Ceramicist Lucy McMillan started making tiles for her own home, in a co-house community in Grey Lynn, Tāmaki Makaurau (you can read the full story on page 74). “It felt really good to have my hand somewhere in our build and for them to carry the history and warmth of the place they were made in,” she says. Now, the tiles are available as a bespoke order from Design Central, custom-made for each project.
Why did you start making tiles?
I had been collecting clay dug up on site during construction and initially thought of collaborating with Cohaus children on handmade tiles for the paved area outside our shared garden house. I’d also been making wall-mounted clay relief sculptures, so these things fed into what I eventually landed on – the idea to make tiles for our family’s kitchen. I made them while living in Piha, in the kiln at the Waygood Foundation. I’d fire over weekends and slowly, over several months, the collection appeared.
How did you want them to feel?
I wanted each tile to feel like an experiment but also to somehow speak the same language. I wanted them to have the feeling of being from another time, at odds with the newness of our new-build. I worked with six different clays, giving the tiles a range of textures, and used a combination of techniques to build them. I took advice from local potters Zeke Wolf and Bob Steiner and was lucky to find a relaxed and experienced tiler to install them, Tom Koene, who wasn’t phased by their irregularity.
What do you love about clay and in particular, the way you work with it?
I don’t use a wheel. I feel I am able to get closer to it when I’m hand building – I’m able to get edges, angles and forms that I couldn’t with the inherent smoothness of the wheel. I like looking back and seeing all the steps in the build and how I got there. I like constructing and collaging and seeing things transform.
Studio Lucy McMillan