The finished tile comes out of the kiln after a long slow cooling cycle. Each handmade tile is then inspected for defects which may require it to be sent back for refiring.
Our tile are made of stoneware clay which is fired to a greater temperature than earthenware tiles. The resulting handmade tile is strong and durable.
This is only a small portion of the work that goes into our tile. Ceramics is a very broad reaching discipline which requires many skills but the rewards are equally great.
When the tile is cooled it is ready to be dipped in one of our many glaze mixtures. The glaze is essentially a kind of powdered glass suspended in water. The porous tile is dipped in the glaze slurry and absorbs some water. In the process a layer of glaze begins to build up on the surface of the tile. The longer the dip the thicker this layer. Skill is required to make sure the right amount of glaze is applied to get the desired result. because our glazes are applied by hand there is a natural amount of variation to the finished surface.
fter glazing the tile are set out to dry for at least a few hours. The tiles are then loaded into a kiln for the final or glaze firing. In this firing no tile can touch another or they would stick together when the glaze melts. Te glaze firing is to over 2200 degrees. This firing melts the glaze and also vitrifies the clay making it more glass like and hard.
Proper drying of the tile is one of the most crucial steps. It can take several weeks to dry a tile correctly. If a tile is dried too quickly it can warp or crack in the drying or it will increase the tendency to warp and crack in the firing. Our tile are laid out on drywall sheets and stored on bakers racks. Wind currents are minimized. And the humidity is controlled.
If a tile is not completely dry before friing then it also has a strong possibility of blowing up in the kiln. You can try to hurry the process but in most cases this relults in taking twice as long! Too often we have had to start over because of rushing of the drying process. For this reason it is best to have plenty of lead time for your projects to avoid these kinds of problems.
After about fifteen or twenty minutes the clay tile is ready to come out of the mold. The plaster of the mold absorbs water from the clay and the clay subsequently shrinks and pulls away from the mold. The resulting hand formed tile is a replica of the original artwork from which the mold was made.
Plaster is one of the few materials which have the perfect qualifications for tile mold making. It can easily be cast into complex shapes and when cured it absorbs water and allows for easy clay release. Without plaster us clay artists would be in trouble!
If the tile is intended as a gift tile for display then a hanging notch is impressed into the back at this point. Care must be taken that the notch is centered and that there is sufficient undercutting. Without an undercut the notch will not effectively hang on a nail and the tile could can fall off the wall easily.
We prefer an integrated hanging notch. Hanging devices glued on later have the potential to fail if the glue is not sufficiently strong.
If the tile being pressed is intended as a decorative gift tile then the back of the tile must be smoothed. A metal strap is drawn over the clay surface to smooth it.
If the tile is meant to be used in an installation then it is better to leave the back rough. The roughness of the tile will allow for beter adhesion of the tile to the backing surface.
Once the clay is pressed fully into the mold the excess clay must be removed. A special wire cutting tool is used at this point. The wire is drawn through the clay and the cut away clay is sent back to the pug mill for reprocessing.
Every scrap of clay is processed and ultimately becomes a tile unless it becomes contaminated with plaster along the way.
This is the same process that has been used in making handmade tile for many hundreds of years. Many of the tools used now are virtually identical to those used historically.
The first step in making a handmade tile is clay preparation. our clay is mixed and run through a pug mill. Ground fired clay (grog) is added at this point tohelp the clay retard warping and cracking in the drying process.
The prepared clay is then carefully pressed by hand into plaster molds or dies. if the clay is not evenly pressed then voids or double struck images could result. Pressing the clay into molds is an aquired skill and requires much experience and strong hands! A mallet covered with canvas can be used on larger molds to assist the tile pressing process. The right amount of force is necessary to ensure the clay enters the mold but too much and a broken mold may result.
Our handmade tile begins with the wet clay and the artists hands. We use a clay that is specially formulated to have the characteristics of workability, strength and color to make beautiful, durable tile.
The three elements of artist, clay and design come together for the creation of every tile we make. We use plaster molds made from artwork originally carved in clay or wax. From these molds we can run many additions of tile. As the molds wear the patterns change slightly and over time start to aquire their own unique beauty.
There is no real substitute for making these tile by hand. The use of machinery always introduces a uniformity that runs counter to the handmade tile aesthetic.
Our handmade tile really is made by hand! They are not perfectly smooth nor uniform and they are not supposed to be. That is the secret of the beauty of handmade tile. The quality of 'perfect imperfection' cannot be imparted by machine made equivalents. Our handmade architectural tile are hand pressed into molds made from original artwork. It is a laborious process and often times a tile may be handled more than sixteen times on it's journey to completion. The hand forming process is of a nature that no two tiles are ever alike. Our handmade tile has a presence that hormonizes with a wide range of materials in a way that visually and literally plays on the sense of touch. With our handmade architectural tile you can create installations of intimacy and sophistication not possible with commercial products.
The owner Rick Pruckler received his training in the art of tile making at the historic Pewabic Pottery in Detroit. Rick worked at Pewabic as a designer for over eleven years beginning in 1986. It was at Pewabic Pottery that Rick learned the intricacies of tile making.
Pewabic Pottery remains to this day as one of the few remaining links to the original Arts and Crafts ceramic movement in America. Because of our direct historic connection we see our work at Pruckler Ceramic Design as a continuation of this lineage rather than a reinvention of it. For that reason we are proud to say that we are an extension of the original historic tradition of Art Tile in America.