Friday, 13 December 2013

A Short History of Ceramic Tile

Ceramic AND Tile : The Birth of the Word…..
The word ‘ceramic’ comes from the greek word ‘keramos’ meaning pottery. It is related to India through an old sanskrit root meaning ‘to burn’ but was primarily used to mean ‘burnt stuff’.
The latin word ‘tegula’ and its french derivative ‘tuile’ mean quite precisely a roof tile of baked clay. The english ‘tile’ is less precise, for it can in addition be used of any kind of earthenware slab applied to any surface of a building.
However, when these two combine, they give us Ceramic Tiles.
Origin: The First Appearance…..
Man has always preferred to create living and working spaces which were beautiful, durable, cost effective and user friendly. With the same thought, ceramic tile has been made by man for 4000 years.
Beautiful tiled surfaces have been found in the oldest pyramids, the ruins of babylon, and ancient ruins of greek cities. Decorative tile work was invented in the near east, where it was popular and assumed a greater variety of design than anywhere in the world.
Tiles are the simplest form of ceramic art. The earliest known examples are Egyptian and from 4,000 BC. Through history, tiles were made by Assyrians, Babylonians and the Islamic Empire. Early tiles can be seen in Tunisia (c.9th), Kashan Iran (c.11th), and many middle-eastern mosques display Koranic scripts using highly colored relief tiles (c.12th onwards).
In the 13th and 14th centuries Europe's churches were paved with decorated tiles. Holland was an important center for tiles in the 17th and 18th centuries and in the 19th century Britain pioneered mass-produced tiles.
The earliest tiles in Western Europe (late c.10th) were found in a number of locations in England (eg. York and Winchester). Glazed tiles were an expensive building item which resulted in their use being restricted to wealthy ecclesiastic establishments. From the 16th century onwards Moorish tile making slowly spread north through Spain. Some of the most spectacular ceramics can be found at the Alhambra Palace in Granada, and in the Great Mosque in Cordoba. From the14th century tin glazed tile making spread from Holland over to England.
So, most of the inventions in Tiles came about in every part of the world, west as well as east.
The Mass Production….
In the 19th century Britain pioneered mass production of tiles. English tile making expanded rapidly during the industrial revolution, peaked in the late 1800s and slumped soon after the turn of the century. American tile makers enjoyed a similar period of prosperity to their counterparts but had to compete with English imports. The Arts & Crafts movement reinvigorated the handcraft of tile making, and it was used extensively in interiors for fireplace surrounds as well as wall decoration.
Usage in the period
The tiles upto this time were still considered a bit expensive and hence had limited use. They were mainly used in Kitchens and bath spaces. This was largely due to the hygiene awareness and demand increasing in the world, specially the western countries.
The elite would lay these tiles in their living rooms, which became a matter of pride for them. Very few also preferred to lay them in their private living spaces, which was shear luxury.
The Construction
Tiles are basically made of two parts, Body and the Glaze.
Body Development
A ceramic tile is tile made of clay. Tiles were made by hand, in early days clay bricks - made by flattening the clay and cutting pieces into shape - were dried beneath the sun or baked.
Later the only mechanical aid was a wooden mould carved in relief, which indented a pattern on the clay slab. The slab was dried and the impression filed with clay, which after further drying was shaved flat.
After the formation of the tile body,ceramic tiles go through a firing process in a kiln under very high heat to harden the tile body and to create the surface glaze.
Historically, unglazed tile was fired once. Glazed tile was fired twice. The first firing formed a tile body called a ‘bisque’. The biscuit firing had the highest temperature at 1060 c that fixed the tiles for size and shape.
The biscuits’ surface are then glazed with a colored thick liquid. This is called glazing. After glazing the tiles were glost fired at about 1020 - 1240 c. On glaze decoration was fired at 750 c,just before the glaze began to melt.
Decoration: Making tiles unimaginably beautiful
1. Unglazed:
The color range in unglazed tiles are limited to the natural colors of the clay, ranging from a light sand to a red brick.
2. Plain glazes:

White lead, flint, china stone and china clay were ground to make a glaze. A clear glaze brought out the natural body Colour and might be applied over any coloured decoration. Glazed tiles are decorated with natural and artificially colors.
Palette of colors consists of glaze and underglaze colors. The first glazes were blue in color and were made from Copper. Also turquoise and light green glaze were popular colors. Ground metal oxides could be added to give different colours.
2. Encaustic or inlaid:
This method was to fill the matrix of a stamped tile with white pipeclay before it was glazed and fired. The two sections fusing during firing. This trend was very appealing when it first appeared on the scene.
3. Mosaic:
Tiles in such colors as yellow, blue, brown, black, turquoise,green and white were cut and carved into small pieces according to a previously prepared pattern. These pieces were placed close together and liquid plaster poured over to fill in all the opening and gaps. After the plaster dried and hardened, a large single piece tile panel had been created, which was then plastered onto the required wall of the building. This is a manual process and hence was very costly. The process is mechanized now.
4. Hand painting:
The artist painted freely onto a plain surface tile. The glaze was one centimeter thick, with hand-painted decorations of flowers, plants, geometric designs, birds and human beings. A design could also be copied from an original sketch by 'pouncing'. Alternatively a tile could be transfer printed and coloured by hand.
Screen Printing has now taken over this nostalgic activity.
5. Lustre painting :
The metallic lustre of glazed ceramics is a very special type of decoration. It can be red, brown, ochre yellow or green in scattered light and shows, in specular reflection, coloured metallic reflections (blue, yellow, orange, rose…silver, gold ect). Metallic copper and silver colloids suspensed in glazes compose lustre decoration.
6. Tile pictures
Square tiles were placed together and necessary design was painted in glazed colors on them. Each tile was fired. Then all were placed again next to each other to create the main large illustration.

7. Patterns

Mathematically-minded people elaborated geometric designs, providing a continous decoration. Most designs required four tiles to complete a pattern,some required as many as sixteen. A ‘wallpaper’ pattern is one that has translation symmetry in two directions (such as left/right and up/down). A frieze pattern is one that has translation symmetry in one direction. A rosette pattern is one that has no translation symmetry, just reflection and/or rotation symmetry.

1 comment: