An Unusual Tile Installation

Last month I had the pleasure of being a part of something really interesting and unusual.  My wife, Olga Slutkovskaya is a tile artist and owner of Pacific Tile Wave.  She was commissioned to create a very large tile mural for a newly constructed Jewish synagog here in Tacoma.  Of course the responsibility of installing the mural fell on me, and while I’ve installed a lot of my wife’s tiles over the years, this was quite different and challenging.  So here’s a little look into the creation and installation of the mural which is named, “Tree of Life”

It all starts from raw clay.  Here Olga sculpts the trunk of the tree:

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Every leaf is made by hand:

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Then set to dry before they’re fired in the kiln:

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These leaves have just been glazed and are ready to fire.  Hard to believe, but this dark grey color will be a vibrant green after firing!

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With all of the elements made and ready to assemble, it’s time to sketch out a rough layout on the wall to get a feel for the final size and proportion of the tree.  Here, Olga consults with designer Gail Martin:Image

Now the tree gets assembled.  With so many pieces, it’s important to have movement, order and balance.  Olga and Gail spent hours upon hours arranging and rearranging the elements before arriving at a final layout.Image

ImageOkay, now it’s up to me to transfer the tree from the flat work surface to the vertical wall.  Obviously we cant do it leaf by leaf!  Fortunately, we have a special tape that goes over the mural, and keeps everything in place while we transfer it.  With such a big mural, we divide it up into manageable sections about 2’x2′.  To make sure we get it all back together in the right order and everything lined up correctly, we drew out a grid, both on the taped mural and on the wall.  Then it was just a matter of matching up the lines.Image

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Now for the very messy grouting process:

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Cleaning the grout out of all the little nooks and crannies was no cake walk!  But the end result made it all worth while:

What a great opportunity to have been a part of such an interesting and unique project!

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