Sunday, June 7, 2009

Butterfly Ceramic Tile Mural

After countless hours (well, not exactly countless...about 2o!) the sixth grade mural at Brandon School is completed. With only the grouting left to go, I snapped a few pictures on the last day of school. Every year we create a new mural. Different themes and different styles and all beautiful. The Butterfly mural is our third one.

To start, I hold a class specifically for explaining the purpose of the mural, the process of creating homemade tiles and then go on to talk about our theme. After this class, each student will have made a drawing the same scale as their final tile. In this case, a drawing of a butterfly.
The next class is the biggie. I prepare for the class by cutting two 6" x 6" tiles for each student (124 in all). The students lay their drawing over one clay tile and etch in their drawing. Using a cutting tool, they cut out their butterfly and affix it to the second tile. We talk about scoring, creating dimension by folding and lifting the wings, creating a background and finally ensuring that all added on pieces of clay are securely attached.This process takes about an hour and I help the kids who are struggling with the fine details of this project. If you can swing it, have parents help. I had four parents assisting with this project.

The last part of the class involves painting the tile with under-glaze. Traditional ceramic methods call for drying and firing the tile first, but my class time with the student's was limited to only two sessions, so I combined the making of the tile with the painting.
After the painting, the tiles were set in a cupboard to dry. This took about ten days. Once dry, the tiles were fired, then glazed and fired again.
The results are beautiful. I'm so pleased with how engaged the children were. This is their legacy to the school and all seemed to consider this carefully while working on their tiles.
Well done, sixth graders!


Inna D. said...

This is beautiful!!!

TeachKidsArt said...

What a gorgeous mural and a great legacy for a graduating class! Did you need to flip the tiles while they were drying or lay something on top of them to keep them flat??

Tisha Smith said...

This is beyond beautiful. What an accomplishment! The dimension makes me really want to touch it--Lucky, lucky kids at Brandon Elem....124 tiles to cut, etc. etc. Phew!

Miss Tabarcea said...

What incredible work! I love the idea of students leaving a legacy behind and having contributed something permanent to their school community. SO beautiful. Congrats on completing such a momentous project!

Patty Palmer said...

Thanks everyone! It is a monumental project but the more times I do it, the easier it becomes.
Ensuring that the tiles dry without curling around the edges is tough but since we had such a cold spell in Santa Barbara, the drying time was slow enough to prevent the curling. Flipping the tiles over wouldn't have been wise given the 3-D nature.

Unknown said...

These murals are awesome! I am going to do an alphabet mural with my kindergarten classes. What underglaze did you use? Did they put the underglaze right on top of the damp clay? What did you use for textures in the Keith Haring mural? And did you put the mural together? What is the best process?

Hope you dont mind my questions...I am a first year art teacher in Amherst, Ohio and I really enjoy looking at your blog! Thanks!!

Patty Palmer said...

Hi Leah,
I wouldn't recommend embarking on a mural project unless you have some basic knowledge of ceramics. I say that because alot can go wrong and you need to know how to avoid or at least fix the things that do.
Having said that, I use Laguna Clay Company underglazes. Here is their site:
I usually fire the tiles before underglazing just so the kids have an easier time handling the tile. Soft, wet tiles are tricky to handle. And since you need to fire the tiles twice regardless, I figure I'd make it easier on the kids.
For the Keith Haring mural, the kids used small wooden sticks to create pattern. Use anything you want: plastic forks, straws, etc.
As for putting the mural together, well, that's a lengthy answer. My advice would be to talk with your school districts contractors. These are the guys who fix things around campus. They'll know a thing or two about mounting. Basically, we use backer board and regular tile grout. Does that help? I'm not sure how much you already know!
Good luck and let me know how it turns out. An alphabet mural sounds wonderful.

Faith said...

Hi, Patty, what a beautiful mural. Your work with the kids and your passion is evident. Can I ask you how you glazed the tiles and mounted them? I am doing something similar and am using Sculpey oven-bake clay and am a bit concerned about the paint and glaze in the oven. Any advice/pointers would be greatly appreciated.

Patty Palmer said...

Hi Faith,
This project uses kiln fired clay. I wouldn't recommend using a craft clay for an outdoor mural. If it's a semi-permanent mural, your choice of clay might work. I don't have any experience with Sculpty clay though.
The glaze is Duncan Dipping Glaze which is fired at cone 4. Hope that helps.

Faith said...

Yes, it does. Thanks and looking forward to seeing more beautiful projects from your kids :)

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