How Living Walls Tile is Made
We’ve received many comments from people who, after ordering their artistic tiles based on pictures from the internet, have been pleasantly surprised when they see and feel the tiles in person. The imagery, unlike most commercial tile, is not painted on the surface, but is a result of a artistic tile manufacturing process where texture is embossed into the surface of the wet clay tile. This texture is very shallow and barely detectable until the tiles are glazed and fired. The glaze, which is fired to an excess of 2300 degrees Fahrenheit, pools in the recesses and recedes from the edges, filling in the embossed surface with varying thicknesses of the single colored glaze. In some areas, the glaze may pool up to 1/8″ thick, resulting in a very dark value, while in other areas, it is paper thin, resulting in a lighter value. The resulting tile is smooth and glossy but the underlying texture can still be felt.
This process was made popular in the late 1800’s and early 1900 by American art tile companies and Arts and Crafts Tile. The process, know as “Emaux Ombrants” was used extensively by such companies as Sherwin and Cotton, and the American Encaustic Tile Co.For more information, please visit the Tile Heritage Foundation.
The first step in the process is the very time consuming process of sculpting thetexture into the surface of the wet clay. This texture can be made with various tools such as chisels, pin tools and sponges. The glaze will amplify even the smallest lines, so great care and attention is necessary during this step. When finished, a plaster mold is made from the original art tile into which multiple art tiles can be pressed, all perfectly matching the original.
The art tile is then glazed with one of our nine glaze colors. The glazes are mixed right here in the tile studio and are our own secret formulas. The glazes are mixed to an exact viscosity, which when ladled onto the surface, fills in and temporarily obscures the embossed texture underneath. The excess glaze which drips over the side is sponged off to prevent
the melting glaze from sticking to the kiln shelf.Well, sort of. The depth and richness of our surfaces actually starts with a subtle texture that is embossed into the wet porcelain clay tile. This texture has to be pressed into each individual tile, one at a time.
After the embossed art tiles are dried and fired one time, they are glazed with one of our seven glaze colors. As you can see from the picture to the right, the liquid glaze is ladled onto the surface of the embossed tile, temporarily filling in, and obscuring the embossed texture. When the art tiles are fired in the kiln to temperatures exceeding 2300 degrees Fahrenheit, the glaze melts into a thick, honey like viscosity, receding from the high points of the texture and pooling in the recesses.
The result is an image where the value contrast is actually achieved by varying
thicknesses of the singled colored glaze. It’s like looking at the Caribbean Ocean from above, the water is lighter next to the beach where it is shallow, but darker as the depth increases.