Adorning architectural surfaces around the nation, Native Tile and Ceramics' work gives new life to an age-old practice.
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- One of the important things that separates us from other tile companies is our sense of color. When I was at UCLA, I had an amazing teacher, Lois Swirnoff, and she really instilled in me the importance of color and how to use proper color combinations. It really makes or breaks a pattern. The thing that attracted me to ceramics was just taking the Earth and transforming it into something colorful and beautiful, and personal. My name is Diana Mausser, and I'm the owner of Native Tile & Ceramics, a handmade decorative tile company in Torrance, California. We create decorative ceramic tile for residential, commercial, applications, interior, exterior, anywhere that you would wanna beautify the space with tile. I had worked for other tile companies and realized that I had a lot more to say than these companies were allowing me, so I saved up a little money and we just built it very slowly. The main purpose was to be able to make my own work in my own way. My inspiration for a lot of the patterns that we create at Native Tile are from European influences that infiltrated California during the 20's, and then California recreated our own style. One of the styles that we create our tile in is called cuerda seca. Cuerda seca literally translates into resist line. The pattern is silk screened onto the tile, and then we hand-glaze the color in between the lines, and what that line has in it is an oil and a glaze mixture. The oil is what helps you keep the colors from bleeding into each other, so it's a guide. It not only delineates the pattern, but it's also a guide for the glazers to keep the colors separate. When I'm designing a new pattern, I sketch with paper and pencil, and graph paper. I use a light table, move things around and experiment with the pattern. Once I have my hand-drawn line art of the design, I give it to Ken and he traces my design into the computer, and that way we can get the line thickness exactly the width that we need it for our silk screening process. And from there, we send it to people that make our film, and then we make a silk screen from that. We create our tile from start to finish, we don't purchase commercial bisque. We press it all here. We have several clays that we use for our process. We use a terracotta clay body for this design. We put it through a pugmill to remix the memory of the clay so if there's any air pockets that are in there from the manufacturing of the clay, it mixes it up and creates a whole new base from which we can work with to press our own tile. Once the clay has been pugged and it's ready to press, we use our RAM press, which contains a mold that has been made to the exact shape of the tile. Then, we clean the edges and put them out to dry. They take about three to five days, depending on the thickness, and from that stage, then we put them into our gas kiln and bisque the tile. Once we receive the finished screen, then we can silk screen the pattern onto the tile. We lay the tile onto our light table and place the screen on top, and squeegee a glaze and oil mixture through the mesh in the screen, and the pattern is then imprinted onto the tile. All of the glazes at Native Tile are custom and handmade by us. We take a base glaze that we formulated and we add color into it, so that's how you get the colors. You add minerals like copper, we get greens, cobalt blues, the golden colors come from rutile, so we incorporate all of those minerals into our glazes to create our custom and beautiful colors. The pattern is screened onto the tile, the glazes are mixed, now we're ready to glaze. The glazers use a sample tile and a glazing sheet as a reference to see which colors go in what location on the tile 'cause the tile looks kind of like a coloring book. A black line is outlining the pattern, and then the colors are dropped into the different sections on the tile. With glazes, it's sometimes really misleading because when you look at the actual liquid, if you're doing green, it doesn't look green. It might look kinda pinkish because it's really the color of the minerals. The color comes out in the firing, so the heat and temperature is what brings out the true color of what is integrated into that mixture. Once the tile has been glazed, we take the tile and load it into the electric kiln and we fire it to temperature, and that's actually when all of the colors, and the bond between the glaze and the clay happen. After the tile goes through its six-to-eight-hour firing process, we let the kiln cool, unload the kiln, inspect it for quality, and ship it. The beauty about making a handmade product is, everyday is like Christmas. You come to work and you open a kiln, and you see the sparkling, beautiful, colorful patterns. We've taken this design from drawing it, through the whole process, and now you open the kiln and you see the beauty that is the result of all of that work from all of us.