Artifact Tiles – Part 2

For Part 1, look here.

At the end of the first post, I had put the tiles into the kiln for their glaze firing. Opening the kiln is always exciting – a combination of apprehension and hope. I had fired these tiles at cone 05, appropriate for the glaze/clay combination I was using. The firing took about 6 hours and I then had to let the kiln cool over night.

When I took out the tiles, I was happy. There were no failures of the materials (meaning nothing exploded, ran, blistered, cracked, etc.)

I’ll show you the tiles and discuss my thoughts. But remember, I consider none of these tiles saleable or even much to look at. I did get a lot of good information from them, though, and that is what I wanted.

This first group is composed of yellow and light green underglazes, on terracotta clay, with the bluebell glaze. You can see the breaking effect.

I was also happy that many small details were preserved, such as the slots in the screwheads. I had thought they might be filled up with glaze and washed out. Even better, the tiny threads in the large screw showed up. That’s great news for designing later on.

These are all black underglaze, the left two with Transparent Pearl and the little one with Bluebell. Additionally, the left tile is white clay, the other two, terracotta. Different clays react with glazes and underglazes differently.


This purple group is a mix of clays, underglazes, and glazes. The two on the right are both white clay tiles, and the underglaze seems thin to me (could be my fault in not applying enough or it could be how it interacts with the glaze). But I like the color combos, thinking they have good potential.

This red group pleased me. Top left is terracotta/red underglaze/pearl glaze. Its neighbor is white clay/red underglaze/bluebell glaze. The bottom one is terracotta/red underglaze/bluebell. You can see that changing the clay makes a real difference. I like the white clay example very much for the clear red color, but the terracotta clay adds a certain depth to the color. Hmmm…

This green group is interesting to me. All are terracotta clay – The left two are the same green underglaze color called leaf green; Bluebell glaze on the left and Pearl on the right. But the far right one is a very much darker green underglaze, with Pearl glaze, and yet it looks much like the other two. Once again, you cannot predict what results you will have when you start combining things.

These tiles are both terracotta clay and an underglaze color called Electric Blue, with Pearl glaze on the left, Bluebell on the right. What I like about this duo is the rich blue color both of them have, one a little warmer than the other. And you know, as a straight underglaze, Electric Blue is a very harsh bold color, not my favorite. Here it really does a nice job.

These are both terracotta clay and a chocolate-brown underglaze. The different glazes are readily discernible. I really like both of these. A lot.

This is a terracotta tile, medium pink underglaze, Bluebell glaze. I am very happy with this tile; it is what I need I think I need to be shooting for in terms of raised and lowered areas. It is easy to see how the glaze is supposed to work and there is a great level of detail retained. Some of the other tiles had a lot of open areas – this one is more successful because of its busyness, I think. My challenge would be to include this amount of detail in coherent designs. Well, I think with practice it is possible.

Now I will show you my failures. Interestingly enough, most of them are on white clay. I do think the terracotta clay adds body to the underglaze color, no matter what color it is, and that is important in setting up contrast.

Plus, some of these color combinations are just – ugly.

There are other combinations I haven’t tried yet – I didn’t have enough tiles. Let’s say I didn’t like that white clay/avocado/Pearl tile, for instance, but I haven’t tried terracotta/avocado/Bluebell, have I? There is still more adventure waiting for me.


Now, the question is, do I want to go further with this avenue? I think so. On the plus side, it is a different creative process from my pictorial tiles. The tiles themselves are somewhat sculptural and the design process is very different from painting a scene. Choosing objects to impress would be challenging and fun, and there is the possibility of working in a series (the kitchen implement series, the basement toolbox series, I think you get it…!!!)

On the negative side, there are a lot of not-so-interesting parts to the production process. Painting on the underglaze and glaze has to be done in steps with drying time in between. It’s not quick. The thinking part of creating these tiles ends when the tiles are made and the colors chosen. But, I also find doing this kind of work soothing, if I am not in a hurry. Rote work is not always a bad thing.

