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tiles: quality,durability

updated sat 5 aug 00


Stephani Stephenson on fri 4 aug 00

Am I imagining things , or have the various tributaries/threads on
=EBcrumbling art =EB, =EBsalt=ED,=EDcracks in tile=ED and =EBpoor qualit=
y tile=ED
merged into one great big river of a topic?
Here are some thoughts, mostly in response to Janet's and others'
discussion on tile quality.
I work with a tilemaker. We make decorative and field tile and
architectural ceramics.I am not an expert but I can tell you a few
things about field tile.
First, in these litigious times, if you think about making field tile
for very long,you will probably psych yourself out of doing it,
especially if you are a worrier. EGAD, these tiles are going in peoples=ED
pools, showers, floors, kitchens. People will be scrubbing them,
walking on them, kids will be riding toys and crawling on them . They
will get rained on, snowed and hailed on. They will have to survive the
ravages of chlorinated water , spa water, soot, acid rain, wind,
rotting leaves, wine spills, dog poop,and smoke.. What if it isn=EDt goo=
enough? What if gramma slips on the tile floor? What if the jacuzzi tile
deteriorates in the constant hot onslaught of turbulent brine? What if
they sue me?
There=EDs a great deal that goes into making a good quality,serviceable
The clay must be vitreous enough at the temperature you fire to , for
strength and for glaze bond. Yet the clay body needs to be open enough
to be forgiving in terms of cracking ,shrinkage warping etc. during the
fabrication and firing process.
One must choose glazes quite carefully, not only for aesthetics but
for function. If the glaze is too glossy , it becomes too slippery for
foot traffic. If it is too matte, it might be too porous; prone to
scuffing and scratching, difficult to clean and not waterproof. So there
is a delicate balance.Tilemakers face the same problems as potters with
regard to materials changes. Every time there's a change in clay or
glaze materials this delicate balance can go kaput. So yes , we worry
and worry and test and search for flaws.
Tile crosses over from the art and craft trades into building and
construction trades .
Nowadays we live in a era with all these indestructible supermaterials
. You know the ones, those Composite resin compressed epoxy duo thermal
tested seven ton rated laminated materials and products for floors
walls,everything. . Great wonderful materials and all of them look bomb
proof and bulletproof, especially up against our rustic looking cone 03
terra cotta glazed tiles, which aren=EDt even micron square and atom
smasher flat.
So there=EDs a lot of supermaterial tile as well as el crappo tile , til=
that isn't tile ,and boring tile .
We don=EDt spend too much time moaning about the competition: good,bad or
ugly. What we can do is try NOT to be one of the one=EDs making the bad
stuff, , and show people a better alternative.
Thankfully the better alternative generally sells itself because when
the floor or pool or wall or fountain or walkway is all laid out and
set ,it=EDs honestly beautiful and it=EDs as durable as any clay floor c=
ever be. It will give you the impression that it lives and breathes and
will bring something subtle yet beautiful into your environment. Though
it will wear, it will last a good many years or even generations and
one hopes it will mellow beautifully with age .
Ah Yes, we want your floor to be not only eminently serviceable but
sublime.( OK , OK, I went too far, I am sounding like advertising, but
though my tongue is in my cheek , there is truth to it. )
So, once a project is complete, I don't worry anymore, I smile.

Stephani Stephenson

Now of course I have just realized that I ,slothfull wench, should be
flogged for not yet sending any tiles to Janet. So i WILL do that. only
now i AM worried that after all my spouting off about tile, Janet will
not find the tiles acceptible :)

Furthermore, in this moment of gut wrenching honesty, I have absolutely
no idea whether an Alchemie Studio tile will last 200 years outdoors, on
the coast of Wales. But it's too late,Janet, you are getting them.