6. Ceramic Tile and Mosaics

Joe Thomson, Artist, 03.29.2013, p1 of 1


The application to the plastic properties of clay by "big Art" abstraction is limited by the nature of the physical properties of the clay material itself, the availability and close accessibility to a kiln with the share of space in it and the cost and time to deliver a degree of noted variability in the final creation of the tile or components of the mosaic itself.

Yet this is a very tolerable expectation of surprise, even more so, when in the manipulation of the kiln reduction techniques of RAKU tile-making, the oxygen deprived flux of glazes produces a spectral irridescence of color harmony in reds of copper, blues of cobalt and yellows of manganese salts.

The tactile working with tile and the effort to extract a magical, retinal effect with the high temperature baking of the clay incised with an abstract design, and painted with glazes whose colors that morphose under the thermal stresses of the temperature of the kiln is the matter of a profound, creative and personal experience for every artist that takes this artistic task to heart.

The practical solution in pursuing these kiln, raku and mosaic interests was to enroll in the extra-mural clay classes offered by the academic institutions in the Rochester, NY area. For the Raku tile creation, this was a private, pottery concern in a country location in Avon, NY that offered outdoor, air-reduction facilities where smoke generation was no infringement to the town ordnance in that environment.

The tile designs chosen were examples of "scalable abstraction" that were reduced to fit the nominal 6"x6" format, the pieces of a 14"x14", mosaic cut from the transfer of the maquette design, Islamic tile 4"x4" patterns, based on the circle and finally Line and Text combinations on both clay and iridescent Raku substrates.

Color glazes were always painted in an experimental mode of unknowing of the final effect of their subsequent application. The "Heraclitan fire" acting in the furnace of the kiln is truly the creative author of the final, clay creation, no matter what the original artist intended.

One further extension in the manipulation of clay ideas was the creation of clay moulds for the incised tiles themselves. The "plaster of Paris" fast drying moulds would result in an increased variability in the clay motif, arising from the physical handling of the clay and removing it from the mould.

The learning of the craft of clay production is a time consuming practice and the reproducibility of the "big ART" of scalable abstraction would be well served by reliance on those experts who have the accumulated knowledge of machine kiln processes and material clay properties to guarantee a reproducible and creative result.

But first, the artist, still, must be inspired to create the uniqueness of the design itself before committing it to the exigencies of the baking kiln and its ferocious "Heraclitan fire".