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Girts

Bathroom Tiles

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We moved here about a year ago and said the first thing we'd do is refit the bathroom. Well, we're about to start. We've chosen tiles for the walls and wonder about my making some tiles which could be a 'feature' as a strip from floor to ceiling. One might be in the shower, another strip might be a splashback behind the basin.

Any suggestions or warnings about what to do, what not to do, best type of clay, etc. All comments welcomed - even the 'don't be stupid' variety!

 

Thanks,

 

Girts

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have seen several beautiful handmade tile kitchens and bathrooms.  if you are willing and able, the sky is the limit.  joan gardiner did the most wonderful kitchen wall filled with branches, leaves and birds.  one of the birds was a 3D version on a twig sticking out of a hole she made for it.  lovely.  she has done several of the Loudoun county libraries and her work is in several schools as well. she lives in such a tiny town that there are not even 4 corners at the main intersection, only 3.

 

dave norton did his bathroom including a shower where the bullnose tiles are at an angle sharper than 90 degrees.  very old, tiny house, lovely bathroom.

 

i don't think it matters much what kind of clay you use, just make sure the tiles are well made and fired and fit together tightly.  the backing is most important, check out a local tile installer and ask his/her advice.  you are about to embark on an adventure.  i would start at my local library getting ideas in the homebuilding section.  there are some tile books with wonderful ideas executed by others, why not you?

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I would side with the commercially made bisque tiles that you can finish. Simply put, they will be a higher quality than a studio potter can achieve.

 

 

...unless you really want custom shapes and many many many hours of work. Or just like doing it the hard way.

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I hadn't considered using ready made bisque tiles, but one reason for doing it myself is the individual tile sizes that would make for interesting colour and texture panels. The main walls will be a subtle toned pebble grey matt tile 500mm x 300mm so having a strip of small, more random tiles would add interest and a splash of colour. That's the theory!

 

Girts

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I hadn't considered using ready made bisque tiles, but one reason for doing it myself is the individual tile sizes that would make for interesting colour and texture panels. The main walls will be a subtle toned pebble grey matt tile 500mm x 300mm so having a strip of small, more random tiles would add interest and a splash of colour. That's the theory!

Girts

Then I guess a good question to ask you is ... how much clay experience do you have? Have you ever made flat tiles before?

If you are comfortable with slab work, go for it and have fun.

If you have never made tiles before ... well, it might be a long time before your tiles are ready to install ... but worth it if it is what you want to do and you are willing and able to wait.

A great reference book is "Handmade tiles" by Frank Gorgini.

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I hadn't considered using ready made bisque tiles, but one reason for doing it myself is the individual tile sizes that would make for interesting colour and texture panels. The main walls will be a subtle toned pebble grey matt tile 500mm x 300mm so having a strip of small, more random tiles would add interest and a splash of colour. That's the theory!

 

Girts

 

Then I would consider buying commercial bisque tiles and dropping them on a concrete floor before finishing :-)

(hitting any sharp edges with a grinder first)

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I hadn't considered using ready made bisque tiles, but one reason for doing it myself is the individual tile sizes that would make for interesting colour and texture panels. The main walls will be a subtle toned pebble grey matt tile 500mm x 300mm so having a strip of small, more random tiles would add interest and a splash of colour. That's the theory!

Girts

Then I guess a good question to ask you is ... how much clay experience do you have? Have you ever made flat tiles before?

If you are comfortable with slab work, go for it and have fun.

If you have never made tiles before ... well, it might be a long time before your tiles are ready to install ... but worth it if it is what you want to do and you are willing and able to wait.

A great reference book is "Handmade tiles" by Frank Gorgini.

I'm comfortable with slab work - it's coil work I can't get the hang of. My coils look as if they're made of drunken, trodden on, rebellious overfed earthworms! And time is elastic, so I'm prepared to give it a go. Thanks for the recommendation - I'll look out for the book.

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Oh, go for it. If I can do it, you can do it.

 

Tips:

  1. Use fireclay/heavily grogged (like a raku) clay as it will hold it's shape better. All of the "don't bend your tiles" etc recommendations are already on this site.
  2. Make sure you fire to vitrification, what ever clay you use. Test, test, test both the tile after firing, as well as assess your glaze fit. Avoid crazing like the plague.
  3. The most important thing really isn't the tile, either: it's the backing. Make sure you are using Marine grade (absolutely waterproof) backer board. If the tile, or the installation, ends up being in any way porous, it's the backer board that is going to save your house. 
  4. For the same reason, having the tiles professionally installed is a kinda beautiful thing.
  5. Strongly consider using a sealant after installation. I don't remember the name, but you smear it on every 6 months or so. Ask your installer, and make sure they've done bathrooms with natural stone before--they'll know exactly how to waterproof.

Finally, put your coils on the surface of your tiles. After you make 100 or so of these babies, you'll begin to get better with your technique, and glazes do magical things with coils/texture.

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