Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tiles, Tiles, Tiles, Continued


I've thought about this hanging tiles stuff a bit........Think I'll mark off the walls into 1/4 sections with an elongated vertical mark for each quarter, then lay out the tiles, measure them the same way and mark them off in vertical lines at 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 bits. That way, I can align the verticals and hang the tiles in segments without biting off too much at a time, and keep the spacing uniform from one end to the other.

Takes a while for these ideas to fester......

How do you ponder problems? Do you grab a piece of paper and start drawing? Do you work it out in dialogue with yourself? Sometimes I sorta' open up a space and hang a sign on it saying, "This space open and reserved" and go about my business for a while. Pretty soon, like a Magic 8-Ball, something floats up.

Same goes for finding lost objects. Another way to find lost things is to go to bed at night and say, "Okay, I will wake up tomorrow and know where the lost thing is." Then you sub-conscious , which watches you all the darn time but never says a Word when you try to find something, will whisper in your ear while you sleep.

It's just fascinating to me how people think. A lot of my thinking is in pictures. When I was teaching art, one of the first things I would ask my students is, "How many of you can visualize a cube in your mind?"

Kids would raise their hands.

"How many of you can see that cube as if it were transparent; made out of glass?"

Less hands.

"Now, how many of you can tumble that cube end-over-end in your mind?"

Even less or no hands up at all.

Update: I've just discovered that I can buy the webbing that comes as a mosaic tile backing. It is webbing attached to a contact-like paper that can be glued onto the back of tiles, then the paper peeled off to leave just the webbing so that the tiles are all linked together. 'Way better than trying to thin-set each tile to the wall. Now I have to figure out just how to do this.

Think I'll start by tracing each tile out onto a large sheet of paper--taped together paper grocery bags should do it--cut that out in one long wall-strip and see how well it fits. If I divide that into fourths, I will know how much spacing I will need.

I COULD lay out the tiles and when I got the width right, take the very wide transparent Scotch tape and stick it in strips onto the face of the tile. I could cut intervals apart with an Exacto knife, hang the tile and then peel off the tape when it is set.

Tiles, Tiles, Tiles!

The Tiles are Fired!

Everything came out beautifully; no warps, no breaks,


just one little glitch.

You knew there had to be a glitch, didn't you? I mean, the gods just can't let things be perfect, now can they? Otherwise, we'd just get tooooo cocky.

One of the witness cones just ever-so-gently leaned over and kissed the edge of a tile. I looked at it and thought, "Right. All I have to do is try to lift that off and the whole tile will give up a hunk of clay."

How do you make a replacement for a piece that fits like a jig-saw puzzle? I shiver to think of it.

A light tap brought the cone away. The glaze was a tad disturbed, but a bit of grinding will put it right.

This picture doesn't show how the finished product will be. This is all the pieces laid out to make sure everything is there and I didn't leave one piece laying on the slab roller waiting to be loaded in the kiln. (Oh, stop my beating heart!)

A running band will be fitted onto a wall to encircle the shower stall. The big hole in shown here in one band is the location of the shower control fitting.

In a moment of total paranoia, I made 'spacer tiles' just in case. They are small rectangular tiles the vertical measurement of the band but made in three sets in varying widths of 1/2 inch, 3/4 inch and one inch. They're designed to be inserted next to the door mounts should the frieze band be too short in length. I marked them with my signature stamp and the date. Don't think they will be need though.

Next question: How do you mount these kinds of tiles on a vertical wall? Do you start at one side wall and stick them into thin-set holding them up until they 'take' then move on to the next tile hoping the grout allowances will come out okay on the other end? I think I'll try outlining them with a black marker to see how well they'll fit, then use that as a guide.

The estimate of the shrinkage came out just fine. Fitted tightly together as it is shown in the photo, the tiles on the narrower walls come out 2 1/4 inches shorter than the wall measurement. The larger wall came out 4 inches smaller. This should allow for grout lines of about 1/4 inch or less between tiles.

An interesting side note here: The next time I do this. (Insert derisive snort here) I will make each tile approximately the same size as the next because the larger tiles that go from the top to the bottom of the band, the full width of the design, came out just ever so slightly smaller than the ones that had one cut or more somewhere intersecting the width, therefore calling for more than one groutline and widening the entire width. In other words, if there are to be horizontal cuts in the design, there had better be corresponding horizontal cuts on the next tile and so on, so that the expansion of the width of the sections will be equal. When I mount this set of tiles, I will have to fudge the placement to make up for the space taken up by grout.

