Design Principles Applied to Ceramic Tiles

The Prince's Foundation School of Traditional Arts China Centre
2020.1.6 - 2020.1.17
Ran Li

Decorative tiling and pattern making have over the centuries been key elements in the arts of both Eastern and Western cultures. 

Beautiful motifs expressed through skilled craft techniques developed in China and Persia greatly influenced later Islamic designers and craftsmen. There is much evidence of this creative cross-fertilisation in the area of ceramic tiles and plate decoration. 

This practical 4-week course offers the opportunity to learn about this creative blossoming across traditions as well as to develop new design skills and craft techniques. 

On this course you will: acquire new design skills through the study of geometry; learn about and use designs shared by the Chinese and Islamic traditions; learn step-by-step how to make your own set of ceramic tiles; learn brush techniques to paint with under-glazes and glazes. 

Students will also be given the opportunity to apply designs onto tiles as well as a ceramic plate.

Key aims of this course:

  • Learn and explore the key design principles of geometry and tessellation to create sets of ceramic tiling of different shapes;
  • Generate new patterns using various types of symmetry;
  • Study traditional motifs from the Chinese and the Islamic traditions.
  • Understand the rules of composition behind beautiful geometric and floral designs;
  • Learn different techniques for making and decorating tiles, including: mould making and carving; hand-pressing; glaze testing and brush application glazes; under-glaze painting.
  • Explore cross-cultural links between Chinese and Islamic arts.

Expected Outcomes: 

  • Learn about patterns and motifs shared by different cultures;
  • Understand how to use geometry and tessellation to create good design;
  • Gain experience in transferring drawings with regards to the crafts employed;
  • Learn two different techniques for making tiles;
  • Make glaze tests that lead towards a final colour composition;
  • Learn and develop brushwork skills for decorating ceramics.
  • Complete your own set of handmade and painted tiles using different techniques.

Course Structure

The course is 4 weeks long. It is delivered in 2-week blocks separated by a 6-week break in between. 
Each week covers an essential stage of the design and make process:

Part I (2020.1.6-1.17): 

  • Tile making – techniques include mould making, mould carving and hand-pressing. Enough tiles will be produced to create complete panels. 
  • Drying - Tiles are laid to dry and cared for by students during the process.
  • Design – A range of geometric patterns and grids will be studied and drawn. Design selection from traditional motifs. Interpretation of own floral and geometric designs.
  • Glaze testing - discussions and sketches for colour choices; creation of glaze tests; learning brush application techniques. Tests are fired and results discussed.

Six week gap

During these two weeks we run a separate course on The Language of Nature: Design Compositions and Painting Techniques.
Students who have attended this class will be able to apply the designs they created on that course to the tiles and plate of the ceramics course. 

Part II (2020.3.2-3.13): 

  • Bisque firing - Tiles and test pieces are fired. 
  • Designs are finalised and transferred, colours choices are finalised.
  • Glaze painting techniques are practiced further; all glaze work is completed. 
  • Glaze firing – all glazed tiles are fired and assembled. Teacher and students review the results.

Tutor biography

Ran Li

Ran Li is a Fine Artist with specializations in painting, illustration and traditional arts. She is currently researching ceramic patterns as part of her PhD studies at the Prince’s Foun-dation School of Traditional arts in London, UK.
She teaches regularly for the School of Traditional arts in both the UK and China. 

Ran Li studied at the School attached to Central Academy of Fine Arts, where she was admitted for first place in 2001. She was then recommended for admission to Central Academy of Fine Arts Oil Painting Department in 2005. 
From 2009 she studied in London, UK, and completed a Diploma in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art, and then an MA in Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts. 
In 2016 she completed her second MA at The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, award-ed with Distinction. Ran is currently enrolled onto the PhD research programme at the Prince’s Foundation School of Tradtional Arts. 

Ran was invited by the Prince of Wales’s School of Traditional Arts to introduced her artworks to Chinese President Xi Jin Ping and Lady Peng Li Yuan during their official visit to the United Kingdom in October 2015. One of her works, Iznik tile panel, was displayed on China CCTV’s programme “President Xi’s Visiting in United Kingdom”.

During her BA studies, Ran’s artworks were collected and recorded in books published by Central Academy of Fine Arts. She has self-published two books and has had over 60 articles published on Chinese mainstream magazines and newspaper during her studies in the United Kingdom. 

Since her MA graduation, Ran has developed her teaching skills over many workshops and teaching sessions delivered by the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts at Central Academy of Fine Art and Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology. 

Over the last two years, Ran Li has assisted on several workshops delivered at The Prince’s Foudation School of Traditional Arts China Centre in Suzhou. She has also supported students at the China Centre during the completion of their end of year projects. 
In August 2019 she has assited on a workshops by the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts China Centre for young Chinese people in collaboration with the Palace Museum held at the Yuan Centre in Suzhou and at the Forbidden City Gallery of the Palace Museum.
She is currently developing her own research and teaching material through her PhD research on traditional ceramic patterns.