Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hand Painted Tile FAQ’s

This blog is dedicated to the use, design and understanding of hand painted ceramic tile and cement tile. Last month, Sunny McLean issued a design challenge in her post, TILE QUIZ TIME: Fact or Fiction. We're thrilled that so many folks participated; but, alas nobody got all five questions right. So we know our work is cut out for us as we try to dispel the misconceptions and misinformation that exist about hand painted ceramic tiles. Sunny's next post will offer a full discussion of the answers.

Typical Handmade Moldings made from different bisque
Typical Moldings Made from Different Bisque

In the meantime, I wanted to post all five questions as an easy-to-understand FAQ:

  1. Are tiles made of white clay bodies or bisque superior to those made with red clay bodies?

    No. However, to keep color purity when glazing over red clay, an initial layer called an "engobe" is applied. Eliminating this step by using white clay may help keep production costs down.

  2. All tiles are not the same thickness and most handmade tile lines are thicker than inexpensive tile lines. Are inexpensive tiles thin because they use less clay to keep costs down?

    No. Inexpensive tiles are thin because they are typically mass produced by a machine that allows the clay to be compressed into a dense but thinner tile.

  3. Are surface glaze irregularities like pin-holes, occasional small specks, glaze build-up, glazed over nicks and chips considered defects in handmade tile?

    No. The hand of the ceramic artist is evident in the irregularities and variation that is inherent in a handmade and hand glazed tile and part of their charm.

  4. Can I mix white or off-white glazes from different tile manufacturers or lines on the same installation?

    No. NEVER mix white, off-white or neutral glazes from different tile lines. Factories use different bisque and glaze recipes and over the expanse of a wall or floor, they can look very different from one another. Even if the samples look close there is too much variation when installed next to each other and this problem is amplified with hand painted glazes. A sample cannot tell the whole story.

  5. Are thick tile stronger and more durable than thinner tile?

    No. The thickness of tile has to do with the method of production and the type of clay body and bisque, not its strength and durability.

Handmade Tile with Different Thickness and Glazes
Handmade Tile with Different Thickness and Glazes

Do you have a question about artisan tile, handmade or hand crafted ceramic or cement tile? Send us an email or write a comment on our blog. We’d love to help you understand how and where it is appropriate for your specific tile to be used. To gain an even better understanding of the myths and truths of hand painted ceramic tile, don’t miss Sunny’s next post! Look for it toward the end of this month.

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