Sarah Halford

Architecture and Ceramics

the floors of France

Last week Ferd and I were on holiday in the beautiful Loire Valley, and visited the Château de Chenonceau. In addition to being very interesting historically, I was struck by the sumptuous yet faded interiors, which have clearly seen heavy domestic use. In the reception hall the ornate majolica tiles have been worn to their bare clay, with all the decoration and glaze worn away.

Only at the edges were the original decorations visible. It was quite heartbreaking for a tile fan!

Upstairs, more robust terracotta tiles had been fitted. I think these were the originals, there were a huge amount of original Flemish tapestries in all the rooms, for decoration and warmth. They  were quite badly faded, but still beautiful. The different colours of the tiles was quite lovely, and the surfaces had been burnished by the movement of people over hundreds of years.

During WWII the Chateau was converted into a hospital, and was also used as a route across the River Cher, which it bridges. The thought of these incredible interiors being used as wards was so interesting; no wonder the floors were in such a state.

Some of the terracotta tiles were stamped with heraldic symbols

The inlaid tiles I’ve been making lately have their roots in very old techniques used for decorative flooring. Here on the first floor corridor there was once an incredibly rich and decorative surface, every tile had been stamped and decorated with a yellow slip for complete the bespoke pattern which fitted the dimensions of the room exactly. Hundreds of feet walking across the floor have worn away the surface and the inlaid pattern, to the bare terracotta beneath. The pattern is shown only at the edges and in the corners of the room

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2 comments on “the floors of France

  1. Michelle
    September 27, 2012

    Those floors must have seen lot of feet to wear off such durable surfaces, I also like inlaid stone floors and I suppose they wouldn’t lose the design,. Thanks for the note on my blog today, in regard to screen printing on the three-d objects, yes I do that after they’ve been shaped. I notice that some people do it on slabs before they build something, and I’d like to try that. But for the moment I buy the mesh by the yard, and staple it onto a wooden frame to burn the screen, then cut the areas out of the screen so that I have quite a few loose pieces and use them as stencils, just holding them against the side of the pot while applying the underglaze with a small sponge, it is an interesting process, as I love to see variations of a pattern.

    • sarahhalford
      September 27, 2012

      That’s a really interesting technique, especially opn slightly curved surfaces. It does give that varied surface rather than the sharpness that a decal gives.

      It makes me so sad knowing how hard it is to make those inlaid tiles [well, I’m thinking how hard it is to make them individually, I’m sure they were made in large batches!] just to wear away.

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This entry was posted on September 17, 2012 by in architecture, pottery.
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