Monday, December 14, 2009

Miniature medieval tile floor

Before I put in the first floor of the Tower, I need to finish the flooring below.

At first I planned to put in a  black and white chequered floor, made from peel and stick tiles.

But after sketching it out, I decided it didn't look period enough, so I went in search of possible flooring options for 12 century English buildings.

I came up with encaustic tiles.

These tiles were made all over England from the 12th to the 16th centuries.  The word "encaustic" comes from the Greek, meaning "to burn in" (hence its relation to encaustic painting, where the pigment and beeswax combination are melted onto the canvas).  The raw clay tile was  stamped with a wide variety of patterns and the impress was filled with a white clay slip.  The whole was then fired and glazed with a characteristic yellow glossy finish. Each tile was typically about 6" square.

I've decided to make mine out of polymer clay.  In scale they will each be about .5" square.  I need over 600 of these little suckers.

For my first batch I made up my own terra cotta colour from brown, white and red clay.  Then I discovered the "pottery" colour of Sculpey clay, which is just perfect for these!  That's fine, I like some variation in the base colour, which I think will improve the effect.  Detail always does.

I tried a number of techniques to make the tiles:  I rolled out flat sheets of clay and then baked them, and used a guillotine to cut half inch strips, then cut the half inch square tiles.  This was VERY slow and quite wasteful of clay!

A much faster way is to roll out the clay, and then cut out strips and the individual tiles using scissors.  This is surprisingly easy, especially when one's eye becomes accustomed to estimating the correct size.  It's also easy to pull out all the tiles that are obviously the wrong size or askew, before they've been baked, and just junk them back into clay, thus reducing waste.

To mimic the white slip pattern, I used a small paintbrush and thinned acrylic paint for the first batch, which worked out okay.  The second batch I used a Gelly Roll pen in white, and this gave me much more control over the detail in the tiles.  For the finished floor I'll mix the painted and "penned" tiles up, but another time I'd just start in with the pen.

I'm not trying to make a particular pattern on the floor, so I'm using just about every design I can find for these tiles, and mixing them up.

Some of the floors include tiles in a darker colour, what looks like a very dark blue, but is probably black.  I'm making some dark blue tiles to break up the mass of terracotta coloured tiles, and I'll play with the layout to see whether I want to put these in a band around the room or just mix them in with the clay coloured ones.  I mixed the basic Sculpey blue 4:1 with black to get a dark blue.

Here are some of my tiles:


  1. wow, that looks amazing. More power to your elbow D.M.

  2. Beautiful patterns!
    Take a look in some Tudor tiles reproductions in Majolica technique, painted in Portugal:

    Thank you for viewing


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