire ware done at cone 04. The local clay amount has to be reduced to 30-35% if you want to go to cone 6 or 10. Like any other clay body a mix is usually better. Ball clays and kaolins work well for wheel throwing bodies, and fire clays is probably better for slab work.

Leave a Reply