Homemade Clay Tiles

How to homemake your own clay tiles for back splashes, decor, etc.

Tiles add a nice touch to any room of the house, whether they are hung for decoration or laid as a floor. You can buy standard tiles from many places, but for something truly original, why not make your own?

You will need access to a kiln, some white clay and a square ruler. Your local pottery guild is perfect for something like this. They will have all the tools you need and lots of help for beginners.

To begin, determine the purpose of your tiles. Will they be used on the floor? As a backsplash? Decoration? Their use will determine the size you make the tiles. Add a 1/4 inch to the size to allow for shrinking in the kiln. You will also want to figure out how many tiles you need and add another five to ten just to make sure. Allow for breakage.

Make up a pattern on paper and decide on a design. You may want the tiles just glazed, or to have a texture or for alternating ones to have a design. It's completely up to you. Work it all out on paper first, just to be certain you know what you want.

Now for the actual execution. Purchase white clay and wedge it. Wedging is slamming the clay down on a porous surface to knock out the air bubbles that can destroy your work. Once the clay has been thoroughly worked, roll it out to about 1/4" thickness and use the square ruler to mark perfectly square tiles. Cut them out and lay them in neat row where you can reach them easily.

If you will be putting a texture of some sort on the tiles, now is the time to do so. You can score them with dental tools or other small objects, or press material against them to create unique textures. A wire screen can be used, or cloth, burlap, anything that has texture itself.

Once the texture is imprinted, have the tiles bisqued. This means they will be heated in the kiln until they are hardened and cooked. You can then choose a glaze or paint them and otherwise decorate the tiles. Begin by dipping the bottoms in wax so they will not be glazed there. The wax will melt away in the final 'baking' leaving the back of the tile just right for adhering to the floor or wall.

If you are not artistic, you can use stencils, or trace designs and cut them out to stencil onto the tiles. Use a pencil to sketch out your design on each tile. Next use a paintbrush to fill in the lines with a glaze. A final dip into clear glaze finishes the process and the tiles are ready for their final firing. Once they have cooled, you can begin hanging them.

TIPS: Don't make your pattern too busy. It's a pain to have to do super-detailed work on a hundred tiles . . .by hand!

Try spreading the design over more than one tile. A heart, for example, could be painted over four corners of four tiles, so when put together, they form one design.

Simple things like a couple swishes of color across the tile can look great, especially in a contemparary kitchen.

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