Magnolia Molded Tile
Follow these step-by-step instructions to make your own magnolia-molded tile.
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Project by Claudia Riedener from Tacoma, Wash.
Claudia has a background in horticulture and now is a self-taught tilemaker whose love of flowers comes through in many of her tiles. In this project, she makes a plaster mold to press multiple molded tiles featuring an elegant magnolia.
plaster of Paris
old kitchen scale
4 pieces of 4" x 16" wood
4 small 2" brackets with screws
glass (such as an old microwave catch plate)
liquid dish soap
1. Begin with a hunk of clay. Use the extruder to create a long thick ribbon of clay or roll it flat with a pin. Slice the ribbon into tiles.
2. To draw the design onto tile: Place paper copy of a magnolia on top of tile. Gently trace over the lines of the image and create an impression in the tile using a ball pen. Remove the paper.
3. Let tile sit for a day or so to harden until leather hard.
4. Carving the image: Use tools to remove sections of clay from the original tile.
5. To make the mold frame: Keep the carved tile on the soft side for mold making. Moisten the back of the tile with a bit of water. Place tile down on a piece of glass, face up. Be sure there’s good contact between the clay and the glass (can check on the underside). Build a simple wooden frame around it out of pine. Leave a gap of 2 inches between tile and frame.
6. Walls of frame should be 2 inches taller than the tile.
7. Screw in triangular L-shaped brackets using power drill. Clamp frame together for easy removal.
8. Using fresh clay, make little coils to seal the seams between wood to wood (four corners) and the wood to the glass. Gently brush wooden walls with liquid soap (it acts as a resist).
9. To make the plaster mold: Mix the powdered plaster of Paris (or pottery plaster). Pour the mixture over the original tile. Tap glass with rubber mallet to get rid of air bubbles. Allow to dry a little.
10. Pop the walls of the wooden frame (remove the clamps and each beam). Twist the mold to release it from the glass plate. Flip the mold over (you'll see the back of the original tile). Pry the clay out of the mold (it gets torn to bits, unfortunately).
11. Allow open face plaster mold to dry for a week.
12. To make multiple tiles: Place the mold face up on a soft surface (e.g., piece of installation foam). Wedge clay into the open face plaster mold. Cut into slices and place into the open face mold with clay. Press it in there, first with hands and then with rubber mallet, gently so mold doesn’t suffer.
13. Place a scrap of canvas over the back of the mold. Force clay into the recesses with rubber mallet. Pound with a wooden block to make sure surface is flat. Remove the canvas.
14. Scrape leftover away clay with a clay wire. Press in signature stamp. Flip the mold over onto a little piece of trim wood.
15. As clay dries inside mold, it shrinks a tiny bit to make it fall out after 10 minutes or half an hour. Let the tile dry until bone dry.
16. Place greenware tiles onto kiln shelf and bisque fire in kiln. Allow to cool and remove from kiln.
17. Brush on three to four colors of glaze. Fire at high temperatures (stoneware) to set glaze.
Karen Landey of Beaverton, Ore., is a bit of a wanderer, and her tile collages reflect where she's been.