Welcome! Tell us about you, how you got into ceramics and into tile making.

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Welcome! Tell us about you, how you got into ceramics and into tile making.

Post  Admin on Thu Oct 22, 2009 6:50 pm

This is a place to share - so - feel free to do so!

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I started as a wood carver and ceramic mold maker.

Post  CottageCrafter on Thu Oct 22, 2009 7:05 pm

Somehow, I ended up doing one project for myself after searching in vain for a particular tile and not finding it. The rest is history.
Now, years later, I still have more to learn than I know! lol! It seems that every day, I learn something new. Honestly, I am still a mold maker more than a potter but there is still nothing like opening a kiln to good surprises. I hope to meet a lot of like minded folks on this forum! I am always looking for information and can probably share some also.
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We have quite a few new users, don't forget to sign in and tell us about yourself.

Post  Admin on Thu Nov 26, 2009 1:10 pm

Also, post pics of your work, ask other members questions, and lets so how the sharing of that information helps the community grow.
Happy Thanksgiving while we are at it!
Regards,
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Intro form potter/sculptor/tile maker in Hudson Valley, summary of Olin Russum tile technique

Post  CageyCreations on Thu Dec 03, 2009 11:04 am

Hi,
My name is Keith Gordon, and I work with clay in a home studio in Ossining, NY. The son of a professional potter (Mildred Gordon, now retired), I grew up helping my mother with her Rockland, MD studio (hauling clay, mixing glazes, building wheels & kilns, etc.). I've worked in clay as a hobby since 1971, but hope to get more serious with clay once I retire from my day job.

I mostly throw functional pots, and also alter them into sculptures, some abstract, some figurative. My major tile projects include a frieze mounted above a fireplace, a hallway floor, and most recently, a 36-inch kitchen table top, with a 25-inch tall ceramic pedestal base shaped like a tree trunk. You can view my work at http://www.CageyCreations.Weebly.com The table is at the bottom of the Functional Pots page. The tiles were made using Russum's technique (described below). I used polyurethane on the wolf images and sponged away the background areas to achieve low relief for the figures. The wolf tracks were pressed into soft tiles using a plaster casting of a live wolf foot from a nearby wolf preserve.

My main teacher, other than my Mother, was Olin Russum, who for many years taught ceramics at the Baltimore Museum of Art. I was very fortunate to be hired as his class assistant for 2 years while in college. Russ, as he was called by all, was a master ceramics artist, well known internationally by people like Leach, Cardew, Hamada and others, but ignored outside of the Baltimore area because of a social spat his wife had with a major financial supporter of the ACC.

Russ completed and installed at least two dozen large architectural commissions in the Baltimore-DC region, mostly wall murals. Many are publicly viewable in banks, a lobby mural at the Baltimore City Jewish Community Ctr., a pedestrian underpass in Reston, VA, on school buildings, in Adam's Rib restaurant in DC, etc. If you are going to be in the Baltimore-DC area and want to see some of his work, drop me an e-mail and I'll send a list of locations (e-mail address is on my website). Trust me, its worth your time, and will introduce you to possibilities you may not have experienced before.

One of Russ' most ambitious projects is in Greenspring Elementary School (need to get into the building to see this one, unfortunately). It is a 16-foot tall free-standing tree from which branches connect to a wall and merge with a 36-foot long tile mural. From memory, I'd judge the diameter of the trunk at the base is 30 inches or so, and about 2 inches thick. Because it was installed in a newly constructed building (at that time, in the 1970s, Baltimore City schools spent 1% of the cost of new construction on art projects), Russ had to plan for the tree to survive potential settling, with the floor and wall moving in different directions. His solution was to include ball-socket joints in the branch elbows to allow for such movement.

Russ's tile making technique was a simple one, which allows for maximum flexibility and creativity. For large projects, he would first sketch out his design on large sheets of water-resistant paper treated with plastic (I don't recall the name, but it looked like tracing paper, only stronger). Then he attached 3/4-inch strips of wood to the sides of a 4x8 foot table top with a layer of plastic sheeting covering the table & held down by the strips. He then filled the space on the table between the edge strips and a bit higher than their tops with heavily grogged clay, and pounded it well to join the pieces, compress the clay and remove any trapped air. He then screed the surface smooth using a straight edge (2x4) longer than the width of the table, like cement workers smooth a new sidewalk (hold the board down on both ends and draw it across the length of the table removing any clay that protrudes above the edge strips). Once the clay was smooth and of even thickness filling the area between the wood edge strips, Russ laid the full-scale drawings on top of the clay and traced the tile outlines with a dull point, leaving shallow line markings on the clay beneath. None of the tile shapes was standard, instead each irregularly shaped tile is designed to enhance the overall design of the images of the mural. Using a simple tool made from two pieces of hack saw blade attached to opposite sides of a small wood stick, with the blades parallel and protruding a couple of inches from the end of the stick, Russ then cut the tiles and removing the gorut spaces with the tool following the intended grout lines impressed from the tracing paper. The thickness of the cutting tool (space between the saw blades) determines the width of the grout lines. Then each tile is altered with texture, line design, and even low relief building up as much as a few inches. Until the whole table is done, the clay is kept covered with plastic between work periods. When the tiles are leather hard, each one is scored on the bottom with a wire trimming tool to help it grip the cement when installed and tapped gently with a wooded spoon or mallet in the center of the bottom to form a slight arch. It is helpful to also mark the back of each tile with a numbering sequence so you can keep track of which piece of the jigsaw puzzle goes where. This arch prevents the edges/corners of the tiles from warping or curling up in drying and firing, and generally the tiles flatten out in the firing. When completely dry, Russ brushed glazes on the tiles and then single-fired his sculptures and tiles in an oil-fired reduction kiln. He used a professional mason who set the tiles on interior or exterior building walls in cement, and then grouted the spaces in between. If an individual tile needed to be replaced (broke, or whatever), Russ could use the original tracing paper drawings to remake it to fit properly, even with shrinkage size changes.

My Mother used this technique to install tile in her shower surround in Rockville, MD. It holds up to water, etc.
I plan to begin a new foyer floor for my home in the coming months, and look forward to reading others' postings here.

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