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Design 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 three 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.

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Contemporary Classic Delft and Emma, created in collaboration with interior designer Emma Sims-Hildich

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.

“Your service is outstanding and everyone is stunned by the result. I could not be more delighted.”

Pat Jones

“Marlborough are a trusted collaborator to design unique tile collections which delight our customers”

Rebecca Malon, Head of Design and Product Development Neptune

“We are delighted with our stunning tiles - the colour and finish have brought our kitchen to life.”

Nicky Sweet

“Over 20 years, our brand has relied on Marlborough for specialist colour and glaze development.”

Colin Roby-Welford, MD of Fired Earth

“Superb! Great design advice on combining styles and colours. Thank you for going the extra mile.”

Emma Todd
Marlborough Made