I've decided that the fudge factor will have to be more at the bottom of the frieze than at the top. At the top it would be much more obvious.

And, for all of the stuff above, the grout had jolly well be close to the color of the tiles so the fudge factor won't be as obvious.

If I ever, ever agree to do this again, please have me committed.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Soap Dish

I've been kicking around some ideas for soap dishes. I'd like to mount one in the corner of the shower below the water source, yet high enough that it will not get that soap jelly in the bottom of the dish. It is sort of folded down at the sides and dished up in the center.

The shell shape shown actually has areas on the sides that drains water away, yet keeps it far enough away from the walls avoid soap scum running down the wall tiles. (Difficult to see in this shot.)

I have another fish-shaped dish that has the head and tail of the fish lower than the body, but after firing it to bisque, I decided it would be too small.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Firing Update

Firing completed. All tiles came out perfectly. Now to waxing the bottoms, a glaze dip and the final firing. Yea!

I'm firing a second bisque load now with glaze tests to decide on which glaze to use. The tile guy comes tomorrow. He was sick all last week which gave me some wiggle room.

In celebration (Not of the tile guy's being sick, but of the successful firing), I had the last piece of lemon pie with strawberries. I'd show a picture of it, but it's all gone now.

Actually, it's the extra pie that I stuck into the freezer after everybody left following the Fourth of July. Didn't know it for sure at the time, but it freezes really well. This pie is about the easiest, simplest pie Ever, hands down, bar none, tampoco:


1 Graham cracker prepared crust
1 can Eagle Brand Sweetened condensed mink (14 oz.)
3 medium egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (ca. 2 lemons)

Mix lemon juice with egg yolks using a wire whip. Add condensed milk and blend well. Pour into the prepared crust. (Turn down the aluminum edge to protect the crust from too much heat. And of course, unfold the rim for serving!)
(Save the clear plastic lid so you can put it back over the pie for storage in the refrigerator or to seal it up for for freezing. Crimp the rim back over the plastic lid edge.)

Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Check and rotate the pie. Bake about 20 minutes more. Pie should be lightly brown. To test for doneness, insert the tip of a knife into the center. If it comes out cleanly, the pie is done. This is a very rich pie, so smaller slices are in order.

Serve hot, cooled or frozen. Great with strawberries.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The entire shower enclosure tiles are in the kiln s-l-o-o-o-w-l-y firing to bisque stage.

Um, these are not my fingers. Note the long fingernails and the absence of clay, flaky dry skin and wimpy muscle tone.

Feh! No self-respecting potter would ever let their hands get into this condition.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More about the Shower/Laundry/Bath addition

Um, after proofing the previous post, I realized that my description of the laundry lay-out was not that clear.

We added on a master bedroom, bath, laundry and walk-in closet. And the closet is laid out like a long hallway and we use it like that. It opens to the laundry at one end, runs along the outside wall of the house with high, square windows which we can open for ventilation. The other side of the wall is the entry deck, covered with a long glass porch roof leading to the front door. So even if it's raining, we can still keep the windows open for fresh air. It makes the closet bright, airy and light. I hate closets that are closed, dark and musty.

The opposite closet windowed wall, there are fold-out mirrored doors set between square columns. The whole closet is 18 feet long. We can go through the closet doors to the laundry area, turn the corner and walk into the bathroom. The bathroom has two doors that open into the bedroom. The toilet area is separate from the sinks, tub and shower area. So the traffic pattern in the addition is full circle. I like that.

Opposite the closet doors on the other side of the bedroom, double French doors and 3 windows open out to a side-yard deck.

The infamous shower stall. The tiles are in the kiln taking FOREVER to get to bone dry. Everything is flat, whole, and laid out on the shelves in one layer. I even remembered to make some small tiles on both edges of the fish band with my signature and date on them.

A tile contractor is coming today to start laying the floor in a smaller bathroom and hopefully, the shower tiles will be fired, glazed and ready when he gets to the master bath floor/tub surround/ shower phase.

Think I'll just nip out to the studio and program the kiln for Oh, say 90 degrees for a few hours..............

