Handmade Tiles - Instructional Book & Video


HANDMADE TILES by Frank Giorgini, Lark Books, 1994.
ISBN 0-937274-76-3

Book Review by Dale Wiley for the Tile Heritage Foundation's magazine Flash Point Vol.8, No.1

It is a pleasure to write a few words in review of a book well done. Frank Giorgini's first book, Handmade Tiles (Lark Books 1994) might also been entitled, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Tile Making But Were Afraid to Ask. This "tell all" book, long overdue, is the definitive guide to tile and how to make it; it also doubles as an excellent crash course in ceramics, written skillfully by one who knows his stuff. Giorgini has been teaching courses in ceramic tile designand fabrication at Parsons School of Design in New York, and, in his own words, clay has been his "preferred medium in artistic expression for over twenty years." What he has done is packed the invaluable knowledge leaned from those twenty years into one great book.

The table of contents (a gorgeous page, artistically framed by Frank Bosco's work, "Close Corners") alerts you to the wonder and completeness of the journey within. The book begins with the historic foundation with Joe Taylor's essay "The Handcrafted Tradition in Ceramic Tiles"; The chapters that follow will lead you - patiently, and with obvious fondness- through the many steps in the process of making tiles. Sprinkled throughout are helpful hints to keep from falling into pits; and, should you still take a tumble, the information is there to assist you in figuring out why. It is all written in a clear style, so friendly yet thorough you feel your instructor is ever on your side.

And, as if that weren't enough, this book is absolutely beautiful to look at. From the splendid "tile" cover that calls out, just as the real thing, to be touched, you are lured on to the "how to"and "this to is possible" color photos on every page. This is a book that demands your perusal. I suppose one could just thumb through it casually, marveling at the variety of creativity and skill in the tile works of dozens of ceramic artists within, but I would bet money that even those that are not consumed by the fire of tile passion would start reading the text in spite of themselves - and be hooked!

Now my "editor" advises me that book reviews either to glowing or to damning lack credibility; a balance is required. I've given this some serious thought in a stymieing attempt to present a few constructively critical remarks. But I have to admit that had it been my book (and oh, how I wishit were!), I could not have done it better. All in all, Handmade Tiles is worth its weight in cobalt carb to tile makers who find themselves ceramically challenged. For be you a neophyte or a battle-scarred veteran, who among us can ever claim to have mastered it all.

I would like to close with a favorite quote from the author's introduction:"Transforming an amorphous lump of earthen material into a three-dimensional representation of my concept and vision is my idea of a good time."I mean you can't help but like the guy, just as you can't help but be grateful for this gift he has given us all. Bravissimo e grazie, Frank!
Where to find:

Handmade Tiles by Frank Giorgini (Lark Books, 1994) is available at all leading book stores, on the internet (Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, etc.), ceramic supply companies and catalogs, and the Tile Heritage Foundation, P.O. Box 1850, Healdsburg, CA 95448.

Signed copies are available directly from the author by e-mailing fgiorgini@mhcable.com or ordering by phone 518 634 2559 Price: $24.95 (add 8% sales tax if ordering in New York State) plus $4.50 for shipping/handling in the USA ($6.00 for 1st class Priority Mail)
HANDMADE TILES Instructional Video

Frank Giorgini's four volume video series, Handmade Tiles - Vol. 1 -4, is the "live" companion to Frank's highly praised book Handmade Tiles (Lark Books 1994), winner of the 1995 Tile Heritage Foundation Award. Each volume is a visually exciting and thoroughly comprehensive journey into the art of tile making. Intended for the beginning tile maker, the accomplished artist and tile lover alike, Frank guides the viewer through each step of the tile making process, with detailed and easily understood explanations, and clearly presented "how to" demonstrations.

Volume One reveals the process of creating an original carved relief tile model, the layering technique, plaster mold making, and production of the resulting clay tiles. Also demonstrated is direct carving into plaster and use of a hand tile press to produce low relief tiles. In addition, surface decoration with colored clay inlay and shellac resist is disclosed. These techniques are all performed on the clay in its pre-fired stage.

