How I work

I don’t have a large scale production of hand painted tiles.
Instead I design and paint relatively small sets of tiles, working individually with each of my customers.

I like when the customer shares with me my joy of finding interesting drawing topics and selecting patterns for illustration. I am not really interested when I have to re-draw the same design many times, so I prefer to make a new design for each customer. I never use decals for fast reproducing “well selling” drawings. I ornament each tile by hand. This is why I work slowly (1-2 tiles a day).


I have composed this page to show you the process of making tiles for order.
First, I would like to address the typical features of the patterns in the style izraztsy (blue text),
then show you, step by step, how I make hand-painted tiles (black text,) using one of my works as an example,
and supplement it with comments in cases of more complicated orders (green text.)


The pictures on the izraztsy-style tiles can be very diverse, but there are some specific features of the design, which make this style unique.


The design of the drawing is created by the artist not for a single tile, but for a set or a collection of tiles.

Assembled together these tiles make a ceramic flat for a ceramic finish of a fireplace façade, kitchen walls, or the top of a table. The drawing of assembled tiles resembles a lace cloth or a rug decorated with delicate ornament rather than a picture with still life or landscape.

In the center of each tile there is a unique and original illustration which is never repeated. But the individual tiles of one collection are united by a common design, a common style of drawing, and also by the border of each tile.

The drawing on the border is made so that when these tiles are grouped together they make a new picture, which becomes a frame of the central illustration.

The drawing on a tile is commonly made in a single color or a few colors, which harmonically supplement each other.

Why? Because of the lack of color tiles serve as a neutral background and not “compete” with your furniture fabrics, your favorite colorful oil paintings, framed photos, and colored plates that decorate your house. Harmonizing with the rest of your home decor, they tactfully beautify your interior.


The process of fulfilling the order depends, of course, from the size of the upcoming work: Whether it is intended for the drawn tiles to just make a picture-mural of rectangular shape or whether the tiles will be a ceramic finish of a wall with a complicated shape. As an example I chose a simple project, and added comments, which belonged to a more complicated project.

Recently a customer ordered a mural-backsplash
for his sink. By e-mail he sent me photos of his
kitchen and the spot where he would like to
install my tiles. The size of the ordered ceramic
mural was to be about 16 by 22 inches.


In case of a fireplace surround or backsplash that must
fit to a space with a complicated geometrical shape, I
come to the house of the customer to measure the exact
form and the size of the surface for the tiles. Only after
estimating the amount of tiles necessary for the project
can I say the approximate price of the order. But the
exact price of the order will depend on the complexity of the chosen design.


First we discuss with the customer the general outline of the future design. If the customer, before making the choice, wants to know more about the different stiles of European ornaments, I offer him to look at the numerous albums out of my personal library – books about Tile Art from different European countries, Tile Ideas book and books about the diverse patterns of the European decorating arts. After I find out the exact preferences of my customer, I offer him a few ideas for designs of future tiles. The best way for us to exchange ideas and illustrations is by e-mail.

The design in style izraztsy demands that each tile has its own individual illustration, so first of all we had to choose the general topic. This time, I offered my customer to use butterfly images as the main theme of the mural. I showed him many glorious artistic photos of butterflies. The customer added some of his own butterfly pictures that he liked.

Unlike the bright colorful photos, we choose a pithy and neat graphic style of drawing, performed in a single color that complements the rich colors of the wooden kitchen cabinets. We chose cherry and white for the color of the future mural, which harmonized well with the interior of the kitchen.

The furniture, the color of the countertop, paintings, hanging on the walls, and even the rug in the room put strong limitations on the color choice of the future tiles. The pursuit of the design is often accompanied by arguments with the customer on the color choice… but they get resolved.

On this stage I already can approximate the exact price of the work and if the customer agrees, we sign a work contract which specifies the price of the project, the size of the advanced payment and the relative date of the project completion. In the case of the project “Butterflies on Flowers” the back splash-mural turned out to be rather cheap -$260. The size of the prepayment is 30% of the overall cost of the project. We made the two-copy agreement.