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Tile Project that Wouldn't Die III, Addendum

When I designed the addition and the bath, I wanted a shower that I could open the door, stick my hand in and turn the water control, feel the temperature of the water and THEN get in. Revolutionary, huh? It means the shower head and the control had to be on opposite walls. It only takes a bit more piping of the up-and-over kind to do this and it's SO much nicer. I really don't know why they aren't just made that way.

Just like the laundry room BELONGS between the bathroom: The location of the manufacture of dirty clothes. And the closet: The location of clean clothes. In our addition, the dirty-clothes-to-clean-clothes system is laid out in an L shape with one leg the bath, the other leg the closet with the laundry at the corner. I'm still amazed to find laundries in garages--what's with that? Or it's stuck away in basements. If I ever do another renovation or build a house, it's gonna have the laundry IN the closet!! Right next to the bath!! Upstairs!!


Back to my main subject.

Beside the water control arrangement, the shower has two windows. We have a wonderful view and I thought it would be really nice to enjoy it while standing there being pounded by water. I asked my builder to put the windows in the corner. Now, you're thinking, 'Huh, that's dumb. They'll fog up right away." Nope. One window opens to let the steam out.

So the day came to frame the shower walls and I was away from the house on errands. When I came back, I went in to see how things were going. I stepped into the shower.

"RANDY!!" I yelled.

"You're back. What'cha think?" he said.

"What am I looking at?"

Randy said, "Uh,Wall".

Now, I'm 5 feet tall and my builder is well over 6 feet. The windows were 'way over my head.

The Tile Project that Wouldn't Die III

So, this is beginning of the (hopefully) last edition of the fish tile shower project.

This time, I'm making a wrap-around band of fish with a free flowing-design. And, the guy who is installing my new floor and tub surround has agreed to mount my band-o-fish tile too. Whew!

This is the corner of the east wall with the design impressed and the grout lines cut out.

When the tile is installed the grout lines will disappear. At least theoretically. At this point, I'm not doing a lot of predicting. The tiles will be almond/white and the grout will be white also, so it should blend well.

First, I roll out a long slab of clay, much larger than the planned finished piece and I carefully transfer it to a sheet of scrap drywall or plaster board. I try to handle the clay as little as possible to avoid warping. (Notice the edges of the drywall have been duct-taped to keep any plaster away from the clay.)

I measure the bottom of the slab using a steel ruler that has the inch measurements right out to the end--some yardsticks have a 1/4 inch 'fudge' at the end. I cut the whole length of the bottom. Then, using a large see-through architect's plastic triangle, true up the end at a right angle. (A carpenter's steel square works well too.) I use a transparent ruler to measure the width and cut the top of the tile strip.

I press the pattern into the clay using the fish molds and smooth up the design. Since this distorts the clay, I re-measure and re-cut the strip to size. I do a lot of smoothing of the top and bottom edges with my fingers.

I put another scrap of drywall on top the strip and weight it down with big bleach bottles filled with water. (This is the small section of tile under the weights.) No warping allowed!

Usually, I flip tiles every few days so they will dry evenly under pressure. This helps avoid cracking and warping. I can't flip these tiles because the impression design is so pronounced that they wouldn't lay flat.

One serious crack and I have to start over.

The grout lines are not cut until the clay is set up more. I look at the design and plot out the cuts thinking about flow of lines, how to avoid sharp joins or corners and think about the strength of the cut tiles. I lightly mark the clay with a sharp pencil and, using a fettling knife held vertically, cut the tiles out after the clay is set up to slightly softer than leather hard. If the clay gets too hard, the cutting knife will drag and make ragged edges. I leave the whole piece alone until it is easy to gently separate the individual pieces. I separate them, smooth the edges out and let them dry more.

All the tile must get to bone dry before firing. I will fire them flat on the kiln shelf with alumina underneath to allow them to float on the shelf. That's another good trick to avoid cracking.

The south wall is a bit longer than any of my drywall, so I had to figure out how to break the design without running into obvious join problems. So, I decided it should be off-center and about a 1/4th section and a 3/4 section to further avoid an obvious join.

I cut the two at an angle and here, the photo shows lining up the two sections to check design continuity. I decided on a 45 degree angle for the join so that I could be sure of a match-up.