August 30, 2007

Justifications

look what I found in my files: the old banner for the tile pages of my old website, which I had wanted to be really colorful and funky. I think it is part of the first graphics I had done for the site.

Ok, so since I have made such bold anti-tile declarations to my friends and family, I feel I better back up my re-positioning on the issue in my own head. There were reasons that I was tired of making tile, and the thing now is to learn from those things that I disliked, to make the process more enjoyable. I will outline them here, for my own clarity:

Breakage: The last series of tile were especially fragile. I had wanted fully glazed, glossy surfaces but I had also wanted to save on energy by firing the tiles high temp, so I chose low fire. I am just not a delicate enough creature to be in charge of low fire tiles. Tiles are heavy and awkward compared to beads, and they would break when I shipped or travelled to shows. Problems I never had with my high fire tiles were rampant with the low fired ones. So as good as the idea was for being more energy efficient, it was not successful in the long run in terms of finished product. So it is back to high fire for me.

Efficiency: I mentioned wanting to be more efficient in firing, and this is a big thing for me. I need to be able to fire lots of tiles in one kiln, in order to make it worthwhile. I thought doing low fire would be good, because I would often bisque and glaze at the same time (they are the same temperatures) and because the lower fire is easier on the kiln elements than high fire, and uses less electricity. My first series of partially glazed tiles, though may have actually been more efficient, because I learned that I could sometimes stack them. The low fire tiles needed to be laid in the kiln, without touching each other, in single layers. The high fired ones could often be stacked 2-3 high and touching without problem, making for less need for kiln furniture and more tiles per kiln. Plus, the tiles were fired at the same temp as the glazed beads, so I could fire both at the same time. My proposal is to find another way to stack tiles and fire to high temp again. I have a test cooling in the kiln right now to attempt this...

Size Issues: Although rare, I would sometimes be asked what size my tiles were for installation purposes. When I designed them, I made them to function as decorative, gift tiles, intended mainly to be hung on the wall with a screw, not installed. The sizes were off size, not corresponding to commercial field tile. For new tile designs, I will be more conscious of sizes so they could be set more easily.

Labor: Tile making is quite a bit more labor intensive than bead making. It involves lugging more boxes of clay, hammering out clay into the molds, lugging the actual tiles around. But hey, I can use the exercise! Ont he other hand, it is the sort of job that I could easily train someone else for and delegate. It is a skill that can be easily learned, and one that I can let go of, as opposed to my bead making techniques, which would be very hard for me to teach. So if I were to push and get a big tile order or account, I feel that I could easily let someone else make them for me. My work is in the design, carving, mold making, and marketing.


Design: Ok, so I got BORED of my old tiles. I still think they are good designs, but I made them so long ago and I am tired of seeing the same things over and over. And the customers are too, I think. I absolutely think that creating new designs will bring new life to the old designs, and re-energize me about tiles all together. I mean, with beads, I come up with a new idea about once a week...they are always coming and I am always fiddling with something new. Tiles take much longer to design, carve, and mold and require me to sketch (which is not part of my current process for the most part) so I haven't come up with new ones for a while. I think if I start to design and carve new ones, more will come, and I will have an exciting new line of work!

edited to add: Confusion: A very kind and complimentary comment reminded me of one more issue that came up with my past tiles: confusion between the tile and bead lines. I would often have customers want to buy tiles in the bead colors or beads in the tile colors. Since my beads are always porcelain and my tiles have been every sort of ceramic but porcelain, this meant that the two finishes were not interchangeable. There was also confusion when it came to selling the tiles online, because shipping and wholesale are different. Oh yeah, that's why I took them off line! now I remember. So those issues need to be resolved, and it might just be that I have too much on the website. Maybe a separate site would be a better way to promote the tile and keep the confusion down. I do still have a subdomain, and Etsy is always an option too. Something else to consider...

I think that does it. Thanks for indulging me, having these thoughts all written out in a place I can reference will help me move on, I think. Tomorrow, I hope to have some pictures of some new tile tests on old designs that I am excited about. I am dying to get into my kiln right now, to see last night's test!

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