Miniature works of art

Inspiration and design process - 

We spend months developing new ranges and designs – drawing inspiration from the natural world – especially the sea and countryside here in Cornwall, tile making history and current interior design trends. We add them all to the melting pot and then begin the long process of working out how a given tile design might look once painted and fired, and how it fits within the rest of our ranges. 

Collections begin life as mood boards or collections of inspirational images we’ve found as part of our research processes. Our designer and artistic team then spend time sketching or painting how the collection might look to make sure every aspect of the design is – this includes not only the image itself (although that’s key!) but the intensity of colour and scale of the image relative to the rest of the tile.

It takes several weeks of design, testing and re-design to finalise a single new tile. No detail is overlooked.


From order to packing –

Once we receive an order, the details are passed on to our artists who begin work. Depending on what has been ordered, we use a range of methods to turn a blank tile into a mini work of art. For our Arc range, colour and precision are the key to making a perfect tile. We use a template to ensure each and every semi-circle is identical and then sponge on the paint.

It can take several goes to build up exactly the right intensity of colour and different coloured paints need different amounts of pigment and paint to ensure that the tile is covered without being mottled. The outline is then tidied up by hand so that it is a crisp line and the Arc is absolutely perfect. 

Some of our simplest tiles take the most concentration – our corners are the perfect example. Our Cornish Delft corner tiles are almost completely plain, aside from the corner details. Every corner has 7 individual strokes or dots that have to be hand painted perfectly every time. That’s 28 strokes per tile – all of which have to be the same (as much as is humanly possible) as every other corner tiles. So imagine you have ordered 80 or so corners for your kitchen sink splash back. Eighty multiplied by twenty eight comes to an incredible 2,240 individually hand painted lines! We can’t afford a single wonky stroke so we really pay attention to getting those lines right – our aim is to make them as consistent as possible but never identical. Too much uniformity sucks the joy out of the handpainting! 

Our Delft ranges are a beautiful collection inspired by the long blue and white Delft tradition that originated in the Netherlands. Its most distinguishing feature is the deep royal blue used to paint the image onto a fresh white or off white background. As Delft is all about little snapshots from real life, our ranges are inspired by places we’ve been or things that we’ve seen and loved. We include seascapes, labradors, mushrooms and wellies. We’ve been commissioned to paint anything from Delft croissants to landrovers. It takes time and practice to get the hang of any one of these intricate vignettes – let alone all of them! 

It takes real patience to paint in the lamppost and individual window panes on our Bourton-on-the-Water tile and we’re genuinely proud of the craftsmanship of our artists to take such delicate tasks in their stride.

Among our most complex collections are the Glasshouse and Garden Insects. Both require an incredibly steady hand and eye for detail when it comes to the drafting of the design from the template and onto the tile, experience of mixing the coloured paints to ensure we get exactly the right bumblebee yellow, or deep Monstera green along with technical know how for applying the lustre and gold. They then need to be fired twice as the glazes and paints fire at different temperatures and at different parts of the process.  

We could also spend hours detailing the technical skills it takes to work the kilns and understand the different temperatures you need to fire a kiln full of dozens of freshly painted tiles… but we’ll save that for another time!

The fact that our tiles are handpainted and decorated is the most important thing about us. Every single tile we produce has been worked on by an artist and fired by one of the team. It takes time, energy and love to make a Decorum tile and we wouldn’t change it for the world!