75th Anniversary Tiles
Mary Gawlik and Loraine DiPietro are Greenbelt Resident Artists, and this year they are making commemorative tiles for Greenbelt’s 75th anniversary. On February 5, during the monthly Artful Afternoon open studio, I visit their studio on the third floor of the Community Center and ask them about the tiles.
Mary Gawlik (left) specializes in ceramic art tiles and tile panels, and Loraine DiPietro is a clay artist. They share a studio with two other artists at Room 302 of the Community Center.
Mary Gawlik tells me about making the commemorative tiles: “First we made a tile out of clay and carved in the design. When it was finished, we then poured plaster over it to make a mold. And then to replicate those tiles, we have to take clay and press it into the mold, and pop it out. And it’s proving to be trickier than we thought because it’s easy to get a double image and mess it up when it’s in the mold.”
In this photo, after wet clay has been pressed into the mold, DiPietro trims away excesses using a metal wire.
DiPietro presses the remaining clay with a ruler.
The quotes below are from Mary Gawlik.
“Once the wet clay comes out of the mold, then we take special carving tools and clean the tile up to make sure all the edges are crisp and clear.”
“Then we put a layer of foam on the clay and another board on top to keep the tile flat while it’s drying so it doesn’t tend to warp.”
“When the tile is all the way dry, then it will go into the kiln for its first of two firings.”
“The first kiln will cook them to about 1,800 degrees or so, and that makes them into what we call bisque. It will be white.” Kilns are housed in their own room on the third floor. In this photo, Gawlik (left) shows fellow resident artist Gina Mai Denn some of her tiles (not the commemorative ones) just out of the kiln.
“Once the tile comes out of the kiln, then we brush it with Sybil’s stain.”
On the left is a white bisque after the first kiln firing and on the right a tile with Sybil’s stain.
“The next step is to add the glaze. We add a layer of satin white glaze to these tiles.”
“You have to be careful in this process so that you don’t show your brush strokes and you get a nice even layer of the glaze. The dark Sybil’s stain, that dark oxide we wiped on, will actually melt and come up through this layer.”
“Then I take a sponge and I just clean up the excess of this edge of the frame because I’m going to put another glaze on that.”
“Then I paint on a second glaze, weathered bronze green, around the frame.”
“We will put them in the kiln and bring it up a few hundred degree higher, then the glaze can melt.”
“When they are all done, we sign the back with the limited edition numbers and put hangers on them so people can put them on their walls.”
Gawlik designed the Greenbelt Theatre and Aquatic Center tiles, and DiPietro the Mother and Child statue and tree tiles. The Theatre tile with the commemorative information on the marquee is the official Greenbelt 75th anniversary commemorative tile. The artists will make 20 sets of the four tiles in a limited edition, and 30 additional Greenbelt Theatre tiles and 10 of the other three tiles. Because of the time-consuming process, Gawlik estimates that she and DiPietro will be working on the tiles “between now and June.” And when this whole process is over, the artists have arranged with Greenbelt Museum to place the molds and other materials in its archives.
The tiles can be reserved using a form at Greenbelt 75th Anniversary Committee’s website. The set sells for $125 and each individual tile $35.