tiles, images

mass tile thing.jpg

this is a large matrix of tile images I am currently working on to demonstrate successful use of the tile as a medium for narrative and/or illustration.


Theo Humphries: Ethos

What’s the substance of your work?

My work is about a surface: the decorative ways in which we communicate meaning to both ourselves and to others though ceramics. I want to create a sense of narrative in the interpretation of my work: the audience is invited to engage with it through both tactile and visual mean by touching the relief surface and seeing the illustrations on them: this is why I’m currently working on tiles – they afford both of these interactions.

Day …6?!

A lot of good things happened today! We went around the class, gathering group feedback on everyone’s personal highlight of the week and what each student felt could be improved upon, as well as what they felt had been most successful.

Day 6!?

“My highlight was the pot I centred myself. I liked having a quiet classroom best, when there was chatting I felt it disrupted the workflow.”

Day 6!?

“I thought there was going to be A Project. I really enjoyed decorating, and the personal freedom. A week felt like it was kind of long for one thing; I would have liked more guidance.”

Day 6!?

“I feel learned tips and little things to help me improve along my way; for me this week was a chance to keep working and improving. I hadn’t made sculptures before so that was a chance to challenge myself.”

Day 6!?

“I liked it; I’m happy with the things I made. It was hard to focus on one thing for so long – like, a week! of pottery! Making [the star globe for the tea light] was the highlight of my week.”

Day 6!?

Day 6!?

(translated from German) “A week didn’t feel like it was long enough. I’m really happy with this mug I made. I especially loved the apple cupcakes you brought in (haha)”

Day 6!?

“I really liked this week. I worked so hard at the wheel, and came out with one thing… it looks special, I guess? I’d never really sculpted before, and that was really, fun? When I was working on the wheel it was really nice that you helped me a lot, but sometimes I wanted to do those mistakes, and learn from my own mistakes”

Day 6!?

“It was nice to be able to come back to something that I know I like doing and be able to have the freedom to make whatever I wanted.

As the week progressed, you were really helpful in giving positive critiques and building people’s self-esteem. In the beginning I felt like you didn’t have faith that I could center… so [I’d emphasise] listening to what students can do and helping them reach those goals.”

Day 6!?

“I’m very proud of everyone. I really enjoyed your enthusiasm. Often it would be quiet, and you would be dealing with one person, and the way that you were encouraging it really felt like you weren’t saying “oh, just [flaps hand] do it,” your passion really came through.” Jonathan: “I second that!”

Great news: I was invited back for next year’s Intensivwoche due to Maria and the staff’s sense of how well the week went!

Day 6!?

Stephan, the new headmaster, came to thank me, and said he’d heard good things about how the week in the pottery had gone. Maria told me she felt like she’d been on a teaching improvement week (I was tremendously flattered) and that she was gushing to the other staff members about how much she had learned and what a good job I was doing (wow!?). Maria and the class gave me a pair of really sweet cards (pictured, guess which is which eh) and I received some yummy promotional goods to bring home too, haha 🙂

Day 6!?

Teaching day 5

This morning, when Lola asked me how she might go about putting a handle onto her recently-thrown mug, I suggested that she ask Luci for direction with it, as I had previously taught her how to do so. Maria was very pleased that I was encouraging the students to learn from each other as well as teaching them directly myself.

Below: the main table around which everyone worked!

Day 5

In the morning, Clarissa asked me for some advice on how to centre her clay at the wheel; Rahel wanted to get to work turning a vessel she had thrown previously; I also helped Lola with her turning on the mug she had made at the wheel, while Christian made a pencil box with the slab-building technique and Jonathan sculpted a Bison.

Later, I turned the bowl I had thrown the previous evening!

Day 5

As a final little bonus, I sorted some lavender seeds from out of their dried blossoms, and put them into little packets for the students, so that they could use the pots they had made for growing plants if they wished.

