A home bathroom refurbishment led Jesus del Toro Garcia, Designer, at Scott Carver, to begin a 120-hour personal fish-scale tile making journey. This production of 2,200 usable tiles of various shades of green, involved experiments with 3D printed moulds, kiln shrinkage and plenty of hours with friends in the workshop.
Q: Can you briefly explain The Tile Project Jesus?
A: The Tile Project was the creation of 3,200 fish-scale tiles, by hand, for our bathroom, over two months. Although we only needed 2,200, 1/3 didn’t quite make the quality cut. I learned that the process was actually quite simple: cut the clay block with a wire into slabs, roll them out, cookie-cut them with a mould, kiln them, glaze them and kiln again. So, myself, and my helpers followed the process… 3,200 times!
Q: What led you to start your tile making journey?
A: I was just curious at first about whether or not I could do it. As it didn’t seem too complicated, I was excited each time I figured something out and moved onto the next stage. I didn’t have the budget to purchase the finished tiles (even imported they were around $800/sqm), but what I did have, was the patience. So, I started testing clay types, colours and textures, until I was happy with one.
Q: What was the most challenging part of the process?
A: The cookie cutter was crucial. Until I was hit by the inspiration to 3D print one; I tested Aluminium, MDF, and Polystyrene. All unsuccessfully. Even the 3D printed model was upgraded three times, until I was able to make it work with a lid.
Also, producing the first usable tile was a challenge. It took a while until I got the perfect-workable amount of moisture in the clay right. This meant it wouldn’t after-warp once it came out of the bisque kiln. Myself and my helpers threw away lots of them before we got this right… in tears.
Q: What materials did you end up using?
A: Earthenware clay – white Raku – and different types of glazing and under glazing. I ended up having five different tones with their variations, from a black/dark green, through to a yellower green.
Q: What are 3 fun facts about tile making?
- Long hours of mechanical work allowed a much deeper connection with my friends who were helping out. Also, my friend’s kids loved to come and muck around with clay and feel part of the project. It has been an incredibly collaboratively journey that has enabled us to learn, sing, dance and make tiles all in one go!
- We also networked with other artists, makers and likeminded people, throughout the process. Learning from their other’s projects was inspiring, as it allowed us to learn and explore future ideas, which was exciting.
- If you are planning to do this beware of shrinkage. You will have to make around 10-15% more than what your CAD drawing tells you, along with the 10-15% of unusable ones, which makes an extra 30% extra that needs to be made!