Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Up Against The Wall: Part One


Last century, I glazed a bunch of tiles for a backsplash in our new kitchen. My friend Katie set me up with all the proper glazes and instructions. All I needed to do was draw out the design, fill in the glazes as though coloring in a coloring book, and then put two more coats of all the colors on. Then anyone with a kiln could fire them for me.

There are easier ways of going about this. Most of the time, when you see a scene depicted in tile, the artist has painted the scene--once--and then put a clear glaze over the top. It will look like a watercolor. But I wanted the thick, jewelly, luscious version. The deep, yummy, stained-glass version. And that takes three coats. Katie strongly recommended I make test tiles of all the colors so that I would really know what they looked like. So I took the time to paint each glaze--three times--onto test tiles and label them.

Already, this is way out of character for me. I was always full of ideas but had no interest in spending any more time on them than I had to. I used to sew clothes without pinning or ironing anything. They ended up with accidental ruching and off-set, asymmetrical seams that you might now see from a Project Runway contestant, although not from a winning one.

The tile project proved to be a complete pain in the ass. It's one thing to draw in a design and fill it in with a coat of glaze. The precision required to repeat that design exactly with the second and third coats could fry your eyeballs. Glaze is not paint-like. I used a tiny brush. It was like pushing mud around with a bunch of eyelashes.

Also, my design was not that great. I started with Mt. St. Helens erupting on the left, because that's what Mt. St. Helens was busy doing at the time, but I had seven linear feet to fill. That covers a lot of ground, especially when you're using a bunch of eyelashes. So I punted. People like it well enough, but I always see this large, lumpen green hill sprawled across the middle, a hill that represents--well, if there was an artist's statement associated with it, it would be "In this work I hope to demonstrate my sincere desire to get this piece of shit project over with."

The original idea was to continue the backsplash all the way around the kitchen. The trim for the window was installed with small nails that never got hammered in all the way, because tiles were going to be slid under them. I could have soldiered on with the rest of it, but as I recall I had a lot of drinking to accomplish at the time. The nails are still sticking out. Sometimes I hang baggies on them to dry. The wallboard behind the sink is degraded from moisture. I'm used to it; it barely registers.

Then a couple years ago Dave came up to me, and in a mild voice with all the wheedle removed, he said: Now that you've been retired for--gosh!--five years, and we're coming up on the--gosh!--thirtieth anniversary of the original backsplash, do you think you could maybe have a go at finishing that tile work?

He was so nice about it. He's been waiting a long time. I said I would.

Although I really don't like to reward a nag.

29 comments:

  1. I have a friend in spokane who does custom tile work. It won't make for as funny a story, though. Tiles by Mimi dot com, I believe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I have to make a project out of everything!

      Delete
    2. Yeah and it's working out well, huh? Actually, I'm sure it'll be great. Looking forward to part deux.

      Delete
  2. Five years is almost enough time to contemplate doing something, but I wouldn't rush into it. Tiling is precision work and quality can't be rushed, so take the time necessary to really think this through.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the way you think. Also, there's the expense of getting a baggie drier to think of.

      Delete
    2. hook on/in the window frame

      Delete
  3. Mentioned it maybe twice in thirty years? Nag, nag, nag.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Good lord, Dave, couldn't you have put a tiny little wheedle in your request? Have you no sense of propriety?? Now Murr has reason to delay another five years. And rightfully so.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You might as well do it, otherwise he will only bring it up again and again every five years or so.

    ReplyDelete
  6. If only he hadn't used "gosh" so many times. Those really do make a wheedle out of an otherwise innocent observation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are no innocent observations in a marriage.

      Delete
  7. I suspect my answer would have been along the lines of 'gosh. Maybe. Which anniversary do you think we need it for?'

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd say #35 is the Ceramic Anniversary, but I've been saying all of them are Diamond Anniversaries so far. Which is why Dave takes me to a baseball game every year.

      Delete
  8. If you're fed up with this lingering project why not turf it out and start something ne....

    ReplyDelete
  9. Pay someone as I find it is easier! I would not do the scene as it goes out of style quickly.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I pay for beer. Everything else is in-house. And I USED to make my own beer...

      Delete
  10. Seven feet!! I probably wouldn't finish even one tile.
    I think it looks wonderful and have to say if I was having glazed tiles like that I'd prefer the deeper jewelled look over a watercolour effect too. And probably something geometric instead of a scene.
    I'll be looking forward to seeing pictures of the new splashback when you get it done. I hope you are able to match the colours after all this time.
    I'm actually surprised to see you have wallboard behind the sink. Here in Australia all sinks have tiled splashbacks right from the beginning when the house is built.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, you're supposed to. And if it were not clear: we were supposed to. We put in the kitchen, Dave and his buddies, and we put up wallboard with every intention of tiling it soon, and somehow...it wasn't soon.

      Delete
  11. I did our kitchen tile backsplash in the early 90's, but it's just cherboard tiles in the colors of the 90's. It's awful! I chose beautiful, expensive kitchen cabinets and my kitchen is a model of last century style. EVerything now horribly outdated. Who knew that golden oak wouldn't be in style forever, We're redoing it on the cheap. I'll embrace the cabinets because they're still sturdy, but the tile and countertop is going. Do you know how hard it is to remove that tile?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Would napalm work? It slows down the cockroaches too. Our kitchen cabinets are oak with mahogany trim. Even though the kitchen is over 30 years old, it still works for me. They can bomb it when I'm dead.

      Delete
  12. A few year ago when I was refreshing my kitchen I decided to change tile there. Well it was a little disaster and I had to ask for a help my team from www.paperwriting.xyz . But at the end it turned out to be a great thing. I cut a square wholes in the center of tiles and putted there some little rocks and then covered with a glass. It still looks super cool.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Goldfish would have been a nice touch, too.

      Delete
  13. I'm going with a second comment (sober second thought and all that) because I was realizing - even thirty years ago you were a birder ... Your backsplash is quite extraordinary and I look forward to the second part about it.

    ReplyDelete