• K2

Mouse in a Beaker

Sometime in July, I received a commission for 60 tiles for a consulting group that had moved a large pharma lab from one side of the US to the other coast. To commemorate the event, the head of the group wanted to gift each of the team's members with a tile as a special thank you. I intended to have all of the work in hand by the end of October.

With a few prompts from the team's captain, visualizing and then sculpting the tile was easy; the resulting plaster press mold was made easily enough too.

Then I began pressing out tiles, easy peasy. Then-- hoo boy-- getting the tiles to dry flat was the ultimate challenge! I spent the better part of the summer tearing my hair out trying to get this right. The prototype dried flat but then bewilderingly, the first bunch curled badly when drying! I consulted my many ceramic sources which suggested I cover the tiles for a day with plastic, then uncover them, drying them slowly with cotton t-shirts. Then I read that I should place the tiles on drywall or plaster to even the drying. I learned that clay has "memory" and that if I needed to move them, not to pick them up but to slide them across a surface with a ruler. Others suggestions included putting weight on them or turning them while they dried-- to no avail. Some that dried flat still "boated" in the kiln upon firing. Gah, I had a devil of a time! Perhaps 20 green tiles ended up back in the slaking bucket.

Furthermore, I had a surprising setback during a bisque firing where 10 of the tiles exploded! Upon forensic examination of the debris, I discovered that somehow there'd been a bubble trapped behind the head of the mouse; the steam and gas shattered the bisque. After that I began drilling a series of small holes in the back of the tile where the clay was thickest. And, pressing out more tiles. I could see that I'd need to make more than I thought.

To make matters even more complicated, my ambitions included developing a glaze of my own to complement the commercial glaze. So, I set about learning as much as I could about glaze chemistry and started testing a few recipes (see my other blog article "Yo, Science, Bitches!"). One glaze recipe worked to my advantage in the end, but one of my attempts decidedly did not....

(Oh nooo! The mousie's in a beaker of acid!?)

"Boated" tiles that were flat before glazing, curled inexplicably in the kiln. Maddening!

About the time I'd fired 80 tiles, I was getting much better at this.

Ah, the good ones are accumulating!

The finished tile!

The finished tile!

So many setbacks, so much of a huge learning curve in a short period of time. But now I'm more experienced and more fully equipped to take on the challenges of a production run of tiles. Hit me up for your project someday!