My conclusion? I’m intrigued enough to explore further. I think there is plenty I could do with this idea and I like the change of pace it offers. So… I hope to show you more of these artifact tiles in the future. Thanks for reading and following me on this foray into something new.

38 thoughts on “Artifact Tiles – Part 2

  1. agnesashe

    I would say a very successful investigation. And, the terracotta tile, medium pink underglaze, Bluebell glaze tile, has an impressive verdigris quality to it. Interesting that the terracotta enriches colour underglaze where the white does not. Prompted me to recall that a warm red is often the primer used on the wood for a gilded picture frame.

  2. memadtwo

    The texture is great, and they indeed look ancient. I could see small ones put together with grout in a kind of mosaic to produce a large piece, taking advantage of the irregular edges. (K)

  3. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you. Yes, I have wondered if the iron content or something of the TC clay influences the colors and the glazes (glaze technology is full of hidden interactions like this, because we are dealing with metals and so on, though we think it’s just paint-like), or if it is just the richer color. You do get very clear colors on white clay, but I have always liked TC better, starting with, it just looks nicer and warmer to me!

  4. Claudia McGill Post author

    Would be tough to grout, though, as it requires sweeping the grout over the surface of the tiles and it will fill in the crevices of the tiles as well as the spaces in between and getting it out is not foolproof – but – I like the idea of combining them, on a painted board, with the board color serving as the “grout” showing between them. I had thought about in my next round trying a grouping, funny you mention this.

  5. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you. I feel more confident now about how things will work and I think I can direct my ideas much better. Working with clay is really a process of experimentation and so patience is rewarded. I’ve got some new thoughts and hope to be trying them out pretty soon.

  6. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you. That makes me feel good. Starting out on a new idea is always…with trepidation but excitement. And with clay, well, things are often so unpredictable, you have to be ready for disaster. Plus you have to think ahead to what the finished item might look like when you don’t really know! I feel good about this direction and your comments with everyone else’s as well has encouraged me. Thank you.

  7. Sharon Mann

    Your exploration has paid off. I love looking at these tiles. The color, textures, forms all excite me. I feel like I do when I walk into a new art store for the first time.

  8. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you. I am not usually this organized but doing clay is a step by step process and it rewards working through options (where in painting, say, well, I’ll just start slapping the paint on the surface!) I am pleased and I can see where I want to go next, I think.

  9. Julia Wigent

    Hi Claudia, I have a question for you? Would you be interested in a potter wheel, non-electric? Or a small kiln (needs rewiring, very small chamber?). Julia

  10. Laura (PA Pict)

    Success! I am so pleased that your experimentation yielded such fantastic results. Even your failures look pretty good to me and at least they provided you with some valuable learning. I love a lot of these tiles.

  11. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you. I’m happy with the outcome. And best of all I can see consistency in what happened and so can draw conclusions. Very helpful and a different direction from my previous work, which is what I want. Always need to be thinking ahead.

  12. Claudia McGill Post author

    Yes. I try not to do anything I don’t enjoy, which is why I also was paying attention to whether I actually liked making tiles this way (I am glad I did, the results are intriguing and the process did not put me off). Work as play, play at work…

  13. Julia Wigent

    Thanks Claudia~ we shall try another tack! I keep up reading your blogs, just busy with my own stuff…

  14. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you, you and me both as to where this all goes. I feel I have a better idea of the possibilities now, that is helping, but I am still kind of setting off into the unknown, the adventure! Which is a good thing.

  15. Claudia McGill Post author

    Thank you. I am excited about the possibilities, I have never worked in this way before, but I really enjoyed it and I think I can make better work when I practice the techniques more. Clay is so versatile, I love that about the medium.

  16. Elizabeth Hopkins

    That’s awesome! It’s such a great feeling of discovery. It was fun reading about how slight changes in your process/material altered the results. Definitely continue, I’m looking forward to seeing more of this kind of work!

  17. Pingback: Art Diary 2018 | Claudia McGill and Her Art World

  18. Pingback: Artifacts Found at My House – One | Claudia McGill and Her Art World

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