Wednesday, February 2, 2011

So Far To Go

How Many Tiles?
It was just one year ago that I first came upon the "Medieval Tudor Castle Dollhouse" Blog and saw the beautiful Encaustic Tile floor Nina had made for her Guard Room of her Castle. It was LOVE at first sight! And Desire, followed quickly thereafter by Inspiration, impelled me to begin my OWN Medieval Castle Dollhouse! I quickly drew the plans, bought the plywood, and began construction. Regular readers will know that I have blogged about the Castle often this past year, and even though it is FAR from finished, it has been the feature location of more than one Party for the dolls who have found their way into this Miniature World of mine. So, as I look back on this past year since I started the Castle, I have to confess that I'm just a tiny bit disappointed that I haven't accomplished more! Could it REALLY already be a whole YEAR? In my optimism I felt SURE I would have completed more of the rooms by now! In fact, I don't think I have COMPLETED ANY of them! In my favor I will argue that I have some excuse for not getting more done. There are the OTHER dollhouses which absorb my attention too, and there have been a whole series of Parties and Holidays creating a whole lot of DISTRACTION from building! Nevertheless, I now feel as though I had better knuckle down and get busy BUILDING again! And so at last, I have come to constructing the Great Hall floor. From the first, THIS was where I wanted to use the Encaustic Tiles that Nina had made for her Castle Guard Room. Here I MUST add a HUGE thanks to Nina for her sharing of her methods and sources! I have shamelessly copied her method and would never even have THOUGHT of using these tiles but for her beautiful post about her Castle floor! Thank You Nina!
But before I go further, I MUST show you a couple of the Illuminated Manuscript paintings that I found which show tiled floors. Apparently it was a commonly used material for the grander sort of buildings shown in Manuscript illuminations. The simplest form was a checkerboard pattern of two colors of tiles. Here below is an example from my favorite Boccaccio's "Decameron" showing a meal being served in a Great Hall with a tiled floor.
But the tile artists of the Middle Ages also created more elaborate patterns with their tiles as we can see in this illumination, again from Boccaccio, showing a King receiving a petitioner, where the tiles are triangular and combine to create a circular design.
And an even more elaborate design is shown in this illumination which shows a woman instructing some men. This is from another work by Boccaccio, le "Livre des Femmes Noble et Renommees."
Another example showing a very intricate floor tile pattern is from the "Hours of Catherine of Cleves". This one shows Saint Nicholas standing on a floor with an elaborate checkerboard pattern.
And an even MORE elaborate pattern on the floor below Saint Dorothy, again from the "Hours of Catherine of Cleves."
And yet Another fancy floor tile pattern, this one below Saint Thomas Aquinas' feet in the "Hours of Catherine of Cleves." This book of Hours includes an amazing section with Illuminations of the Saints, all done as portraits against tapestry cloth backgrounds and standing on tiled floors, every one with a different design!
But the type of tiles Nina was using for her Castle, encaustic tiles, is a particular type of tile where the design is created by using a separate color of clay to create the design on the tile, which was then fired, making the pattern more durable than a painted glaze would. The designs on these tiles were often very elaborate, and sometimes were even used to illustrate a story. Below is an example from a fourteenth century church in Hertfordshire, England.
And another series of tiles with stories from The Tristan Romance made for Chertsey Abbey in the thirteenth century.
And below is an example of the floor from a chapel built for Henry III at Clarendon Palace.
So, why am I showing you ALL these examples of Medieval Tiles? Well, clearly the Medieval world LOVED pattern! But all these examples show a Consistent Pattern throughout the floor! While the example Nina used, and I have chosen to copy, was an apparently random assortment of designs all combined together! I believe her source was an ancient floor in part of Westminster Abbey. Because it was that random chaos of pattern that so appealed to me in the first place, I am going to duplicate it in my OWN Castle Great Hall floor!
I started to make the tiles WAAAAY last spring. I got one whole batch cut and painted and glazed with an ocher wash. I drew every pattern I could identify from Nina's picture on her blog post! (Thank you, Nina!) And then the weather got HOT! Can you REMEMBER? Week after Week in the nineties with NO let-up! There was NO WAY I was using the oven to cook sculpey tiles in that heat! So they got put aside and other projects took over my attention. But now it is COLD outside, the PERFECT time to run the oven hour after hour for baking tiles for the Castle floor....... How many tiles did you say? Well, I lined up the first batch in front of the hearth... about ninety tiles in that batch. Hmmmm.... doesn't cover much floor does it!
So then I ran a single line of tiles all the way across the floor to count how many tile rows I would need (my tiles are a little irregular.... more like 7 or 8 inches mini size rather than the 6 inch size Nina was using.) I came up with 29 rows deep by 45 rows wide. That's more than 1300 tiles I need to make!
So I knuckled down and got started! For now I'm using two different colors of sculpey, Terra Cotta and Chocolate, but I am going to add a couple more varying colors too. Probably another brown and a burgundy color. Maybe even the navy blue Nina was using for her contrast color. I've got a lot of tile decorating ahead of me! Here you can see a couple of the designs I started with.
And here is a lovely design that makes beautiful patterns when done in careful repeats...... but I am probably just going to use it in random mixture..... because I really like that chaotic medley !
Here you can see the first batch of tiles in front of the hearth and with the fire lit it starts to feel like the floor I am hoping for!
And closer in, you can see the variety of designs...... I think I counted thirteen different designs!

