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The history and artistry of our hand painted tiles

MT in focus

The history and artistry of our hand painted tiles

Our hand painted ceramic wall tiles bring a sense of true individuality to the home. After all, they are literal works of art - each stroke painted by hand onto raw glaze using the traditional Majolica technique, and then individually signed by the artist who painted it.

We have two hand painting artists at Marlborough. They spend their days in the studio, painting freehand onto our tiles to fulfil customer orders, and creating new designs for future collections.

Kirsty has been with Marlborough Tiles for more than 35 years. “We are always on the lookout for inspiration. I do a lot of research online and in books, but my favourite place to go is our archive drawer. Our hand painting tradition goes back more than eighty years and I love creating pieces inspired by our vintage designs.”

When first beginning to visualise a new design, our artists begin on paper. There are lots of things to keep in mind - will the tile live in a bathroom or a kitchen, or both? What kind of composition will be most effective, and across how many tiles? Which colours will best complement the design?

We have a set selection of stains which we use in hand painting - pure colours taken from our range of glazes. Working with these means that the detailing on our hand painted tiles always work beautifully with other tiles in our collection. Our artists will dilute the stains with flux, adding a little or a lot depending on the effect they seek to create.

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Once the artist is happy with the design, it is ‘pounced’ onto a test tile. That means taking the design onto tracing paper, before pricking holes into it, and blotting charcoal through the design to leave behind a series of dots on the tile for the artist to use as a guide. The design is then painted freehand onto the tile.

The charcoal burns away when the tile is put into the kiln for firing.

Marlborough’s process is truly special. Since we opened our doors in 1936, we have flown the flag for the Majolica technique of hand painting. This means our artists always paint directly onto unfired glaze, which makes an enormous difference to the end product because the base glaze and artist’s work are fired at the same time. This technique not only better integrates layers of colour, but also adds to the fluidity and intensity of the artist’s brush strokes.

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Our artists paint directly onto our glaze, using traditional techniques perfected over centuries.

Of course, we could use transfers to ‘paint’ onto already fired tiles but while this may save a few pennies, it could never result in the high-quality product that we are passionate about producing. Firing the tiles more than once would also result in a darker base colour, which of course means that a hand painted tile would not precisely match the plain tiles that accompany it in a panel. A definite no-no in our book!

Finally, the hand painted tiles are checked by the artist and by our warehouse manager, Paul, before being carefully packed and shipped to the customer.

Inspired? Explore our full collection of hand painted tiles here.

We also offer a bespoke hand painting service. From beloved pets to bucolic countryside scenes, our specially trained ceramic artists love the extra challenge of creating your perfect design. The hand painting team will take you on a journey that starts with hand drawn sketches and finishes with a ceramic fired masterpiece.

Simply get in touch to find out more.

Cooker splash back tile panel with country birds and insects with a vase of aloe vera and oak work top.

Farmland Birds tile panel finished with White grout

Flax Blue Pattern Square tiles wall panel, framed with half rounds and paired with Emma Flax Blue Plain Square tiles and border tiles behind a kitchen worktop

Flax Blue Emma Pattern Square tiles finished with white grout

Wall of powder blue Mediterranean pattern hand painted tiles with a border of plain tiles behind kitchen accessories and a houseplant

Ana Powder Blue square tiles finished with white grout, paired with the Ana plain tile

Wall of british wildlife animal square tiles, painted by hand against a wood worktop with vases in front

British Wildlife square tiles finished with Jasmine grout

Close up of handpainted delft wall tiles with blue animal illustrations

Wilding tiles finished with white grout

MT Insta Neptune 3 rev web

Follies Charcoal finished with Silver Grey grout


As featured in…

House & Garden
The Telegraph
Homes & Gardens
English Home
Elle Decor
Country Homes
Period Living
Country Life
Country and Town House
Architectural Digest
Marlborough Made