Pilgrims Way Process

Click through the numbers below to advance a slideshow describing the process of making the Pilgrims Way Arch.
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The Beginning

The project began in a World Religions course during the Spring Semester of 2012. Students carried the project through many stages, measuring drawings and cutting thousands of clay pieces that make up the mosaic.

The project was led by Ms. Dale Bryant, Chair of the Fine Arts Department and a ceramicist, and Dr. Ann Terry, Religious Studies teacher and art historian. Bryant and Terry have collaborated for the last few years and went to Italy together to study ancient mosaic making technique.

The inspiration for an interfaith arch using an Islamic aesthetic came from studying the entryway that houses the arch. The shape and proportions of the entry echo those in Islamic architecture. Also, the Campus Ministry door opens to the arch, symbolically welcoming all religions.

Planning

Creating the mosaic arch was a complex, labor intensive, and multi-stepped process. Students began by studying the phenomenon of pilgrimage in different religions and explored the relationship between Islamic art and Islamic theology. As part of that process, they visited a mosque in Metheun to see tiles imported from Turkey and hear the Imam speak about his religion.

Careful planning went into each step of the process, from the architectural and visual designs, to selecting materials and execution.

Drawing

An essential first step for this kind of project is to make measured drawings  as a basis for planning designs and materials. 

These drawings were annotated with critical measurements and notes that provided each small component of the architecturally complex arch with a different designation.  

Calculating

It was important to know the square footage of each part of the arch to determine the amount of clay needed and the number of different kinds of shapes required.

Templating

Full-scale paper templates were measured, cut, and hung in the classroom so the designs could be edited. 

Research

While some students made these drawings and took measurements, others researched symbols of major world religions.

Tile Making

After researching designs and finishing the necessary drawings and templates, it was time for an orientation in the studio, where a literal ton of porcelain awaited. Here Dale Bryant introduced the students to their next tasks. Students involved in the project were all members of the Class of 2012: Alexander Boulous, Christopher Crupi, James Frye, Adam Johnson, David Maher, Kevin Meas, Michael McLane, Emil Nuñez, Tyler Rossi, and Samuel Shaw.

Tool Fabricating

Most of the pieces in the mosaic were cut from clay using shaped cutters, some of which were made from strips of metal by students . Visible in the photograph are two stamps used in the border inscription. Near the base, homemade tools were used to cut border strips evenly. To the right, linoleum cuts made by the students can be seen

Piece Cutting

For weeks, several students at a time worked in the ceramics studio, cutting thousands of pieces of clay in predetermined shapes. Before the clay could be cut, it had to be rolled into sheets and dried until moisture level was just right.

Once cut, the back of each piece needed to be grooved so it would fasten to the mortar when applied to the wall.

Linoleum Carving

For complex designs, symbols, and scripts, students created linoleum cuts, which were then used as molds to create multiples. To do this, students cut multiple panels from sheets of linoleum. They then scaled the design to the tile, reversed it, transferred the drawing onto the linoleum and carefully carved the design. Here a student cuts the Sanskrit word "namaste" into linoleum. 

Pattern Pressing

Once complete, the linoleum cuts were pressed into clay. Finally, the tiles bordering the inscription were stamped. In the photo above Ms. Bryant uses one of the antique textile stamps.

Cleaning

After the tiles were made, they were set on shelves to dry until "leather hard." The edges of each and every tile were cleaned before being pressed between pieces of sheetrock to dry flat.  In the photo, leathery tiles await cleaning.

Bisque Firing

Once dry, each piece was loaded onto shelves in the kiln for bisque firing, which heats the tiles to 1800 degrees. This step removes all the chemical water, leaving the tiles ready to be glazed.

 

Glazing

Once out of the bisque kiln and cleaned, each piece was hand dipped in glaze and placed on a kiln shelf for the final 2232 degree glaze firing. This firing takes 3 days. 2600 triangles were cut, cleaned, bisque fired, and glazed. 

Click to see the tiles before and after being glazed.

Laying out by Section

Each section was laid out on the ground with paper templates so final decisions about the arrangement could be made.

Mortaring

A thin layer of mortar was applied to the wall for larger pieces.The back of every piece was "buttered" before being pressed into place.

Grouting

Prep alum Ray Malzone '83, a master tiler, volunteered to grout the arch.

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