With a quickly approaching contest deadline, I decided I needed more tedium and selected tile for the kitchen. I originally had the idea because of travels in Spain. You could walk into little shops in Andalucía overflowing with colorful pottery and tile, just waiting to adorn a home. France had also picked up on the idea (just look at Monet’s kitchen in Giverny). Even in medieval times, tile floors were a sight to behold, full of color and pattern, and sometimes each one was different. My little baker would have carved out what space he could for his French kitchen, and there is just something magical about deep blues and cheerful yellows.
In a feeble attempt to maintain sanity, I decided to make most of the tiles larger and one color, with smaller, detailed ones as accent pieces. When I learned of a pattern called “windmill,” I had to try it in my mill cottage. I wanted this to be the kind of floor people would stop and look at if they had walked into the room and had time to stand idly. But first I had to make the miniature tiles…on top of real tiles, of course.
In learning the paint was fairly translucent, I chose to make the tiles out of white Sculpey, cut into 5mm and 11mm squares. (Another huge thank you to my friends for letting me kidnap their pasta roller!) The tiles got a basecoat of white and a sanding before the magic began.
I wanted these to be like Delft tiles, and in researching them I found animals, plants, and natural scenes to be common themes. I did make one obligatory Dutch windmill tile, along with all manner of real and imaginary creatures of the earth, land, and sea. I was at the coast when I did these, and I added dolphins to the mix after watching a pair hunting for fish in the shallows. I also added some classic French and English symbols (including a more contemporary blue and white British icon *wink*, see if you can find it). The best tiles made the cut, and each is unique.
I used Pebeo’s Porcelaine 150 paints, and Pebeo is quickly becoming my favorite art supply company (a position previously held by GOLDEN for its gesso and Derwent for its watercolor pencils). Their Setasilk paints for silk painting are wonderfully easy to use, and their Porcelaine paints are even more impressive. They are water-based but take on a permanent, glossy finish when baked at 300°F for 30 minutes. People typically use them to personalize ceramics (mugs, plates, etc.), but I wanted to try them out as “ultra-low-fire” glazes for miniature pottery. I hope to throw some tiny pieces for this house (far, far down the road), but had been balking at the idea of using real glazes until I found these paints. I don’t think anyone has used these paints for this purpose, so it’s been an experiment.
I glued down the tiles before applying “grout,” which was the same wood filler I had used for the brick mortar, just applied straight from the tube this time. Since the paint is waterproof once cured, I was able to apply grout just like real tile: slather it on and wipe it off with a damp towel.
Being such a unique medium, the Porcelaine paints will set you back a bit if you stock up on lots of colors at once (a 45mL bottle is about $6) and they are easiest to find online (but are temperature-sensitive, and some suppliers will not ship them in winter, FYI). I bought a small starter set of some 20mL bottles and supplemented with a couple of primary colors to be able to mix what I wanted, along with a classic China blue.
Here’s the finished product! (Just a dry run before the walls go up, but you get the idea).