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Garden Impression Clay Tile Hanging

Diane Emerson impresses garden materials into clay tiles and adds copper highlights to create her garden tile hanging.

Diane Emerson likes the 3-D aspect of working with ceramics, and she also enjoys the "unknowns." When she works with ceramics she can only find out how her project has turned out once it's fired and completely finished.

Materials and Tools:

3 pounds of cone 05 white clay
cardboard templates for the 4 large tiles and the accent tiles:
- 5" square template
- 2-1/2" square template
- 1" square template
clay-cutting knife
handmade stamp or stamps
dried weeds or weed-like plants, tree branches
cement rock or broken concrete from a sidewalk
black oxide and container and water for oxide
10" x 15" piece of 1/2" plywood and jigsaw
36-gauge copper tooling foil
liver of sulphur and container for mixing water and sulphur
long-handled brush for mixing and agitation of the copper and sulphur
brayer or ceramic roller
hammer and copper nails
clear kitchen and bath silicone and caulk gun
2 screw eyes and wire
felt backing and template
white craft glue
cardboard squeegee
safety glasses, latex gloves
2 felt pads
kiln and kiln silts
slab roller, clay wire cutter, smoothing rib
canvas for rolling clay
staple gun and staples
rolling pin
stiff brush
needle-nose pliers
soap and water
steel wool, rags or paper towels, sponge

Steps 1-5


1. Cut about 3 lbs. of cone 05 white clay from a clay block with a clay-cutting tool.

2. Pound the clay using a rolling pin into a proportional shape for the slab roller.

3. Set the slab roller to roll a 1/4-inch thick slab. Place the clay between two large pieces of canvas on the slab roller. Roll out the clay. Smooth the surface of clay with a smoothing rib as desired.

4. Flip over the slab and smooth the other side, as desired. Releasing the clay from the canvas underneath makes it easier to pick up the tiles without stretching and tearing.

5. Cut out four 5-inch squares, one 2-1/2-inch square and two 1-inch squares with precut cardboard templates (image).

Step 6

6. Smooth the edges of all tiles and place the four 5-inch squares in two columns of two rows. This is the same format in which the tiles will hang.

Steps 7-8

7. Select garden materials for impressions. Lay out dried weeds, branches and/or evergreen material in a balanced arrangement.

8. Press the garden material gently with fingers and then roll over the surface of the tile with a roller to imbed evenly for a good impression.

Step 9

9. Remove the garden material from the tile. If it doesn’t come out of the clay, let it dry and fire it. The material will burn off in the kiln.

Step 10

10. Embellish one 5-inch tile and the three accent tiles with stamps.

Steps 11-14

11. Add texture to the four large tiles by impressing and rolling a cement rock and a stiff brush. Repeat this step on the 2-1/2-inch accent tile. Impressions add interest and vary the darkness and lightness of the tile surface.

12. Trim excess clay from the two 1-inch accent tiles as necessary. If the clay has a high moisture level it may expand more when pressed and need trimming.

13. Let the tiles dry for a few days.

  • Tiles may be placed outside in the sun for quick drying on the second day.
  • These tiles do not need to stay perfectly flat. If you want them to remain flat, a longer drying time and some weights (wood or sheet rock) placed on the surface for a few weeks will do the trick.

14. Place the tiles into the kiln when dry. Fire to cone 05 (about 1900 degrees) for four hours. Remove them from the kiln when cool.

Steps 15-16

15. Cut an arched-shaped piece of wood for the base with a jigsaw.

  • Start with a piece of plywood at least several inches larger than the perimeter of the arch, which is about 13" x 8-1/2".
  • Use a paper template with an arch. (The peak of the arch is 13 inches.)

16. Sand the wood to remove any rough edges.

Steps 17-18

17. Copper Decor: Cut a 1' x 3" thin sheet of copper foil into 40-50 small 3-inch triangular shapes.

18. Fold the copper edges under 1/4-inch. Trim excess copper with scissors. Roll the copper pieces flat with a roller or brayer.

Step 19

19. Wrinkle the copper shapes with your fingers.

Step 20

20. Place the copper pieces into a mixture of sulphur and water. The ratio of sulphur to water will vary. Start with 2-3 tablespoons of sulphur per quart of water. Add more as necessary. Work outdoors or in a well-ventilated area and wear plastic or latex gloves.

Steps 21-22

21. Rinse the copper in clean water and scrub the back and front with a soapy steel wool pad until the desired aged patina is achieved. Rinse and dry the copper.

22. Flatten the copper with a wooden roller or a brayer before nailing the pieces to the base.

Step 23

23. Nail the copper pieces to the base with copper nails. Wrap the copper around the sides and cover at least an inch of the back. Place the copper nails along the edges of the shapes.

Step 24

24. Trim the nails with needle-nose pliers so they don’t go through the back of the wood base. Use the pliers to hold the shorter nails while hammering them into the board. Leave space for the four 5-inch tiles to be adhered directly to the wood. Tape excess copper to the back of the wooden base leaving 1-inch of copper showing all around the back.

Steps 25-26

25. Cut the pattern for the felt backing using a template that is 1/2-inch smaller than the base. Spread white glue evenly over the felt and attach it to the back of the wooden base. Reinforce the felt by stapling the edge to the wood.

26. Attach eye screws and wire to the back of the garden impression tile piece for hanging. Use a nail and a hammer to set holes for the screw eyes. Attach two felt pads at the bottom of the back so that the tile hanging will rest flat against the wall.

Step 27

27. Put on gloves and mix 1 teaspoon of black oxide with 1/2 cup of water with a brush. Apply the oxide to the surface of the tiles and wipe off the raised surface with a sponge.

Step 28

28. Apply a golden-colored glaze to the four main tiles and a green glaze to the accent tiles and the tile impression in one of the large tiles. Fire again at cone 05 (about 1900 degrees for four hours).

Step 29

29. Remove the tiles from the kiln and adhere them to the copper-covered base with kitchen and bath clear silicone caulk. Allow caulk to set up at 12-24 hours before displaying your garden impression clay tile hanging.

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