I have been active in clay for more than 15 years. I stayed away from making tiles, since I also paint. This book with its gallery of color photos, its clear advice, sound directions was inspiring.
At the end of the book Frank takes the reader through his journey of producing a large order of tile. It was most enlightening to see how he set up, how he refined producing tiles in mass quantities. He even included the final timeline for each step. Which side of the clay should you have it on to get it quickly to this step, etc. Extremely helpful.
As most beginning clay people know, getting tiles and slabs to dry slowly and flat and not buckle in firing is difficult. I found Frank's tip on using wallboard to carve the tiles on etc, most helpful, he stated that the plaster in the wallboard helps to suck out the water from behind the tile so that the tile dries in a more even manner.
When I first started drying tiles, I was using the plastic baffles, even though this allows for greater air circulation, I think using the wallboard idea, and then evenutally switching over to the plastic baffles would help. I have dried tiles completely on the wallboard as he suggested and it has worked fine. I also liked that he suggested you can stack them up to four high, wallboard-tile, wallboard-tile etc. and not to go above that.
He includes instructions on how to create a tile press, which he has used at the Parson's School of Design for many years now, trouble free! The instructions were clear, step by step, and believeable. I plan to give this to my brother-in-law and see if he can produce one of these for me. The materials are readily available too.
Overall, in slowly and carefully building my ceramics library, I began with purchasing only three books at first. (I have access to the public library and belong to a clay cooperative and study at a guild, all of which have tons of books on clay). If you are interested in tile making, this is the first book I purchased. It was highly recommended to me by other artists, and in looking it over at the Guild, I found it to be the most precise, detailed and gives a nice overview about the intricacies of tile making. His photos of other tiles were from a broad variety of artists and time periods. There is always more to learn, however, this is a must have reference book for anyone seriously considering making decent tiles, without having to start off with messing up on all your first efforts. For those who have been making tiles for sometime, the more advanced tips were helpful and thorough, if you know your stuff, you may want to check it out of the library first and then see whether you need a reference book. I also found Frank's own work to be exactly like his book. Carefully rendered, controlled, easily accessible, interesting to look at, nicely and fairly balanced designs, with an emphasize on realism. Good book,... for me a Reference book I know I had to have.
The chapters go as follows:
1. the handcrafted tradition - its a brief overview about the popularity and history of tile making - not for the art historian but good enough for beginning tile makers.
2. Getting started - basics, what you need, how to prepare etc.
3. Making a flat tile - even if you are advanced this can help.
4. Making Tile Models for Open-Face Press Molds - Really step by step, with all the details that others might dilute or skip, or leave out. Intermixed with step by step close up photos, and pictures of actual tiles from other artists.
5. Making and Using Open-Face Press Molds. Very helpful, good clear step by steps.
6. Carved Plaster Blocks, Tile Presses, and Extruders - Couple this chapter with Chapter 14 - and you are in business!
7. Surface Decoration on Unfired Tiles - good sound ideas. There are books just dedicated to this subject, but, a good overall reference of terms, and examples. This book has tons of great color photos! so it's an inspiration just for that too.
8. Firing to Hardness - He is clear.
9. Surface Decoration on Bisqued Tiles - once again a good step by step reference.
10. Glaze Firing, Overglazes, and Decals - brought out some decent techniques, many books just on this, once again, good for the beginner and for more advanced in reminding you what you can do and what's out there.
11. Mosaics - he breaks it down so it doesn't seem so daunting.
12. Tile Design - He is a great designer himself, so reading his book helps break down design concepts.
13. Installation - wish there had been even more on this, but a good beginning.
14. Making Your Own Tools and Equipment - I thought his directions were believable, haven't made the tile press yet, but, will try! I liked how he went over different designs, he seemed evenhanded and fair in his discussions. I was impressed with how careful and thorough this all seemed to be.
15. The Day of One Hundred Tiles - I really have read and re-read this chapter, makes for extremly good reading. For an advanced ceramicsts with a sense of humor you may find yourself chuckling with glee over this one. He didn't try to be funny, but, I loved his honest and humble approach. I especially appreciated how he kept refining his methods and how each time it worked better. I probably learned more from this chapter than from other authors because he was so humble and honest! I am glad he explained exactly what he first did and how he thought about the problem and then tackled each issue. His step by step, no panic approach, is really brilliant. He must be an incredible teacher at Parson's, no wonder they have such an incredible reputation, with teacher's like him....
16. health and safety - lots of ceramics books don't emphasize this enough....it's nice he puts this in.
then there are charts and indexes and lists of artists and tiles and metric conversion charts and all that.
For the price, a great investment.