Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hot Pepper Tile Table

Several years ago, I took a tile table class at Pewabic Pottery during one of their promotional events. The class included a pre-fabricated, pre-prepared table base; the registrants purchased their own tiles (thankfully, we could use seconds, which kept the additional price down) and then assembled the table with the instructors assistance. I really enjoyed the class and thought it might be cool to do more projects like it on my own but didn't know where I could get more table bases made.

Some time later, I met and worked on a number of projects with a welder. Although the relationship later soured, he did fabricate a table base for me for a project involving embossed leaf tiles which I never really completed (but may return to some day), partly because the table base was a bit too... formal for the design I had in mind. The table base languished in my garage for some time until this year, after I designed and brought my Hot Pepper Tiles into production. Running across the table base again in the attic of the garage, it occurred to me to make a table featuring a selection of those tiles.

It had been a few years since I worked with tiles in this context so I met with my handyman Keith, bringing over the table base and a selection of tiles. After a beer for each of us and some wrangling discussion, we concluded that I really needed to make some "half" and "quarter" tiles in order for the design to work with the three-inch pepper tiles and field tiles I had on hand. So, it was initially back to mold-making for me, although Keith did set me up with a piece of cement board to set into the table's reservoir to which to affix the tiles when I did proceed, as well as some mortar to attach them when the time came. My friend Catherine had given me a bag of grout left over from her kitchen redesign, so all the other pieces were in place.

I had decided to just use the four Habanero tiles and use mostly field tiles with the same glaze as the background of the pepper tiles, with the exception of four field tiles with the four colors of the peppers, arranged opposite one another to hold the design together; the field tiles would be the same background color.

Having made molds for half and quarter tiles and then fabricated, glazed and fired a sufficient number, I was up against a date for an event for which I really wanted to have the table. I found myself at 11:00pm on a Saturday night, buttering the backs of tiles with mortar and sticking them on the table top. After an hour, they were set and it was time to grout them in. So far, memory and Keith's instructions had served well but grouting was a nightmare, as I used an old rag (rinsed innumerable times) to clear the grout off the tiles. But I finally got it done, and in time for the event.

In further discussions with Keith, we have agreed that the table's feet should, if anything curve into the table base's design in order to minimize the trip hazard. Also, the three slats across the bottom should either be spaced out to fill the area or joined by additional slats, making that surface more functional. Plus, the two chevrons on opposite sides minimized access to the bottom shelf without adding any structural value - so those would go, too. Keith has said he could make table bases for me according to these specifications.

The Habanero Pepper Tile Table debuted at the Black Cat Pottery retail event at the end of September this year and then appeared at Black Cat Pottery trunk shows at Circare in St. Clair Shores and Firebrick Gallery and Pottery Studio in Rochester, eventually selling at the 3rd Annual Black Cat Pottery Holiday Open House two weeks ago. But don't worry - we'll be making more tile tables!

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