‘Kings Cross Labyrinth’

7mtr. X 7mtr. Press Moulded Porcelain Photographer: unknown

My first Public Art commission: A ceramic mural designed and made by the artist in his Peckham studio. A commission from Rolf Judd Architecture for P&O Properties and their redevelopment of the Kings Cross location. The mural was almost 2 years in the making. The support from both companies was exemplary. It began with a 4 month trial period to create the final design and production method and was assigned to Rennie Liffen RIBA as consultant architect. English Heritage supplied documentation and images of the local area.

Design Development: I will show the development of a section of the mural design. Much of the work done shifted its position in the overall plan as it progressed. The centre section was fixed in my mind and the nature of the labyrinth design dictated aspects that can’t be changed structurally; the centre.

The Concept: The design was eventually created and agreed to be in this labyrinth format. The design drawing was made as a digital file and printed @ A3. It went through many states of change with drawn and written notations as the work progressed. As images evolved they were included roughly in the drawing, copied and kept up to date on a weekly basis. The centre never changed except in minor technical details or as structural demands. I want to demonstrate a little of what happened on the journey of moving from a design strategy to a ceramic object. It was all recorded by drawing on the A3 sheets and in my notebook.

The Design Drawing: This is the fundamental layout for the centre of the mural. I wanted it to be ‘Gold’ as its material colour. The mural is located close to the centre of the site. The tile shapes were difficult to control because of the shrinkage of the curved clay during firing. I looked at the mould patterns again and reformed the joint patterns. There appeared to be a lot of stress in the final firing which made the tiles want to straighten; making more joints cured the issue. Technically I had the ends removed by a local Marble Mason and made the mid-part of the tiles conform to the life size drawings.

Drawing: The new layout. Whilst the shape and format remained the same the tiles are shorter and subsequently, more of them. Here we see the final number, size and shape with 9 tiles in the centre section. The resolution was applied to all the tiles in the centre. I enjoyed the challenge of making the drawings.

Adjustments: The pro-forma parts were originally cut from polyurethane blocks on a digital router. I adjusted them in my studio. The original drawing is shown here with 4 central parts, that later became 9. I made new moulds and press moulded some new tiles.

Shrinkage: The clay tile shrinks and is ejected from the plaster mould. The black plastic dots are ejected by the clay as it shrinks. This was an aesthetic invention of my own.

Harness: Every tile remains in a harness to dry and is adjusted daily to control bending, straightening and shrinking. Trial & Error helped resolve the issues.

Gold Glaze: The Gold Tiles of the centre section after 4 firings. I tried every brand and type of Gold glaze but nothing looked better than the real thing! I fired these at lower temperatures in my small HobbyCraft Top loading Kiln. The German manufactured glaze was expensive at £150.00 for 25cl. bottle! but it did cover all the tiles in the section with 4 coats and stunning quality.

Firing: One kiln load.

The completed section installed: And the installer, a professional stonemason and restorer. Shown here for scale. The area layout was drawn on the wall by a surveyor. A full-scale outline print of the mural and the numbering of the tiles was made by the architect and myself. All tiles were labelled and stored in baskets on-site to make for easy installation. Each tile has the name and date embedded inside. For Health & Safety purposes every tile is attached to the wall and its neighbouring tiles with specially designed stainless steel clips and were applied to the whole mural. I accommodated the location of the clips in the design of the tiles. These practical issues are an important discussion topic for all those involved.

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