General Information

Terra Firma offers a palette of over 75 glaze colors; most characterized by a complex mottling unique to handmade tile. All tile are made to order where any tile, whether flat field or decorative relief or moulding, may be glazed in any of the available glaze colors. We have recently expanded our selection of glazes, so most of the newer ones are still not very well represented on decorative relief tiles in the catalogue portion of the website, but they are still very much available for use on them. To get an idea as to how these newer glazes will appear on decorative relief, please see the detail view on the Color Chart page.

Throughout the website, there are pictured many decorative relief tiles with multiple colors applied (Polychrome). We have done extensive testing of various combinations and those represented have proven to be some of the most successful. If you see a combination of glaze colors that appeals to you on any one deco, it can also be used on any of the decorative relief tile we offer even though it may not be specifically picture on the deco that appeals to you. If you are ever interested in a possible combination that you do not see, we would be glad to advise whether it would be feasible. In other words, we are very flexible.

We have tried to make designing with Terra Firma tile very straight forward. The actual size is 3/16” smaller than the stated nominal size. This makes the tile modular, allowing differing sizes to be combined in any configuration and still maintain the same 3/16” grout joint. Design to the full inch, and the grout joints will take care of themselves. Since all tile are made by hand, there will be slight variations in size and shape, giving the tile an organic quality unique to handmade tile.

Shown on the Design Ideas page are several arrangements of tile in configurations that would be appropriate for centerpieces on a backsplash or fireplace. They can be adapted to different designs by simply substituting decorative relief tile of the same size shown or adding more or less field tile. For use in a backsplash, these centerpieces can be easily set into a surrounding field tile design of your choice. We will be happy to make suggestions that could be helpful in adapting Terra Firma tile to your project.

The primary ambition of Terra Firma is to create tile that is both beautiful and functional. In order to achieve this goal, we think handmade tile should reflect the aesthetics and skill of the artisan who produces it. The typical handmade process lends itself very well to this personal interpretation with no two tile being exactly alike. Our original designs are carved, then made into plaster molds. Wet clay is pressed into these plaster molds, turned out and dried. After drying, the raw tile are bisque fired in preparation for glazing. Glaze is then applied by hand and the finished tile fired in a glaze kiln.

Besides the design, there are two important factors that contribute to the distinctiveness and personality of handmade tile:
Unlike machine made tile, the handmade tile process uses wet clay during the forming stage. Because the clay is wet, the tile shrinks considerably during the drying and firing. The water content of the clay when it is pressed will affect the amount of shrinkage. Thus, as the water content varies, so does the final size. Handmade tile are also handled quite often while being formed. The tile will take on signs of this handling, especially when the clay is malleable. Both shrinkage and handling combine in the final tile installation to create very subtle variations with an organic vibrancy and life of its own.

Glaze application and chemistry are also very important. We prefer brush application as it gives a large degree of control to the skilled artisan who must master the idiosyncrasies of each tile design and glaze color in order to achieve the desired results. Thus shrinkage, handling, glaze application and firing all contribute to the natural, desirable imperfections that help give handmade tile its richness and beauty.

All tile are handmade from stoneware clay that is high fired, making it frost resistent and suitable for both indoor and outdoor applications in milder climates. Common uses include fireplace surrounds and hearths, kitchen backsplashes, bathrooms and showers. The non-reactive chemical resistance of our glazes also make them well suited for swimming pools and fountains.
How to purchase Terra Firma Tile:
Email a list of what you would like including quantity, item name, item number (where appropriate), and glaze color along with your shipping address and phone number. We will return email an Order Confirmation detailing all costs with an estimated ship date. Upon your approval of the confirmation, we will then email an Invoice via Paypal that can be paid with any major credit card (a Paypal account is not required). Shipping via UPS Ground.
Availability and Delivery:
ALL TILE ARE MADE TO ORDER and are available in all colors. We try to keep an ample supply of bisque tile in stock so that tile only need to be glazed to order. Delivery time depends on the size of the order and our prior commitments. Most orders are 3 to 5 weeks. Larger orders (more than 200 sq ft) can be 6 to 8. Tile are shipped insured via UPS or Motor Freight, FOB Terra Firma, Ltd.
Installation and Grout:
All tile are suitable for interior or exterior applications. Due to the inherent characteristics of handmade ceramic tile, variations as to sizing, color and shade are normal and desirable. All tile should be inspected and projects laid out to check fit prior to installation. Tile are designed for use with a 3/16” grout joint. A high quality, polymer modified sanded grout is highly recommended for these wider grout joints. Installation procedures should conform to those prescribed in the Tile Council of North America Publication “Handbook of Ceramic Tile Installation”.
Handmade Tile - Dragonskin