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Lesson 2

Painting tiles with circular designs

Gael Stirler

You can buy bisque tiles in 4", 6", and 8" sizes in either white clay or red terra cotta. If you can't find bisque ware buy greenware and have it fired to bisque. Put three coats of Satin Opaque White Glaze on them letting them dry between coats. The designs below are all from period sources of the 16th century. Pieces like this were not used as overall pattern tiles. They were accent tiles used with a lot of other relatively plain tiles. After they are all painted have them fired to cone 04. You can back them with felt or cork when they are done to make coasters or display them in a frame or on a small easel.


Dog Tile

Leaf & Ribbon Tile

Star & Ribbon Tile

Trophies Tile

To get perfect circles I use a banding wheel. It is like a cake stand lazy-susan and cost about $15. Unlike a cake stand you can reach underneath and turn the wheel comfortably. I rigged up an armrest by stacking video tape boxes to support my arm. With my left hand I turn the plate or tile on the wheel as I hold the brush lightly to the surface with my right hand. To make straight painted lines on a tile you can attach a piece of molding to the bottom of a ruler so it is elevated above the surface. Then use it as a guide to steady your brush as you paint the lines. The best brush for lines is a Dagger Striper or a Round Striper. It has hairs that are twice as long as a regular round brush so it will hold more paint. Try to paint the lines in one motion without stopping. If you don't have a striper you can use a round brush and a lot of patience.

Border: Scrolling Ribbon Circle

similar to scrolling acanthus leaves in lesson 5

  1. Divide the tile along each diagonal from corner to corner with a ruler and draw a line in pencil very lightly so as not to mar the surface.
  2. Draw lines through the centers parallel to the sides. This will give you 8 divisions.
  3. Bisect each section to give you 16 divisions.
  4. With a banding wheel paint a circle within a circle with dark cobalt oxide. The distance between them should be about 1 inch.
  5. With the banding wheel draw a pencil line between the two cobalt lines to guide your placement of the centers.
    Painting the Ribbon Design
  1. Paint a small circle with cobalt oxide at each point that the pencil circle intersects a pencil line. Keep the circles centered between the outer and inner circles and uniform in size.
  2. Working in pencil at first, draw a diagonal line leftward from the left side of one little circle to outer edge of the border. Draw another diagonal line from the right side of the little circle to the innner edge of the border. Make the lines curve a little at the ends before touching the edges.
  3. Mirror the curve of the line at the end of each line. Repeat steps 2 and three for all 16 circles.
  4. Change any pencil lines that need fixing. You can lightly rub off the pencil or use a kneaded eraser to remove lines. When you are happy with the shape of the ribbon, paint over the lines all the way around.
  5. Paint one side of each ribbon with a Navy blue.
  6. Paint the other side of each ribbon with Turquoise blue. Paint the ribbons with three coats of Navy and Turquoise. Clean up the edges with a toothpick or sgraffito tool. Be careful not to scar the surface.
Go back and touch up any mistakes and you are done. This makes a border with 16 twirls. To get more twirls, increase the number of centers. To make fewer twirls, divide the circle into 12ths or 10ths instead of 16ths. There are many variations on the the scrolling ribbon design. If you don't use diagonal lines and point the lines towards the center, you will get a single twirling ribbon instead of two. You will get a cool effect that looks like interlocking waves if you don't paint over the pencil outlines. You can alter the look by changing the shape of the little circle to an oval or an almond shape. Try making the gap between the circles smaller for little ribbon borders with almond shaped centers. Try painting each ribbon a different color or leave them white and paint in the background. Experiment on a sheet of paper to see how many different designs you can create.

Center Motifs

Here is a selection of designs for the center to get you started. There are many more ideas that you can glean by doing a little research.
  1. Dog Tile 1
  2. Leaf and Ribbon
  3. Ribbon Star and Flower
  4. Trophy Tile
  5. Dona Bela (Spanish) or Bela Donna (Italian) Beautiful woman.
    (Replace the name with any other name you like)
  6. You can put heraldry in the center, or grotesques, or even initials.

Go to Lesson 3: Maiolica-plate | Go back to Lesson 1: Maiolica-Samplers.

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© 2002-2004Gael Stirler, Inc. 1-520-721-8346
Unless otherwise noted all art is the work of Gael Stirler.
AKA Mistress Dairine mor o' hUigin, OL

This page was last updated Monday, 16-Mar-2009 15:36:20 CDT