Lavender seed-sorting

Teaching day 4

I began today by kneading up the recycled clay off the plaster bat. Sadly, even after kneading it was still too wet, and yet it was not plastic enough for use on the wheel; there were too many air bubbles in it, even after a thorough kneading, so I suggested to Maria that we break it up and leave it to soak in a bucket, so that the air left inside would have a chance to bubble up and out of the clay when it had reached a loamier consistency.

Christian wanted to make a jug to accompany his mug (for which we made a handle), so I suggested that he could slab build it this time rather than coil building it. Lisa put engobe on her new mug, while Lola kept working on her new sculpture.

For today’s tile decoration demonstration, I pressed some leaves and some lavender into two tiles I had pressed from the batch-recycled clay (better suited for coil building and slab building, I noted).



I threw a large bowl on the wheel in the evening, to leave behind for the students and teachers to use in the future.

Lola threw a particularly successful mug on the wheel – she designed it, asked for help when she needed it, followed my instructions, and was satisfied with the result.

Teaching Day 3

This morning, Maria and I flipped the large clay mass on the bat. The top was still practically slip, but the bottom half had begun to feel workable.

Below: some of yesterday’s work sitting on the shelves, drying


I did a demonstration on how sgraffito could be used for decorative and illustrative purposes, with a pair of (somewhat crude) pictures I made on tiles. I used the tile press from yesterday, and it worked a dream. Very happy with that!


I suggested to Maria that should the students ever want to make their own tools, cross-disciplinarity into metalwork or woodwork would allow them to do so. She seemed very excited by this idea. Maria also expressed an interest in running a raku course next year, with the act of building a kiln as an integral part of it.

I helped Luci at the wheel again, and also Clarissa and Jonathan. The latter made a sculpture of a sleeping cat later in the afternoon.

Christian slab-built a mug, as did Rahel, who wanted some more guidance on how to get the handle right. Lola began work on a new figure sculpture. I helped her to find some books in the pottery which might aid her in constructing whatever shape she was seeking.

In the evening, Maria wanted to work more at the wheel, since the class were happy to keep on persevering with their separate projects. I had wedged up a medium-size batch of the throwing clay just a few hours earlier, so I was very glad I had done that sooner rather than later.

Below: spiral wedging!


Lola asked for help at the wheel, and I spent the rest of that time period helping her to center and then to use the right tools to make the bowl shape she wanted. I felt very satisfied with how the day went because I was able to help everyone when they asked for assistance, and managed to also offer a more “hands-off” kind of guidance. It was a truly pleasant atmosphere, to know that all of the students felt they knew what they wanted to do, and that they felt capable of doing it!!

Teaching day 2

This morning I did a turning demonstration on the mug I had made the previous day, as Lisa, Jonathan, and Maria had expressed interest in finishing their work from before.

In the morning, I showed Maria how to get the best use out of a large plaster bat for recycling purposes, as she had asked me what she could do about the large bin of dry clay the previous evening. Having left the clay to soak overnight, we put it on the bat to become a more uniform mass.

Below, the bat put to use:


Later, I taught several students on the wheel in turns, as there are only two wheels in the department which go anti-clockwise. The third only turns clockwise, so it is used for turning.

Before lunch, I headed to the woodworking department with Maria, to ask the teacher there if they could help us construct a small wooden frame with which one could press out a tile: even better than simply pointing us to the resources, they made one (thank you so much, Micha :0)!!

I recycled much of the throwing clay continuously throughout the day! Luci asked me to teach her how to center her clay at the start of the throwing, as I had been centering everyone’s clay on the wheelheads for them; she was very thorough and had already much improved by the end of the day!

Below: the kids painted the bowls and cups that they had made the previous day



In the evening, Christian and Lola began working on tiles. Rahel made a small sculpture of a lion and painted it with the engobes.

As per my explanation of what Silicosis can do to a person earlier on, everyone cleaned up their workspaces properly at the end of the day…

Below: the area outside of the Woodworking department


Finally, here is a picture of a cow.