Aluzejos de Portugal #2

The process of tile making

Traditionally tiles are 140x140mm in size and are either made from clay or ceramics. A base tile is either cut from a large sheet using a metal template plate or formed or cast using a mound. Then the base is primed and fired at 960-1100 degrees. When the base tile has been created, the tile is painted and finally finished by firing it a second time. This process seems all quite simple. It becomes more complicated when paints are area wide and need to be distinguished from one another. This is done using a separation paint or oils which evaporate when firing (this technique is called Cuerda-Seca). Alternatively grooves are already moulded into the base tile which separate the paints naturally. This process is called Arista or Relief. A mold can be seen on the bottom – a photo taken at a tile maker in Alfama.

To paint a tile, the motif needs to be transferred onto the tile before outlining and painting it. For this, a bag of black chalk is used to powder the outline on the white base tile. The motif is painted on a transparent sheet which has been pierced with holes through which the fine dust of chalk is creating a mark on the tile beneath. The photo below explains the process step by step and the same technique is still used today.


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