Decorative Designs

Decorative tiles: Specialist tile for heritage and contempoary interiors

By Adrian Blundell, Production Director, Craven Dunnill Jackfield.

From its base in the historic Ironbridge Gorge, Craven Dunnill Jackfield is the leading manufacturer of traditionally-styled, decorative tiles in the UK.

Part of the Craven Dunnill group of companies founded in 1872, with a deserved reputation for quality and authenticity, the company boasts the flexible manufacturing techniques and highly skilled staff to enable the production of any style or volume of ceramic production, ranging from single 3D tiles to murals using thousands of square metres of specialist ceramics.

The factory combines modern with traditional production techniques to enable the manufacture of bespoke wall, floor, decorative art and faience ceramics in any style, volume or size.

Craven Dunnill Jackfield take great pride in the faithful manufacture of period style tiles. Where possible, it uses original machinery, glaze recipes and hand decorating techniques to ensure the total authenticity of its restoration tiles.

Jackfield’s expertise is perhaps most clearly seen in the ever-growing range of high profile restoration projects that the company has successfully completed.

Craven Dunnill Jackfield’s wall tile production facilities were set up to cater for specialist restoration projects requiring colour matched glazes, moulded fittings and cappings. Complying with the strict requirements of the heritage bodies, Craven Dunnill Jackfield’s facilities ensure that original wall and floor tiles can be faithfully restored to their former glory.

Dry pressed tiles are manufactured using a Victorian powder press that compacts powdered clay into a metal mould; this allows the company to consistently repeat a relief tile design. Dry pressing tiles is ideal for reproducing large quantities of the same design.

Victorian wall tiles is another area of expertise. Inspired by the spread of the British Empire, many Victorian designers were influenced by classical and medieval architecture, while others drew on nature. The one element that unified all of these styles was the use of rich deep colours with a luxurious feel. Craven Dunnill Jackfield’s range of embossed, tubelined and screen printed decors captures the heyday of this industry.

At Oldham Town Hall Craven Dunnill Jackfield was commissioned to manufacture matching wall tiles to restore the original tiling in the Egyptian Room and anti rooms.

The project comprised over 55 different tile types and 2,000 decorated and plain field tiles, which all required precise matching to the surviving Pilkington originals.

For most of the 55 designs, new moulds needed to be made as many of the tiles are unique sizes and embossed with a variety of decorative features. Striking, tile-clad pillars dominate the room, for which Jackfield produced three variations of the embossed, yellow leaf design to cater for the tapered dimensions. For the base of each pillar, eight different styles of tiles were required, all with intricate embossed detailing.

The Greek Key pattern around the upper section of the room’s walls likewise required the creation of numerous moulds to accommodate the left and right window reveals. This running border also involved the hand-manufacture of bulb-glazed, square tiles in two colours, accurately matched in hue. Rising towards the ceiling is a band of plain yellow tiles, for which Jackfield manufactured some 1,200 replacements.

The project entailed extensive trials to ensure the seamless and historically accurate transition from original to replacement tiles, and required the approval of the designated Conservation Officer and Planning Authority. Craven Dunnill Jackfield started work on the project the summer of 2015 and the hand-manufacture of the tiles was completed a year later. Installation took a further six months.

Barbecoa: Dining in 1920s splendour
Jamie Oliver has opened his second Barbecoa restaurant, in the heart of London’s Piccadilly. The restaurant is accommodated on two floors, with seating for 285 diners and a sizable liquor bar. The design style draws on that of the 1920s, blended with rustic glamour and luxury. The dining area boasts striking, tiled faience walls, bespoke-manufactured by the tile specialist Craven Dunnill Jackfield, which are focal points of the restaurant.

Martin Brudnizki Design Studio (MBDS) was lead designer for the project, taking it from concept through to completion. The company approached Craven Dunnill Jackfield in June 2016, having already been in discussions with two other manufacturers which had expressed doubts over their ability to manufacture the magnificent, three dimensional tiles which were to adorn the top of 13 decorative pillars.

