Name: Hour: Artists and craftsmen have created

Artists and craftsmen have created ceramic tiles for
over 4000 years! Ceramic tiles are both durable and
functional, making them an excellent choice for the
interior and exterior of buildings. Examples of ceramic
tile have been found in some of the oldest known
structures, including the pyramids, and the ruins of
ancient Greek cities! Decorative tile work probably
originated in the near east. The elaborate patterns help
make up for the lack of visual interest in the desert.
Islamic Art
Friday Mosque at
Herat in Afghanistan
Islam is the religion practiced by an ethnically diverse
group of Muslims all over the world. It is based on the
belief that Allah is the one, and only, Supreme Being.
For Muslims, Islam is more than just a religion; it is a way of life and a source of
political and cultural beliefs. Islam began with the prophet Muhammad around
622. Although unpopular at first, Muhammad eventually attracted many
followers. Today, one fifth of the world’s population believes in Islam!
Islamic art is highly detailed and elaborate. It is
characterized by intricate geometric patterns that
are frequently combined with ornate calligraphy. In
addition to being found in architectural decoration,
Islamic designs adorn furniture, tapestries,
rugs/carpets, ceramic containers, and more. The
Muslim belief that Allah is
unique and cannot be
represented with a man or
animal means that human
figures are absent from
Islamic artwork. Instead,
Muslim artists are expert
pattern makers!
Mihrab (prayer
niche) in Isfahan,
Iran, 1354-1355
Tile fragment from Central
Asia, 14th Century
Created by S. Wagner-Marx
Tile Design
1. The geometric patterns in Islamic
art are very complex. Shapes are
combined, interlaced, and duplicated
to create unified and ordered designs.
Your first task for this assignment is to
design a tile using geometric lines
and shapes. Have the following
guidelines in mind when planning out
your design.
What elements of your design
will be repeated?
How can you incorporate
symmetry into your design?
What geometric shapes will
you use?
Will you include a pattern?
Design Vocabulary
Form: 3-D object or artwork that can be
viewed from all angles
Symmetry: type of balance when two
halves of a design are identical
Repetition: design element that occurs
more than once, helps achieve unity
Pattern: regularly repeating decorative
Texture: surface treatment, or how an
object feels
Geometric Shape: shapes with regular
contours, and straight edges such as
squares, triangles, or circles
Unity: Organization of design so all parts
contribute to a coherent whole
Use the following boxes to plan 3 possible designs for your Islamic inspired tile:
2. Next, transfer and enlarge your best
design to a square piece of drawing paper
(this will be precut for you and will
become the template for the sides of your
3. Roll out a slab of clay. Use guide rails to
maintain uniform thickness. Carefully
trace your square piece of paper and cut
out your tile with a needle tool.
Mosaic Glazed Tile, late
15th century, Iran
4. Use clay tools to incise, or carve, your design from the surface of your
tile. How might you add texture to your tile?
Created by S. Wagner-Marx
Constructing the Box
The tile you designed and created
needs to dry and become
greenware so it can be bisque fired.
That tile will be used as a press
mold to make the sides of your box!
To build your box, follow the steps
listed here!
1. Roll out a slab of clay using
the same technique you used
when making your tile. Use
your square template to cut
out 5 squares. If you would
like to put a cover on your
box, cut out a 6th square. Use
your press mold to “stamp”
your design onto all but one of
your squares.
Ceramics Vocabulary
Clay: decomposed rock
Slab: rolling out a sheet of clay with even
Coil: using one’s hands to roll clay into a snakelike shape
Score & Slip: scratching into clay and applying
watered down clay like glue to attach two pieces
of clay
Wedging: kneading clay to release air bubbles
Appliqué: clay decoration that is added on
Press Mold: a form that clay can be pressed
into, or a form that can be pressed into clay
Greenware: clay that has dried completely and
is ready to be bisque fired (sometimes called
bone dry)
Leather hard: clay that is stiff, but can still be
worked with and carved into
Bisqueware: clay that has been fired once
Kiln: oven used to “fire” clay and make it
2. Carefully lay your slab pieces
onto a piece of plastic board
and cover loosely with a
plastic bag. Your clay needs
to become leather hard and will need to dry out a bit. When slabs
become leather hard they are stronger and much easier to assemble.
It is VERY important that you do not let your clay dry out completely
and become greenware! You will NOT be able to work with it and will
have to begin again.
Arabesque-style decoration
at the Great Mosque of
Arabesque is characterized
by stylized twisting plantlike designs.
Created by S. Wagner-Marx
3. To assemble your slab pieces, you will need to first score the edges that
you are going to join in a crosshatching pattern. Apply slip to the scored
marks and carefully join the two slabs. Use even pressure with your
fingers to create a nice seal. You want to avoid trapping air in the seam!
4. Roll a small coil with your fingers. Smooth the coil into the inside seam
you just created in step 3 to strengthen it. Check the outside corner. Will
you need to add a small coil to create a smooth edge?
5. Continue joining the slab pieces until the box is complete. If you would
like, add feet to the base of your box and an appliquéd handle to the lid.
Your artwork is now ready to become greenware and be bisque fired.
6. Your last step is to decorate your tile box. We will be using colored
underglazes and clear overglaze to create colorful accents on your tile
Created by S. Wagner-Marx