But so many tiles cover so little floor! And I think I am going to have to use grout of some kind..... does any one out there know anything about mini grout for mini tiles....?
So, as you can see, I have SO far to go!


  1. WOW! So many tiles and so many hand painted patterns! WOW! I admired Nina's floor and now I admire yours and the patience you must have to paint and glue them down and your talent to paint so little beautiful patterns! Great!! Can't wait to see more of this floor! Good luck!:D

  2. I think your floor is going to look mavellous and I applaud your patience - all those tiles to make! It'll be well worth it in the end.

    Re grout - I've used this product in the past and it's very effective. Once you're happy with your floor, brush on a mix of pva/water. Leave to dry then apply the grout as per instructions and wipe off immediately.

  3. I haven't seen Nina's yet but yours is fantastic! So much detail in such tiny tiles - absolutely wonderful.

  4. Beautiful tiles, I also like the ones that make a circular pattern! love your blog posts with all the history and pictures and your fantasy!

  5. OMG, Betsy, did you just read my reply to your comment on my blog about a rug pattern based on tiles in a Medieval church !

    Yours are absolutely gorgeous!

    By the way, you have done much in this one year. I also see that your work has grown in many significant way. Your castle is going to be wonderful.

  6. I have just finished scrolling through your blog (having only recently discovered it!) and I am simply in awe. I love that you give your research for what you do and the results are brilliant. The castle rooms you have shown so far are just perfect...and all those tiles! Such wonderful attention to detail.

    You commented in a few posts back that you would have liked your candles/torches to flicker but didn't want to use a separate battery pack to do so. I built a Great Hall room box and used a "flicker unit" with the regular wiring so that only the fireplace and the torches flicker. The other lights do not. The little device handles multiple lights and is very easy to set up, going between the lights you want ot flicker and the main transformer. The other lights bypass the unit.

    Please e-mail me (you can contact me via my blog) and I will get into more detail. Larry Bolduc from Unicorn Studios in Florida taught the class I took and provided the students with the unit which he had made. He sells them on his website.

  7. The tiles are so amazing and will be worth the effort! The floor will be stunning!! I think you should make sure that you seal the tiles at least with two coats before grouting them!! Thanks for sharing all of the other tile pictures. They are fascinating!

  8. Your tiles are beautiful!! Wow, so many still to make ;-)It will be a marvellous floor when it is done!!

  9. Thanks, Ewa! I am enjoying the slow tiny painting! I am just nutty enough to LOVE that sort of thing! I am just a Little impatient to see how it will all look when done!

  10. Thanks for the grout info, Irene! I haven't had a chance to look it up yet, but I will give it a try as soon as I get all those bitty tiles made! I really appreciate your suggestion!

  11. Thanks, Christine! I am enjoying making the floor tiles. Do go and look up Nina's..... it really inspired me to make my whole Castle!

  12. Thank you Margot! I have always loved history, and the Middle Ages in particular... so it is just FUN to include all my favorite illuminations!

  13. Hi Sans! I only saw your reply to my comment AFTER you mentioned it here! You must have heard me thinking about all those Medieval Tile floors! I am thinking that my floor is going to resemble a patchwork quilt more than a carpet.... but I have seen where people make tiles look like carpets.... so it would make sense that some make carpets that look like tiles! :)
    I am glad you like my tiles... I AM having fun!

  14. Hi Tabitha! Welcome to my blog! Thank you for your kind comments and your helpful suggestions! I have been so busy since my last post .... with NON mini stuff (the big world intrudes!) so I haven't had a chance to look you up or e-mail you yet! But I WILL do so soon! I really like your idea for the flicker unit and appreciate your helpful comments! Thank you!

  15. Hi Patty! Thank you for the reminder to seal them more than once! I am probably going to end up sealing them a bunch of times..... first before adding the ocher glaze and then the two coats you suggest before grouting them. I will probably do a test group on a small sample before doing the whole floor..... it would be a shame to make a mess after making all these tiles!

  16. Thanks, Margriet! I am slowly getting them made! I have already painted about four hundred tiles! I am looking forward to seeing it when it is done!

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