Since our beginning in 1986, Original Style has become renowned for its tile manufacturing which includes a vast range of production techniques, resulting in truly original product for a variety of styles and settings. Amongst such skills in our Devon-based factory, you can find our team of talented painters, who craft designs, by hand, directly onto tile bisques creating an assortment of beautifully unique, artisanal tile collections.
Within our hand painting team, belongs one of Original Style’s most experienced members of production – the wonderful, Angie. Having worked at Original Style for over 25 years, Angie hosts many technical skills and for 18 of those years she has been an integral part of the creation of our hand painted products, including the revival of our new Summer Fruits collection.
Summer Fruits previously belonged to Original Style’s La Belle Collection, which was first launched in 1988. Although La Belle is no longer a part of our tile range, our designers decided to reinvent Summer Fruits through modernising its glaze colours and applying the design to a larger base tile – making the collection perfect for those who strive for country-cottage charm within their interior décor.
Being such an historic collection for Original Style, we decided to speak with Angie to provide you with a glimpse of ‘behind the scenes’ into the creation of these tiles as well as her story as one of our talented hand painters.
Question: How long have you been a hand painter at Original Style?
Angie: Oh a long time! I’ve been at Original Style for over 25 years but have only worked in our factory for seven of these, and 18 years before that I worked from home as a hand painter. This was perfect for me at the time as it fitted in great with raising my children – I used to have a set up in my conservatory where I would sit for hours just painting, it was wonderful. The production team would send out the bisques to be painted alongside a list of directions, a recipe card, pots of colours, etc. and I would paint it as per the sample tile design before sending back to the factory for the final processes.
However, I have actually been a hand painter for longer. Before my time at Original Style, I worked in a collectable tea pot factory where I painted product and also fettled, although I never actually formally studied art, design etc. I just love painting and was fortunate enough to pursue it as a career. In fact, at one point, I used to work in a factory crimping pasty’s which isn’t ‘arty’ at all!
Question: What is it that you love about hand painting Original Style tiles?
Angie: I like that when I’m painting a tile, I know that somebody’s going to eventually have it in their home and that they’re going to look at that product every day and it’s something that I painted - I created that! And hopefully it’s going to bring a little joy to somebody’s life and they’re going to love it as much as I loved painting it.
I also like having the opportunity to be creative. If I have any hand painting ideas, I’m able to go to production and the design team to see if it’s of interest and they’ll archive for reference for future product designs. My skills are very much in hand-painting and it’s lovely to work alongside these teams and showcase any ideas I do have. It is amazing to see a product come to fruition with the design team coming to us initially saying ‘this is what we want’ and seeing how the product develops throughout the different processes, there’s so much involved.
Question: Can you take me through the process of creating one of the Summer Fruits tiles?
First of all the moulds for each tile design needs to be made which is a process in itself! But once the mould is ready to go, the Slip (liquid clay) is poured into the mould and casted – by the talented Danny!
Next, once the clay has dried out enough, it is moved over to the fettling/sponging booth. It’s then sponged over gently with water to remove any imperfections on the surface.
They’re then fettled – this is where you take the rough edges off and if you have any dinks or rough bits on them you can smooth them down so they look nice and neat.
The clay is then put into the gas kiln to be fired into bisque (the first of many firings)
The bisque is then coated with engobe which makes up the base colour of the tile before being fired again.
After its second trip into the kiln, the bisques then come to me and I paint them.
Once painted, they’re fired again.
And, finally, once they’ve been glazed, they then receive their final firing in the kiln! It’s quite the process.
Question: How long, on average, does it take to paint one of our Summer Fruit tiles?
Angie: Well, I don’t actually paint just one tile at a time. I usually line them up and carry out each painting process simultaneously as it’s more efficient that way. For example, you might get an order for 20 pieces and I’ll pre-mix my paints so they’re ready to go and then paint the first colour on all of them and then the second colour and so on. However, as a rough guestimate, I would say it would take around 30 minutes to paint just one piece and that’s with lots and lots of practise!
Question: What’s the most difficult aspect of painting these tiles?
Angie: Trying to get the colours the same as much as possible. Even though I pre-mix my paints in larger quantities, you still run out and have to make new batches all the time. From a quality perspective we really have to be vigilant about this, so we follow recipe cards very closely to ensure consistency. We also test the paint colour on the back of a duff tile to ensure it matches the sample ‘standard’ guide colour.
Even with all of the quality processes in place, the nature of hand painting and how these tiles are produced means that there’s typically some variation amongst final pieces made. The Summer Fruits tiles really are little pieces of art and being individually hand-painted, this means that no two tiles can ever be exactly the same but we find that this adds to their story and provides a really nice quality.