Clay tiles make useful gifts. They may be used for hot pads, paperweights, or pictures. Young children can make decorative tiles. Press a ball of clay onto a plaster slab or a piece of wood to an even thickness. A pattern made of cardboard from a tablet back is placed on top of the clay, and the tile is cut out with a paring knife or a flat stick, such as a tongue depressor. Figure 16. The design is incised with a pencil to a depth of the lead of a pencil or 1/8 inch.

Allow the tiles to dry slowly so that they will not warp. Before they have completely dried, have each worker carve his name on the back of his tile with the pencil point. When they are dry, if there are any rough edges, sand them lightly before firing them. A single color of glaze should be used, The incised lines fill up with glaze, and this adds greatly to the finished piece. The backs of the tiles should not be glazed.

The design is incised

Figure 16. The design is incised with a pencil point.

Glue a piece of felt from an old hat on the back of the tiles to be used as hot pads or paperweights. Fasten gummed picture hangers on the back of the tiles to be used for pictures.

Clay Boxes

Boxes of clay are made by the slab method. A large flat slab of plaster or wood, two strips of wood 1/2 inch thick, a rolling pin, and a paring knife or a potters knife are the supplies needed.

Roll the clay

PLATE XXXVII. Roll the clay until it is level with the two strips of wood.

Plan the size and proportions of the box. Draw the pattern accurately on paper. The bottom should be made the length and width of the box. The ends should be made the width and height of the box minus the thickness of the bottom, which should be 1/2 inch. The sides should be the same height as the ends, and the length minus 1 inch to allow for the thickness of the two ends.

If the box is to be 4 inches high, 4 inches wide, and 6 inches long, the base would be 4 x 6 inches. The ends would be 4 inches long and 31/2 inches high. The sides would be 5 inches long and 31/2 inches high.

Place a large ball of well-kneaded clay upon the plaster or wood slab. Plate XXXVII shows how the clay is rolled out until it is level with the two strips of wood. Lay the paper patterns on the clay and cut the clay with a knife. The pieces are cemented with a generous amount of slip. The cracks between the base and the walls are filled by slipping a little of the clay from the walls over to the base. Finish the inside in the same way. Support the walls with the fingers as the cracks are sealed with the thumb or a wooden modeling tool.

Decorations may be carved in the clay while it is still damp. Carving on a dry wall often causes the design to chip. Slip and underglaze decorations may be painted. Form decorations may be added by rolling out small coils and pellets of the clay and adhering them to the clay box with slip. Interesting designs can be made by combining coils cut in short lengths, making a wavy line around the box, or designing handles for the box. The lid should have a rim inside the flat surface to hold it in place. A coil of clay fastened with slip may form this rim. These boxes may be used for candy, jewelry, or jam. The ceramic box in Plate XXXVIII has a monogram for the top decoration and handle.

Clay boxes for house plants such as cactus and foliage are attractive. Plan the proportions of the box to suit the needs of the roots and the shape of the plant. Notice the flat rim at the top edge in Plate XXXIX. This rim acts as a cover for part of the earth in the box. Grog clay is particularly well suited in texture and strength for plant boxes. Leave the inside unglazed. The coloring in the glaze should be neutral so that it will not detract from the plant.

A ceramic box on a reed mat

PLATE XXXVIII. A ceramic box on a reed mat.