Design Principles Applied to Ceramics: Tile Making

The Prince's Foundation School of Traditional Arts China Centre
2019.2.25 - 2019.3.15
Defina Bottesini Ramiz Sabbagh

Pattern making and decorative tiling have been key elements of architecture in both Eastern and Western cultures across the centuries.

This intensive three-week course will guide you step-by-step through the process of designing and making a set of ceramic tiles inspired by both Chinese and Islamic traditions. You will acquire new design skills by learning the principles of harmony through geometry, and applying them to craft making to create a beautiful set of your own ceramic tiles.

Key aims of this course:

  • Learn and explore key design principles of geometry and tessellation to create harmonious designs applicable to ceramic tiling;
  • Understand how patterns are created using various types of symmetry;
  • Study and be inspired by traditional motifs from both the Chinese and the Islamic traditions to generate your own work;
  • Introduce the fundamental elements of composition for both geometric and floral designs;
  • Learn different ceramics techniques for making and decorating tiles, including: gypsum mould making and carving; hand pressing tiles with geometric designs; hand rolling and cutting clay slabs; testing and applying glazes; underglaze decorative painting;
  • Explore cross cultural links between Chinese and Islamic arts.

Expected Outcomes: 

  • Learn about patterns from diverse cultures;
  • Understand how to use geometry and tessellation to create good designs;
  • Gain experience in transferring drawings with regards to the technique employed;
  • Create a set of colour glaze tests that lead towards the final colour composition;
  • Learn a variety of ceramic techniques for making tiles;
  • Learn and develop brush works skills for decorating ceramics.
  • Complete your own set of handmade and painted tiles using different techniques.

Course Structure

The course is three weeks long. Each week covers an essential stage of the design and make process:

Week 1: tile making – teaching various techniques for making molds, gypsum carving and hand pressing tiles. Enough tiles will be produced to create complete panels. Some geometric pattern will be studied and drawn.

Week 2: While the tiles are drying, students will focus on the design motifs that will be hand painted on the tiles. They will also have the opportunity to create colour tests on readymade tiles, in preparation for week 3. Tiles are bisque fired at the end of the week.

Week 3: Once the tiles are bisque fired, designs are transferred and glazes applied. Painting techniques are practiced for the completion of the panels. Final tiles are glaze fired and assembled.

Students will be able to take away with them all the drawings and tiles made on the course.

Tutor biography

Defina Bottesini

Delfina Bottesini is Outreach & Open Programme Manager at The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts in London. She is a practicing artist, designer and photographer. She has been working for the School of Traditional Arts as teacher since 2002 and as manager since the establishment of the Schools’ Outreach Programme in 2005. As Outreach Programme Manager, Delfina is responsible for national and international projects, including three of the School’s international centers – Cairo, Jeddah and Suzhou.

Her artistic practice includes painting, ceramics, design and photography. Delfina’s work reflects her particular interest in geometry and the traditional arts of the world. She creates handmade ceramic tiles that tessellate into geometric patterns which draw direct inspiration from the beautiful geometries found within various parts of the Islamic World. Her work includes commissions for interiors for private houses as well as gardens, often allowing her to work in partnership with garden designers and architects. Her painting work is concerned with archetypal images that are shared by different traditions including Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism and Taoism. She enjoys working with images and ideas that cross cultural boundaries and refer the viewer back to the universal language of beauty which is shared and is always accessible to all people.

Ramiz Sabbagh

Ramiz Sabbagh is The Director of Baku Centre for the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts. Upon completing his post graduate studies at the School in July 2001, Ramiz spent nearly ten years in Jordan, engaged in the development of the College of Traditional Islamic Arts which had been established by the School in 1998.  As a senior lecturer/ designer maker, Ramiz contributed in transforming a two-year diploma into a four year BA Degree course and integrating it in to the Jordan University system. He developed and taught the geometry curriculum that was central to all art and craft education activities of the College. 

In 2011-2012, Ramiz was invited to represent the School and its ethos in China, with field study research in the cultural heritage while developing and delivering workshops to local communities in Beijing and assorted Art and Design students in Shanghai. This has continued today with PFSTA workshops delivered annually for undergraduates in both CAFA and BIFT and to new prospective students at the new PFTSA Yuan Centre in Suzhou.