I’m going to be posting a number of ideas for Youth A&S Brown Bag projects, and edit them over time, to discover which are workable.  Please feel free to comment.  I’m especially trying for the projects to be “real” not just poor substitutes.  And I’m not necessarily an expert in these things, so please correct any major errors you see.

Overview

The inlaid tile was one of the great inventions of medieval craftsmen. Production of such tiles involved stamping the surface of an unfired slab of clay with a carved wooden block, impressing the design into the surface. The hollows were then filled with white clay. The technique produced tiles that were both striking and durable, and had the particular advantage of being suited to mass production. Inlaid tiles, primarily used for floors, were made in quantity in England from the 13th to the 16th century

Several different tiles can be viewed online at the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Made about 1280  About 1260-1290  About 1270-1300  About 1290-1300  About 1332-1350  About 1500-1521   About 1500-1521  About 1500-1521
These tiles are about 14 to 17cm square, and 2.5-3cm thick.  Tiles to decorate a wall would not have been as thick.

More 13th & 14th Century tiles, of various sizes
  From the Hunting lodge of King Rene’ in France   Medieval floor tiles in Lincolnshire

From the British Museum  From Raglan Castle in Wales

In the medieval period, these tiles were mass-produced by use of a wooden stamp block.  One way to imitate inlaid tiles is to carve away some of the clay, and then fill in the spaces with a different color of clay.

Heraldic designs were common on medieval floor tiles, as well as designs that produced patterns when set side-by-side.

Tools & Materials included

  • 2 sets of wooden thickness gauges – to make your tiles evenly thick, 3/8″ & 3/4″
  • 1 dowel for rolling out the tiles
  • 1 canvas for working your clay, so it won’t stick to the table
  • 1 wire pointer  – to draw the outline of your design
  • 3 shaped tools to remove clay – round, square, & v-shaped
  • Wire, with rings on the ends, to cut the clay
  • Vinegar, to help thin your white clay to the proper thickness, and help the 2 types of clay to stick together.
  • Documentation & Instructions
  • Common Heraldic designs

Tools & Materials found at the Pottery Tent

  • Clay – with a reddish tone.  Red means there is iron in the clay, and is very common in period.  It can even be dug up from the lake at Lilies, if all goes well.
  • Clay – with a whitish tone.  White clay was much rarer in period, and that’s the reason white is the applied decoration, not the main fabric of the tile.
  • Kiln – if your tiles are dry enough by Thursday morning, they should be able to be fired at Lilies

Things you need to get

  • Bowl/pan for mixing clay slip to proper consistency

People who would be willing to help you

  • Photo – Mistress Vasilla – Real name– Camped with the Company of Travellers, or ask at Mag Mor for directions – address – phone – email (full details will be printed, but not posted.)
  • Photo – SCA name – Real name- Lilies location – address – phone – email

Step-by-Step Process

  • Put the canvas down for your work surface.  it will get dirty, don’t worry about it.
  • Get a lump of Lilies clay out, and knead it, “wedge” it by throwing it down, and cut it.  You want to even out the clay, remove any rocks, and eliminate air pockets.  (Air pockets inside your clay object can cause your item to blow-up in the kiln.
  • Use the thickness boards and the dowel to roll a lump of clay into the right thickness.  Use one of the other boards as a straight edge, to make your tile square. Use your wire pointer to cut the excess clay off.
  • Move your boards away from your tile & repeat.  4 tiles is probably plenty to start with.
  • Let tile dry until “leatherhard”, you can pick it up, and it won’t easily bend, but you can still carve clay away.
  • Plan out your designs.
  • Using the tools provided, carve away some of the top surface of the tile.
  • Get a small lump of whitish clay.  Wedge it smooth.  Put into your bowl and add a small amount of vinegar.  You want it to be more like thick cake frosting.  You now have very thick slip.
  • Make a few scratches on the recessed areas of your tiles, and lightly dab with vinegar.  (Just get your fingertip wet with the vinegar, and wipe in the cut-away areas.  The vinegar helps the two types and moistures of clay to bind together well.
  • Using fingers or any other tools that seem helpful, spread the thick slip into all the recessed areas,  You want to be sure there are no air pockets.
  • You can pick up the leatherhard tile, and using the rounded tool, make several shallow scoops out of the back of your tile.  This will help the tile dry, and also, help the mortar adhere to your tile, when you put it on your floor, wall, or another surface.
  • Let the slip & tile dry.  Once it is dryer, you can scrape off any places where white slip went that it shouldn’t have.
  • Once the tile is dry, it can be fired.
  • Congratulations.  After the kiln fire, your tiles are done.  Be sure to bring them back to the “Great Machine” building, for the judging, and to pick up your prize.  Please think about doing a bit more research, and entering Queen’s Prize or Kingdom A&S Tri-Levels.  Hope you had fun.
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