Making Tile with FLM Ceramics

By Kate Riley August 6, 2018

Last month I had the pleasure of interviewing a local tile maker and witnessing how he turns clay into handmade works of art. Forrest Lesch-Middelton is an artist and educator who has a studio in my hometown – he discovered pottery at 14 and a few years ago started making architectural tile for private homes and businesses.

Forrest was kind enough to take the time to demonstrate his process, and how he transforms a lump of clay into beautiful bespoke tiles.

seljuk in delft blue

 

Forrest welcomed me into his studio with a smile, holding a coffee cup he crafted himself. As I looked around his studio admiring his work, we spoke of travel and the inspiration behind his pottery and tile patterns.

 

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Forrest’s patterns draw upon motifs from ancient civilizations but also incorporate modern geometric designs with lovely repetition and flow. He walked me through the process of how he makes the bespoke tiles.

Patterns come from a screenprinting process which begins by illustrating the design on a computer, forming a repeat pattern (this is Iznik), then transferring it to a screen using a photo sensitive emulsion and printed negative.

 

Forrest starts with specialty clay that is extruded into ribbons using a pugmill.

 

Strips of clay are laid together in a workspace, then painted with slip (liquid clay).

 

 

A screenprinted sheet is transferred to the clay with precision, then peeled back to reveal the pattern beneath, now freshly affixed to the strips of clay.

 

Forrest lines up the screen printed transfer so that each tile is registered the same.

 

 

He then uses a rubber rib to transfer the image from the paper to the clay.

 

 

Imperfection is to be expected in this process, each tile has subtle variation but it’s why these handmade tiles have so much appeal.

 

 

Now that the pattern is transferred, the strips are brought to the roller cutter which is then set precisely to trim each tile to the correct width.

 

Once cut, the tiles are left on drywall to dry for a few days, sanded, and then fired in the on-site kiln which reaches temperatures of 2300 degrees. After being fired the tile are sanded again to remove any burrs and blemishes.

 

 

Making handmade tile is a time consuming process but renders the most beautiful handmade work. This was one of the patterns on display when I entered the workshop, the Shenandoah pattern custom made and soon to be shipped to a client.

 

 

Forrest produces a lot of high contrast earth tone palettes, however tile patterns are available in a variety of colors.

 

Forrest created a technique dubbed “volumetric image transfer” where he transfers screenprinted pattern and imagery onto the surfaces of his pots while they are still wet and being thrown on the wheel, requiring him to shape the vessels from the inside, so as to not disturb the pattern. See more of this technique revealed by visiting his online pottery shop.

 

 

Forrest also demonstrated for me the most inventive process of using sound waves and sand to create shapes on translucent tiles, he used this process to create an entire collection of tiles, hence the name Soundwaves Collection.

 

 

 

sound waves collection

 

 

One of my favorite things in life is interviewing a creative who is passionate about what they do. I am always amazed watching artists in their hands on process, and it was such a delight getting to know Forrest and observing his work up close.

Here’s the Alborz pattern installed on a wall. Isn’t it stunning?!

 

 

Read more about Forrest’s expertise, accolades, and experience by visiting his website. Find more images of tile you can custom order in his tile portfolio. Be sure to follow FLM Ceramics on Instagram for updates and inspiration!

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DIY Ocean Inspired Resin Art

By Kate Riley August 2, 2018

Every now and then I experiment with a new medium to create art. I find it so therapeutic to swirl paint colors around. A few weeks ago I stumbled across the world of resin art on Etsy and YouTube and became entranced with the idea of trying it out for myself.

As a California girl I’m always drawn to the sounds and colors of the coast. I love all those drone images of oceans from all around the world popping up on Instagram, so I was inspired to attempt an abstract version of the birds-eye view one sees looking down at the waves and sandy beach.

I made three attempts, for the first small canvas I was just playing around with colors and the resin to get a feel for it. On my second attempt (the large rectangle down below), I got brave and just went for it. I even made a video of the process, you can watch it at the end of this post. My third attempt at working with resin on canvas was my most satisfying, it’s that little one in the top right that mimics the sand and waves and sea.

