Limitless options with ceramic tiles as a medium

By Craven Dunnill Group

Over many centuries ceramics have been used for decoration in architecture around the world.  The earliest ceramic tiles of Persia, produced over 2000 years ago, used ceramics as a medium for creating decoration to walls, floors and ceilings of the grand palaces and places of worship.  Richly coloured mosaics, hand-crafted from ceramic tiles, were used extensively in religious buildings utilising bright cobalt blue and turquoise colours popular in the 10th and 11th century.

In Western and Northern Europe ceramics started to be used more widely from the 16th century onwards.  The trend started with the Moorish inspired Grand Palaces in Spain, with the best example being the stunning internal decoration to the Alhambra Palace.  The trend to use ceramics continued to expand throughout Europe with the next big acceleration in growth occurring during the Victorian Era and throughout the Arts and Craft Movement.  During this time the method of producing ceramic tiles was revolutionised which led to the construction of purpose built factories for the mass production of tiles.

Today, most tile factories have highly mechanised and sophisticated tile production machinery geared around producing mass produced ceramic wall and floor tiles.  In complete contrast Craven Dunnill Jackfield continue to utilise the skills of the past to create hand-made and hand-crafted specialist ceramics of unrivalled quality, design and style.

Founded in 1872 Craven Dunnill & Co Ltd. is renowned for its selection and production of specialist tiles.  Craven Dunnill Jackfield is the manufacturing Division of the Craven Dunnill Group, which is located near Ironbridge in Shropshire.  The Craven Dunnill Jackfield factory combines both modern and traditional production techniques in producing decorative and bespoke decorative ceramic art murals for public buildings, public art projects and private commissions.

Ceramics have been used for decorative murals for many centuries due to the inherent properties of the finished product.  Ceramics are moisture resistant, fade resistant and hard wearing, hence why murals and decorative tiles have been used for adding the finishing touches to buildings both internally and externally.

Technological advances in tile decorating and tile cutting have expanded the options available to the designer wanting to commission a ceramic mural.  Craven Dunnill is expert in understanding what is achievable and applying the companies skills and processes to realise the aspirations of a client to any given brief.  Using a variety of processes: hand painting, water jet cutting, screen printing and digital transfer decoration.

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Hand-painted Murals
The original and most traditional of creating bespoke artisan decoration is by hand painting.  Highly skilled and specialised the technique relies on the well-practiced skills of the tile decorating artisan. Designs are created on paper either by hand or by computer and transferred onto tile through the artistic application by the tile decorator.  Using a variety of brush techniques, sometimes in conjunction with tube lining, the glazes are applied which when fired create stunning individual pieces of ceramic art with tremendous depth of colour and character.

Water Jet Cut Murals
Murals made up of shaped pieces, rather than regular square or rectangular tiles, are generally cut using water jet cutting technology.  Water jet cutting uses a computer-controlled machine capable of cutting all ceramic tiles.  The abrasive water jet cutting process uses an exceptionally high, 87,000 psi, jet of water which is mixed with garnet as an abrasive to form a fluid cutting tool.

The resultant stream of abrasive fluid is fired through a computer controlled head which then cuts intricate shapes effortlessly.  The process is perfectly suited to simplistic designs where different colours can be combined to generate stunning large scale murals.  The type of ceramic tile is selected to suit the technical performance required of the finished mural installation.

The water jet cut ceramic tiles can then we assembled on site to create complex murals without the need for hand cutting or shaping.  Craven Dunnill’s CAD designers are experienced in producing large scale and complex water jet cut murals for floors, walls and underpasses.

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Digital Transfer Decorated Murals
The advancement in digital technology and ceramic inks has led to the development of digital production of decoration for ceramic tiles and bespoke murals.  The process uses inorganic ceramic inks which are output from a digital transfer machine which when applied and fired to the tile yields a scratch and fade resistant decoration to the glazed tile surface.  The digital decoration process allows extremely complex designs to be created yielding a photo realistic effect.  Digital images can be manipulated and processed to enable large scale murals to be produced for both internal and external projects.  The digital transfer decoration technique can be applied to glazed porcelain body tiles for external murals and non-vitreous body tiles for internal murals to suit the performance qualities required of the finished scheme.  From individual tiles through to several hundred metre projects, the process can be tailored to suit the specific needs of the individual project.

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Craven Dunnill Jackfield was responsible for creating the tiles a major public art ceramic mural involving over 30,000 different tile pieces at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford.

British artist Clare Woods spent two years creating this mural design artwork comprising of two separate commissions: Brick Fields and Carpenters Curve.  The scale and complexity of the original artwork led to the realisation by the artist that the mural needed to be manufactured combining several techniques.  Working closely with Craven Dunnill Jackfield, the artist realised at an early stage that the only way to produce the mural was to combine several processes in a way never previously thought possible.  Over 750 square metres of mural were produced which took over six months to manufacture and involved 4.5kms of intricate water jet cutting.

The mural were created using four ceramic tile decorating processes involving digital printing, screen printing Pantone colours and water jet cutting.  Over 1,200 sq. metres of tiles were processed and combined to create a huge jigsaw which pieced together in sections prior to supplying to site with key plan drawings.  The tiles supplied were all processed from a low water absorption frost resistant ceramic tile with UV and fade resistant properties.

The team responsible for creating the two tile murals in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park later received a top honour for its outstanding achievement.  The Worshipful Company of Tylers and Bricklayers, presented its Triennial Award for Wall and Floor Tiling to the project in 2014.  On receiving the award Adrian Blundell, Manufacturing Director of Craven Dunnill Jackfield, commented:  “This was a high profile project , a golden opportunity to demonstrate Jackfield’s unique mural expertise on a world stage and we succeeded, created stunning works of art which are now part of the Olympic legacy.”

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Craven Dunnill worked with Clare Woods on two other tiled murals. Hereford Cathedral Junior School and the Much Wenlock Public Art Trail at the William Brookes School both feature extracts from original artwork produced for the Olympic Mural.  At Hereford Cathedral Junior School 300 paintings by children and staff were merged with a section of the original artwork.  The schools artwork celebrated and illustrated three main themes; the Diamond Jubilee, the 2012 London Olympics and the Hereford School and surrounding county.

The Much Wenlock Public Art Trail was commissioned by the William Penny Brookes Foundation for the people of Much Wenlock, to celebrate the town’s heritage and its role in the birth of the modern Olympic Games.  The 7 metre by 2 metre double-sided mural wall features a section of the Brick Field Olympic Park mural.  The TTA honoured the project by awarding the Best Use of Tile in a Commercial Contract in 2013.

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Craven Dunnill has been named best in class by the TTA for an exclusive tiled panel it designed and manufactured, using the latest digital technology.  The Tile Association awarded Craven Dunnill top prize in the Best Use of Tile in a Domestic Environment category for its exclusive kitchen splashback.

Claverley Wedding Mural. Craven Dunnill designed, manufactured and arranged the installation of the 1650mm by 900mm ceramic glazed digital panel.  The clients wanted to capture the romance of their wedding day and the kitchen mural depicts them riding to their wedding reception, across the local countryside.

Craven Dunnill offers a comprehensive mural design service, from conception to installation.  It produces bespoke murals for a wide variety of internal and external applications, from small domestic splashbacks to large, public art works.

For mural enquiries contact
Craven Dunnill & Co Ltd  –
dtalbot@cravendunnill.co.uk
or Craven Dunnill Jackfield Ltd
sales@cravendunnill-jackfield.co.uk