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DESIGN FOR A 5' by 5' PANEL OF TILES TO BE INSTALLED ON A GARDEN WALL BEHIND A SMALL POOL & FOUNTAIN
The area between the brick piers is relatively small, about 5' by 5', however, its position as the primary axial termination visible from the main entrance to the home causes it to assume great importance. It was immediately apparent that the design should not be merely a "field" of pattern, no matter how lovely, but would need to be a unified whole. The house, itself being an exercise in the balancing of decorative detail with a discerning restraint of expression, offered guidance.
Seeking to emulate this spirit of refinement, I turned to the late 18th Century for inspirational examples.
The panel's relationship to the pool instantly associated itself with the "grottos"of the 17th and 18th Centuries and their fanciful interpretations of the rediscovered ancient Roman sites. The exuberances of the rococo were increasingly refined over time, and it was to late 18th Century examples of the decorative arts that I turned for inspiration.
Design "Les Nouveaux Morceaux pour des Paravents (screen panel) c1740
Dining room of the Villa Valguamera at Bagheria, Italy
The "Print Room" at Castletown House, outside of Dublin, Ireland
The discovery of the painted frescos in Nero's buried Domus Aurea (thus the term "grotto"-cavern/basement) and those at Pompeii had prompted the neo-classical impulse of the mid to late 18th Century decorative arts.
The relationship of image and grid.
This lovely panel's image remains independent of the geometrically dimensioned tile field upon which it was painted. This would have been equally as effective if it had been rendered on canvas.
Because I choose to work with decals rather than painting, I add constraints to my task of image creation, especially ones of a larger scale. Because of the dimensional limits of scanning and the production run minimum requirements of silk screening, the images produced by decals must rely on matches and repetitions to achieve that larger scale. However, I have noted that I welcome this challenge that respects the dimensional grid of the tiles.
At the very outset, it became clear that the tiles would need to be of a porcelain body that could withstand the freeze-thaw cycle and should be as large as possible to effect a "serene" background by elimination of multiple grout lines. After much review, 12" by 12" quarry pavers made by SENECA TILE, an Ohio company that still fires in beehive kilns, were chosen for their low absorbtion and their subtle blue-white glaze which matched some Chinese Export ware that I own. A late decision to detail 2 vertical "pencil molds" in addition to the ogee molded frame added a sculptural interest to the panel's surface, yet maintained its "background" character.
Seneca 12" by 12" (nominal) quarry paver tile chosen for its glaze and its suitability to outdoor installation in a freeze/thaw cycle.
The design process began in earnest once the 12" by 12" grid was established on the panel's center lines. My original concept was for a composition of "cartouches" suspended by ribbons and bows in a Louis XVI style and flanked by coral columns. Working on 12'' by 12" sheets of drawing paper, I experimented with representations of moldings, rococo asymmetrical frames, and octagonal shapes composed of coral and shells. I also developed the idea of the coral columns that would form the side elements. Even during this initial phase, the dimensional limits of the scanning and decal production needed to be considered.
Conceptual sketches, yet drawn to scale, and always considering the dimensional constraints of scanning and printing. Note the ribbons and bows.
An early full scale mock-up used photocopies glued to poster boards. The metal ruler is a 48" one. Note the side coral columns merely repeated a vertical match and were topped by a finial. These bore an unsatisfying, nebulous relationship to the center arrangement. Also note the bows which were eliminated.
The bows were a carryover from the original Louis XVI-inspired scheme of having the frames suspended from ribbons. When the ribbons evolved into chains, these were eliminated. The chains far better evoke the maritime symbolism of ships' anchors and pirates' chests full of gold and silver links- thus the rationale for decorative medallions replacing the bows.
Intermediate studies of the coral frames were printed at full scale and manipulated on the poster boards for finalization decisions.
The actual silkscreened decal sheet layout demonstrates the breaking apart of the cartouche image into 2 printable sections
1/4 scale drawing of panel showing actual size of the tiles and grout lines. Photo copies of the major elements were reduced and glued to layout to allow meaningful approximation of appearance. (Not all of the elements were placed on this drawing,) Note the additions of the ogee framing and pencil moldings and the refinement of the side coral columns.
For another example of a design's dimensional consideration, one full scale repetition of the coral column's total height needed to be 12" (the nominal size of the tiles dictated this dimension) The maximum image size to be scanned can only be 8 1/2" by 11" and the composition sheet for the decals is 10" by 16". Thus, the "match' line shown is at 4" of the total 12" Although the final design arranges these side columns in a different manner than first proposed, those initial dimensional constraints can be observed on the first sheet of decals.
The design decals were able to be limited to 3 silk screened pages in limited runs of 10, 12, and 18. I also wish to stress that these are NOT digitally printed but rather silk screened using ceramic "inks" which are more akin to a ground glaze in suspension. During firing, these will vitrify and become one with the tile's glaze, making an impervious surface that can not scratch nor fade.
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TEST FIRING SAMPLE
The 8" by 8" Seneca Tile sample that was used to choose glaze color was used to test fire the Rococo Chinoiserie Tile "A". Vignettes from these tiles were to be used as the inserted images framed by the cartouches.
Working Cartoon: 1/4 scale drawing of final layout used to determine allowances for dimensional variations of the handmade tiles and the grout lines. This also will serve as the key for the installer as each tile is numbered and oriented for final placement.
Decorating the Tiles
After picking up the tiles at the Attica, Ohio factory of SENECA TILES, I applied the decals and allowed ample time for them to air dry. They then are ready for the decorative second firing at 1400 degrees F. Again, one tile was used for test firing. Note the companion molded tiles that will finish the edges and provide surface interest.
FINISHED FIRED 12" by 12"
Center element tile
Ogee edge molded tiles and "pencil" molded tiles to frame center elements.
Tiles installed, awaiting grout
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