I am a genuine fan of high quality mass produced tiles, but nothing quite gets the blood pumping like a dedicated ceramic artisan who produces truly hand-made and innovative tile designs.
So, today, Tile Addict salutes Sharon Jones. She is a true hand-made tile pioneer. Not for her bought-in commercial biscuit. Instead, using white English earthenware clay, each piece is rolled into a slab, cut to shape with a potters’ knife and hand-glazed using Jones’ own unique recipes.
“Whether your project requires a design statement or just a simple, traditional, hand-made tile … you can be assured that no two pieces will be identical,” explains Jones. “The glazes add further character as they pool in the subtle undulating surface. True individuality can only be achieved by this labour intensive method, an affinity with clay and a passion for originality.”
Too true. Sharon Jones has been dedicated to producing original ceramic works of art since 1987, following a ceramics course at Bath College of Art and Design.
Inspired by the beautiful, old butcher shop tile panels in the Jackfield Tile Museum at Ironbridge, Jones began designing and hand-painting farm animals and country scenes. In 1987 she founded ‘Country Tile Design’ producing hand-painted and hand-made ceramic tiles.
By 1992 the business had grown to such an extent that she converted a large barn in Somerset to accommodate the ever increasing number of employees and skilled artists.
By the late nineties the trend towards minimalism caused reduced interest in hand-painted tiles. Jones responded with creativity and imagination, forming Clay By Design to design, create with clay, develop glaze recipes and hand paint works of art, combining all considerably enjoyable aspects of handmade ceramics.
The resulting multi-tile panels speak for themselves. They combine the intricate geometric patterns and details of today’s water-jet alternatives, with the subtle imperfactions of hand-made tiles. The results, as the photographs on the page show, are timelessly beautiful: statement pieces for design-literate homeowners that will not only add value to any home, but bring pleasure for years to come.
An extremely versatile design, the Classical Flower may be adapted in many ways, such as installation above an Aga or range cooker as a splashback. The panel shown above is 900mm wide by 60mm high and is realised in a textured black glaze.
The bold, clean lines of the Compass design also creates a stunning feature panel or kitchen splashback. The panel shown above is 950mm wide by 650mm high and is realised in a China white crackle glaze with Pewter.
These tessellated Fish would look perfect as a main feature or splashback in a bathroom or kitchen. The design may also be adapted to any size as a repeat pattern. The panel shown is 700mm wide by 550mm high and is realised in Tea green and Warm grey crackle glazes.
Home owners looking to create a graphic statement in their kitchen will be drawn to this stylish Cook design. The panel shown is 1,000mm wide by 600mm high, and is realised in Green smoke and Bone White butter matt glazes.
Boats is an impressive tessellation that may be adapted to suit a variety of spaces as a repeat pattern. It is also ideal as wall feature panel or splashback. The panel shown is 850mm wide by 520mm high and is realised in Powder blue, Soft green and Warm white gloss glazes.
The image above shows featured elements from the Classical Flower design used as a repeat pattern in Periwinkle and Stone Butter matt glazes.
Sharon Jones’s working practices are reassuringly old school. Each bespoke design starts with good old fashioned graph paper, with the chosen design drawn to scale. The client is then sent this plan – depicting the preferred colour options, along with glazed colour samples – for approval.
Once agreed, the template is cut, taking into account the shrinkage of the clay and allowance for the grout lines. Slabs of white English earthenware clay are then rolled and left to dry for a day before cutting around the templates. The edges are smoothed by hand and any impressions are made using various wheels and stamps.
Each piece is transferred to a board and taken to the damp cupboard, where they dry slowly over five days. This substantially reduces the warping that is inherent with hand-made flatware. After a further five days on open drying racks, each piece is loaded into the kiln and bisque fired to 1,100°C. The fired clay is now are checked and sorted ready to be glazed. Each piece is hand-dipped, allowed to dry and the glaze fired at 1,060°C. If a crackle glaze is chosen this can be enhanced by rubbing stain into the crackle lines.
Photography: Matt Jones
A new post by Joe Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, August 2017.