 

 

 

 

Supplies: plastic sheeting, 32 oz. Art Resin, wood or stretched canvas, mixing cups; acrylic paints; 30+ wood stir sticks; refillable culinary torch + butane; latex gloves; painter’s pyramids (or substitute jello shot cups or small plastic cups turned upside down); level; your messiest painting clothes.

 

 

I used a palette of seven different acrylic paint colors mixed with the resin to create this artwork. I recommend the DecoArt paints they are a little more fluid and didn’t give me any problems when I blended them with the Art Resin.

 

 

Mix equal parts resin and hardener and stir as instructed then you can mix in your colors. These graduated mixing clear cups came in so handy because you need to get the 1:1 ratio exactly right.

 

 

Mix a tiny bit of acrylic paint into the individual cups of pre-mixed resin. Not too much or it will change the resin and may clump or burn. I used about ½ tsp per 2 oz of resin. Lay your canvas on top of the painting pyramids and then make sure it’s level.

Next, get busy pouring in whatever pattern you can imagine. Make sure you’re wearing gloves throughout the process, this stuff is sticky!

 

 

You can use the stir sticks to swirl and blend the paints together.

 

 

Blend the colors with the culinary torch, keep the flame about 2 inches away from your canvas to avoid burning the resin. The butane torch also pops any bubbles that rise to the surface.

 

 

Temperature is really important for working with resin. I did this project in my garage when it was 70 degrees which gave me about 30-40 minutes of open time with the resin before it began to set. The Art Resin website has all the information you need on ideal temperatures for this project.

Another tip, have plenty of spreading sticks available! I used them not just to mix the resin and to swirl colors, but also to drip more resin on the canvas, and to clean up around the edges of the boards. Allow 24 hours until it’s dry to the touch and 72 hours to fully cure.

It’s a little unpredictable how the colors will blend together. I learned you can control it somewhat with the amount you pour and how you swirl the colors together with sticks, and the torch blends them together as well, but you have to just accept the final result, and if you’re lucky you end up with some very cool blended hues.

 

 

 

This photo shows all three of my DIY ocean inspired art pieces. My first attempt  is on the far right, my second attempt was on birch wood (far left) and my final attempt was the 8 x 10 store-bought canvas in the middle.

 

 

I was a little dissatisfied with the way the first trial piece turned out, it’s difficult to see but for that one I happened to dig into my stash of paints and for the dark green I used the old acrylic paint and it made clumps in the resin, so the artwork feels bumpy in those places, when I was going for a totally smooth surface. But I do like the flecks of glittery gold, I’ll repeat that technique in any future attempts, and I like how these colors are more marbleized.

 

 

My second attempt was on birch plywood I had cut at Lowes to 15×24″. This is the one shown in the video from start to finish. I dislike the middle white section of this one because I was going for three tiers of waves and the middle section now looks more like clouds hovering above the ocean, not waves. Also I wanted more sandy colors on the bottom and because my board wasn’t perfectly level, the tan/sand colors dripped off quicker. But whatever, it’s a pretty mixture of colors.

 

 

My third attempt was the small 8 x 10 canvas. That time I used only brand new DecoArt paints, these had the perfect fluidity and worked best with the resin medium. This is the canvas I’m most satisfied with….just a lesson to be persistent and keep trying something till you get it close to almost right. :)

 

 

So here they are, imperfect but still very cool and I like them that way.

 

 

With resin you’ll end up with a high gloss surface which looks amazing in person but is a little tricky to photograph, you’ll pick up a glare from any nearby window, notice the shine down on the bottom?

 

 

I really loved working with this product, it’s high risk ($59 for 32. oz!) but it’s also high reward. I’m looking forward to tackling more projects with resin in the near future!

 

 

Check out this 2 minute video which shows the process and how easy it is to make your own DIY ocean inspired resin art!

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