How the tiles are made

The satisfaction comes through the use of every part of oneself, hand and eye, brain and intuition, and through being always in contact with natural materials and the power of earth, air, fire and water. … It is, in fact, a voyage of discovery into the very heart of things. How lucky we are.

Marianne de Trey Dartington ceramicist
Hand carved tiles

Alchemy Tiles brings back to life the thousand year old craft of inlay tiles or encaustic as it's technically known as. Each tile is individually carved free hand with inspiring poetry, quotes and images.

The technique of inlay tiles goes back so far that they are unable to trace its true origin but the technique really came into its own during the 13th Century. When rulers and kings weren’t fighting each other they were glorifying themselves in palaces, churches and temples and what better way than to use a technique that would last centuries. 

Mel was trained in the techniques by Iris Milward of Poetry Tiles just before she retired in 2013. Mel has gone on not only to continue the ancient technique but to develop it further in new colours, designs and specialising in bespoke kitchens, bathrooms and fire places.

Any shape, space, size and design can be tailored for from individual tiles to large areas like kitchens, bathrooms and fireplaces.

Due to the intricate and multiple processes no tile can be replicated making each one bespoke, unique and held eternally in earth and time.

Two cats

My Journey Before I Came To Be In Your Hands

I have been rolled and my shape cut by hand

Then using ancient techniques from far across lands,

My image and script hand carved in wet clay

With wisdom and poetry to inspire you each day.

Four different colours of clay then applied

To fill in those carvings and then left to dry.

Then to be scraped and my design now revealed

To be dried once again before I’m then sealed,

In a coating of glaze with a crackle for show

Then fired raw, so long and so slow.

So fragile and delicate at each stage I must be

Until I transform in the fires that embrace me

When I emerge, still warm to the touch

A stain is wiped over, a little, not much.

And then I am ready to be held in your hands

With magic and tales from far across lands.

Images, quotes and poetry sublime

All held eternal, in earth and in time.

Clay

THE SOURCE

Each tile is cut from a lump of clay, rolled out and turned three times, and then cut to size.

Cutting the clay
Carving the clay

THE CARVING

The script and images are then individually hand carved into the wet clay free hand.

Carving the clay
Adding colour to the clay

THE INLAY

Four different shades of colour slips (runny clay with oxides and stains added to it) are then inlaid into the carved areas. Each colour has its own unique handmade recipe using a combination of oxides and stains.

Adding colour to the clay
Scraping back the clay

THE REVEALING

Once the slip dries, the top layer is scraped back with a special metal tool to reveal the image and script underneath.

The inlaid colour scraped back
Glazing the clay

THE GLAZING

Once the tile has thoroughly dried it is glazed with a transparent crackle glaze. It is then firedraw (only once).

Glazing the clay
Staining the tile

THE STAINING

After three days when it comes out of the kiln, an ink stain is washed over the tile and then wiped off to highlight the crackle glaze.

Staining the tile