Process: Creating the Birchbaygetaway Ceramic Tile Mural 2015

Using current work to illustrate my methodology, I will take you through the process in minutes. Perhaps it will both inform and inspire.
The Birch Bay Mural was a commissioned work. I instantly knew what was needed and persuaded the client not to create a beach scene comprised of non-indigenous sea life. What would a bright orange Garaboldi, a fish from Southern California, be doing in the far Northwest?
The first step is to reach an agreement on the image and then get a down payment with further payments arranged at specific mile markers. Luckily my patron was sensitive to the creative process and was most obliging throughout. I have worked for people who just dropped the ball and expected me to wait. I advise a clear cut deal in writing. Always keep the ball in your court.
Now to create the template. I use “Doorskins” for my template, very thin plywood, for lack of an analogy.
The next step is to enlarge the image by the shrinkage rate of your clay. 10% in this case. Clay shrinks. Most clay will have specs to tell you the approximate shrinkage.
Then I create the tapestry, or the phantom of the finished product by painting the image on my pre-sized template. I use acrylic paint.
Then divide the template up into manageable sized tiles by drawing each tile shape on the painting using the natural flow of the image and separating the big shapes.
Then cut the template up into tile shapes using a hand saw by following the drawn lines and carefully number each tile. Each of these plywood shapes will eventually become a tile.
I needed a wooden backer for this tile mural because the client wanted to be able to move it.
The wooden backer is made with 3/4 inch exterior plywood with cement board screwed and glued to the top side. The hangers are comprised of two 4×4’s split split on an angle.Two halves on the backer board and two on the wall where you plan to mount it.

Then each piece of plywood is placed onto the backer and traced. It is very very important to know where the tiles need to be mounted.

Each piece/shape is an imprint for a ceramic tile. Roll slab 3/4″ inch thick and start cutting the clay, again carefully numbering each clay tile. When the clay tiles are leather hard apply underglaze/ozides and bisque fire.
Here is a photo of the eagle before I bisque fired it.
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I am assuming the reader has a basic knowledge of ceramics so that the bisque firing and glaze firing do not need to be explained.
Jump ahead to logistics. Moving the “Backer Board” took four men and three dogs. Please note the traced image on the cement board.
Now to mount the high fired tile onto the vertical wall. A challenge. I use multiple dress nails to hang each tile to stop it sliding down the wall.
I start at the bottom and work up.

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I use cement and acrylic hardner to mount the tile. The trick is to work very clean otherwise the cement gets on everything and is almost immpossible to wash off.
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I trace the tiles onto a paper template so I can lay the tile out on the ground so as to create order.
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I lay all the tile out on the paper templete before i start to mount because it is easy to just get overwhelmed and get lost.
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And here is the finished artwork: The Birchbay Mural.