Craven Dunnill Jackfield is acclaimed for its ceramic expertise and specialist hand-made tile production and was convinced a solution could be found. Its commitment and significant contribution to the project is acknowledged on the Barbecoa website. “In our opinion, the tiles in the dining room are the real showstopper. They started life as a simple 15cm inspiration image on a moodboard and were reproduced and scaled up to the size they are now by Craven Dunnill Jackfield: the only UK company willing to have a go.”

Authentic Victorian-style tiles
Craven Dunnill Jackfield’s specialist ceramic tile expertise is much in demand to manufacture authentically-made Victorian-style tiles for major refurbishment projects. Typical is the replacement and restoration of hand-glazed, historic wall tiles for the Grade 2, former East Ham College. This building was formerly home to the Old Technical College and part of the East Ham Civic Campus. It is now the new Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre.

The project involved the origination of accurate models for 39 unique designs and the formulation of several metal oxide glazes, which were fired and applied seamlessly to match the original tiles of the 1903 building.

Many of the tiles in the outer porch, the main vestibule, stairs and ground floor corridors had been extensively damaged. While it was possible to salvage some of the original tiles by cleaning, many others were missing or so badly damaged that they needed to be replaced.

Nearly 1,400 tiles were required across 39 unique designs, 813 of which had to be manufactured from scratch, as there were no existing moulds. These included decorative, embossed border tiles, two sizes of panel frame profiles, skirting borders, 6 by 4 inch and 6 by 3 inch tiles in plain and round edge, and external curved skirting profiles. Fitting new tiles within existing ornately decorated tiles was an intricate job and required the reproduction tiles to be accurate in both size and thickness.

Unable to take moulds from the original tiles, the team at Craven Dunnill Jackfield re-modelled all the tile profiles, faithfully copying the remaining originals. The replacement tiles were then manufactured in biscuit before being hand-dipped in specially formulated, metal oxide glazes: green and brown. The glaze recipe used was similar to that of the original tiles.

Rick Mather Architects lead the refurbishment project, in consultation with English Heritage. Craven Dunnill Jackfield manufactured the tiles and worked in close collaboration with specialist tiling and terrazzo contractor W B Simpson & Son.

The newly manufactured wall tiles are such an exact match to the originals and so expertly installed that the difference in age of around 110 years is indiscernible to the untrained eye.

Faience features for The Blues Kitchen
The Blues Kitchen in Brixton offers a proven formula of late night live music, authentic BBQ food and an amazingly large selection of bourbons. Located in what was once the old Electric Social premises, the cavernous ground floor space is dominated by a flamboyant faience-fronted, ceramic tiled bar, designed and hand-manufactured by Craven Dunnill Jackfield.

This contemporary installation of Victorian-styled ceramic tiles breathes new life into this traditional art form and highlights the practicality of ceramics in a bar environment.

The faience tiled bar (traditional tin-glazed pottery, prevalent in the UK in the Victorian era) is 10 metres long and is set off against a back-drop of white and blue brick-shaped ceramic tiles and amber dados.

The hand-made faience tiles at the front of the bar date back to the 1880s in style. There are five different designs of tile which clad both the bar and five floor-to-ceiling pillars. Each of the central, large green, convex tiles measure 245 by 600mm. The deeply textured relief design features a repeating urn motif. They are bordered by four styles of decorative blue and amber coloured dado tiles. The same designs are featured on the 2.5 metre tall pillars, which are capped with deep capital tiles.

The relief tiles were made using hand-carved plaster moulds and decorated with metal oxide glazes, which craze upon firing to create an authentic aged effect. Each of the large tiles featuring the urns required 200g of glaze to achieve the desired depth of colour. It took two people to dip the pieces into a large vat of glaze. These were then gently lifted and carefully stacked into the kilns and fired over night at 1,040oC.

These projects demonstrate that the combination of intimate knowledge of the tile making process in all its complexity, allied to an extremely experienced and dedicated workforce, still has a vital role to play in today’s architecture and can lead to tiled surfaces that have an enduring beauty and appeal.

Craven Dunnill Jackfield Ltd
Jackfield Tile Museum
Ironbridge Gorge, Shropshire TF8 7LJ
T: 01952 884 124