Volume Two continues the process of creating a handmade tile. Effective drying techniques, electric kiln operation, and loading and firing a bisque kiln are demonstrated. A general overview of glazing is discussed along with demonstrations of underglaze painting, waxing and glaze dipping applications. Loading and firing a glaze kiln is followed by a presentation of finished tiles by various contemporary tile artists.

Volume Three reveals the techniques used to construct artist Frank Giorgini's innovative tile making hand tools and devices. Fabricated from simple, readily available materials, these tools add a new dimension to the carving, forming and finishing process of tile making. Included are tools for sculpting, incising, trimming, cutting, and waxing of tiles. Step by step construction of a studio tile press and several mounting and display devices are demonstrated.

Volume Four completes the tile making process by guiding the viewer through the installation of finished tiles in a custom designed table top. Mastertile setter Arnon Zadok joins Giorgini in a step by step demonstration of this finished tile application. Tools, adhesives, layout, setting, grouting and cleaning are examined in detail during this final stage of the tile makers art.
Video Review of HANDMADE TILES -

VOL 1 FORMING THE TILE by K.Finnerty Contact 1997, No. 109

Recently I was asked to review the video Handmade Tiles by Frank Giorgini. Being familiar with his book of the same title I was curious to see whether the video, which is being marketed as a "live" companion to the book, was in fact, as good as the book. The book is thorough, concise, comprehensive and clearly illustrated with wonderful examples throughout each chapter providing detailed results of most of the outlined processes presented.

I decided to ask a friend to view the video with me - someone with a novice background in clay - to get insights from a beginner's perspective. Having worked in clay for the past fifteen years myself (and for a good number of those years as an instructor), I was looking at the overall instructional value and quality of presentation.

What we discovered upon viewing was a no-fuss, on-muss understated presentation of the tile-making processes. As in the book, the information and demonstrations are laid out step by step, introducing the viewer first to the creation of a simple, flat, slab tile, then to the laminated and carved relief model, and then to the production of a plaster press mold. Also demonstrated is direct carving into plaster and the use of a hand press to produce low-relieftiles. As well, surface decoration with colored clay inlay and shellac resistis shown.

The approach throughout the video is consistently comfortable and simplistic. There is a natural workshop quality here that is not gimmicky, this videois not over produced; however, generally speaking, production values were good, and the images were clear. Information is accessible, allowing fornatural pauses which give the viewer time to take notes, and obviously one of the real perks is one's ability to pause, rewind and go over informationtime and time again. This is an instant workshop at the touch of a button. In addition, the presenter manages to give us a sense of real time and how long these processes actually take, leaving us with an appreciation of what is involved in the making of simple slap tiles through to the more sophisticated processes. My novice friend pointed out to me that as questions arose for her during the presentation, Giorgini seemed to foresee them and almost immediately he raised the question himself and provided the answer.

Overall I was impressed with the thoughtful, clear and comprehensive presentation of information created in this video. Frank Giorgini provided numerous handy tips that anyone with an interest in making tiles would be able to use with ease. This video would give even the rank beginner confidence to get down to it, and for those with more experience he keeps things interesting by providing tidbits of information to make it all go easier and smoother. It is clear that the presenter/author has a great deal of knowledge and experience which he communicates with ease and clarity.

My conclusion: For those really interested in pursuing tile making, get both the book and the video. The book offers just that little extra in the way of finished visual examples and with both. Giorgini leaves no stone unturned. For those just starting out who don't want to get overwhelmed, start with one or the other, and for those that need that instant quick fix with rewind and review capabilities, get the video. I think both would be ideal for any learning institution and I look forward to the subsequent volumes to follow that will cover controlled drying of tile, loading kilns, bisque firing, glaze application, tool making and installation of tiles. I give this 4.5 cones out of 5. - K. Finnerty

HANDMADE TILES VOLUMES 1, 2, 3, and 4 available on VHS for $49.95/each or all four on one DVD for $64.95US in ceramics upply houses and catalogs, the Tile Heritage Foundation, P. O. Box 1850, Healdsburg, CA 95448, or from this site by contacting fgiorgini@mhcable.com Visa or Master Card can be charged by phone 518-634-2559.

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