Cornwall LivingIssue #74
The art is in the technique
We take a look at the work of fantastic local artist Mel Chambers and discover the incredible art of inlay tiles.
Cornwall is well known to be an artists’ haven thanks to its incredible natural light and breathtaking landscapes. Indeed, our regular gallery pages demonstrate the amazing and varied art available across our fantastic county. It was in this section that a local artist caught our eye; amidst painters and sculptors to come across someone specialising in a lost art was intriguing.
“The whole process for each tile takes a minimum of two weeks, which is an amazing dedication to the process!”
Mel Chambers is a self-taught artist who uses the ancient 13th-century technique of inlay tiles to create amazing and inspirational tiles. She blends beautiful images, inspiring quotes and poetry to create completely unique and bespoke pieces that are impossible to replicate.
Inlay tiles are technically known as encaustic tiles, which means ‘to burn in’ as the colour is fired clay and embedded into the tile. In fact, due to the hard wearing and everlasting way the tiles are made, no self-respecting monastery would have been seen without an inlay tile floor, as no matter how many pilgrims walked over them they would never fade away. Indeed, ancient tiles are still being discovered today, fully intact and just as beautiful as the day they were made.
The art of Alchemy Tiles is that each tile is individually hand carved into wet clay. Coloured slip (runny clay with oxides and stains added to it) is then inlaid on the top to sink into the carved areas. Once the slip dries, the tile is scraped back to reveal the image and script underneath. The tile is left to dry and then glazed and fired raw, only once and very slowly over three days. Once the tile is removed from the kiln a stain is wiped over to highlight the crazing within the crackle glaze. The whole process for each tile takes a minimum of two weeks, which is an amazing dedication to the process!
These beautiful tiles can be used and enjoyed anywhere as they can be made specifically for any space and with almost any design. So, whether it’s a kitchen back splash, bathroom, fireplace or an individual tile for a loved one, they can be made bespoke to you, with your own meaningful message. A message that will be held eternally in earth and time.
"The whole process for each tile takes a minimum of two weeks, which is an amazing dedication to the process!"