Now I had to make up the drawing of the mural in pencil. I would like to use a plant ornament, which, repeating in other tiles, would make a beautiful frame for the butterflies. I took a piece of paper and a pencil. The first, second, and third version were drawn, but I didn’t like them. And this one, the fourth version, I adored the most! The frame came out as a rhombus of twisted branches. And the two side-branches made up a flower petal in the corner of the tile. Then, on paper, I drew a model of the side bars and corner tiles.

On the computer I multiplied and put together all of the three kinds of tiles to make a model of the future mural. Yes, now I was sure that these ornaments would be beautiful with my butterflies!

Usually, the first thing I do is to draw one test tile and make a computer simulation of the future mural by copying the picture from the real tile. It is pleasant for me to hear from the customer that this is exactly the design he likes best.

To be sure, it’s not always a bull’s eye at first shot. Sometimes I make 2, 3 or even more versions of tiles-samples and model on the computer to give the customer a choice and pick together the best one.

Here’s an example of how a computer simulation helped the customer and I choose such a crucial detail as the border to the almost finished project “The wild world.” (Click to enlarge.) Interesting, what have the customer chosen?

At last, when the drawing design was thought out, I could take ten white bisque (unglazed) tiles for the mural and begin drawing on them. Six of them were to be illustrated with butterflies, and the rest to be cut into 2 inch wide bars for the border.

The next step was drawing six different butterflies and six different flowers in the center of each tile.

Unlike the tile centers, the surroundings had to be made out of symmetrically identical drawings because otherwise the tiles would not make a right regular rhombus, and the petals would not turn into a flower. For this I made a stencil on my computer and took care that the drawings in the tile corners were identical.

After transferring the drawing onto the tiles with a pencil, I finally took a brush in my hand and started to paint on bisque. On the painting, I had to take into account that the paint colors would dramatically change after glazing. The initial color of the butterflies was pale-pink and not red cherry, as we designed. To make the drawing on the butterfly wings richer, I varied the transparency of the smear of the cherry paint. Prior to glazing, the difference in shade was practically invisible.

The tiles cut into bars also had to be ornamented. On the long edge of each bar I drew a thick line of solid red cherry color, which made a frame for the mural. I also added some shade in the form of small dots in the corners of tiles and borders, to make the font of the central illustration stand out against a darker background.

On the drawing, you can still see pencil marks, but they need not be erased, because they disappear after glazing anyway.

It took three days to make a design for the model and then six more days to ornament the tiles. Then I carried the tiles to the workshop where they were glazed and fired at a temperature of 1000 degrees in a kiln. This took five more days.

Of course, a larger scale order takes much more time. Sometimes, just creating an individual design for the customer takes up a few weeks. If the tile has to cover a surface with a complicated shape (fireplace, backsplash, etc.) then even before I make the drawing, I have to cut the white tiles and only then color and fire it. Sometimes, in the case of a complicated surface, I have to divide the work into two stages:


1. First tiles of a standard size (4x6x8 in.) are drawn, fired and installed, leaving the edges and corners unfilled.
2. Then the rest of the edges are measured, and the bisque is cut so as to match the leftovers exactly. Afterwards it is decorated, fired, and only then, as the second stage, it covers the rest of the surface.

The tiles that came from the glazing and firing are unrecognizable!

They are bright, shiny, with rich shadings of red cherry color.

Here you see the whol collection of tiles “Butterflies on flowers” put together. It is made in the classical style “Izraztsy” – with an individual pattern on each tile. the border of the tile makes a frame of each butterrfly.
In the end, the collection of tiles was packaged and shipped to the customer. My studio was again clean and awaiting new ideas, new orders.


The customer, after receiving the tiles, has to install them in the designated spot. The gluing of hand painted tiles isn’t different from gluing of regular purchased tiles and can be done by any master or even by the customer himself. In some cases (when a complicated design requires an artistic installation) I, for additional charge, install the tiles myself. In this case, the customer and I sign another contract concerning tile installation.