Published Jan 14, 2022
If you are interested in taking your ceramic art from the tabletop to the wall, but aren’t quite sure what goes into hanging ceramic wall pieces or tiles, you’re probably not alone. There are many different ways of hanging ceramic wall pieces and it can be overwhelming to figure out the best way, especially for those just starting out.
Clay presents particular challenges as wall art because of its weight and fragility, but innovative ceramic artists have found a multitude of ways to successfully get their clay on the wall. Today, Dominique Bivar-Segurado goes over several materials and methods for hanging ceramic wall pieces. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor
PS: For some inspiration, see beautiful ceramic wall tiles by Jason Green in his recent Ceramics Monthly article! And see Ceramic Arts Network's Ceramic Sculpture section to see more great examples of ceramic wall art!
Every material for hanging ceramic wall pieces – wood, clay, Perspex, metal or glass – has its own attraction and if used successfully will not only support the ceramics, but will also enhance the final outcome. You don’t need to be a specialist in using these materials, but it does help if you understand how your chosen medium will support the work. A builders’ merchant, timber yard or trade shop can be a good starting point, as they should be able to give some basic advice on the materials they have for sale. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and explain clearly what you want to use the material for, as they might be able to advise and point you in the right direction. Conducting your own tests on a small-scale sample can be a wise investment of time and money. Before you spend a fortune on materials ask the suppliers if they have any off-cuts. For example, as I often use glass with my work, I have in my studio a selection of glass off-cuts, which vary in thickness and sandblasted surface texture.
This also applies to fixings and fittings as it might be hard to envisage them against the work. Try asking for a test sample, or one fitting, before committing to a large order. This will also give you an idea of scale, and how the fitting is to be attached to the ceramics and the wall. The following are some examples and suggestions of materials that can be used to hang ceramics.
Materials for Hanging Ceramic Wall Pieces
Ceramic lugs and wire can be used to hang smaller scale wall works as shown in this detail of Stoneware Wall Block. Ceramics itself can be used in many forms to support wall pieces. One of the easiest is to create a simple loop on the back of the piece. It is essential to note that the loop(s) must be of a reasonable size and thickness to support the weight as ceramics, though strong under compression, does not respond well to distortion and pressure. The larger the work, the more loops or holes are needed to spread the weight. Equally, if you are boring a hole in your work to thread wire through, it must not be too near an edge, as otherwise the weight of the work may break off the corner or edge where the hole has been made. The hole needs to be well within the piece, but without being visible.
Wire and String
If the wall piece is to be hung like a canvas or a picture in a frame, wire can be one of the simplest and most suitable materials to use for hanging ceramic wall pieces. There are varying thicknesses of wire that can be used: picture wire is good for lightweight pieces; thicker, galvanized wires are recommended for heavier pieces. When hanging ensure the weight is distributed. Most wires can be found in hardware shops, often by the yard or meter, and the shop should be able to recommend a wire providing you know the weight of the work.
Wood is an excellent resource as it comes in many forms, colors, textures and hardnesses. It is also widely available, and has the advantage that it can be glued onto, screwed into, nailed, drilled and painted. The use of wood can vary from being a backing material to acting as a frame for the piece – or both. Many makers do use wood as a backing material as it is durable and easily obtained. A wooden surface is something to consider seriously if the wall you will be working on is uneven, cracked or unsuitable in some way, or might not be a permanent location. If the wall is very large, it might be worth considering employing a contractor. Wood has the advantage of allowing nails and fittings to be drilled in at odd angles as required. If the backing material can be cut or dug into, like wood, a key fitting (see image) can be used. A small recess is created with a chisel and the key fitting is placed in the recess and fixed with two small wood screws. The recess creates a space for the screw head to fit in, to support the piece when hung on the wall.
The illustrations to the left show an easy way to hang a small wooden-backed wall piece. First it is important to check for any wiring or pipes. The space is measured between the two fittings and the correct distance is allowed. A straight line is drawn on the wall and the first drill hole is made for the rawlplug. Once the rawlplug is in position and the screw put in, the level is checked with a spirit level; the next hole is drilled and screwed, and the level is checked again. The fittings on the back of the piece are designed to be supported by the head of the screws.The piece is then hung and the level checked once more. Wood can also be used as a frame, to enhance and unify the piece. Placing ceramics in a frame can also provide a secure and practical approach to hanging the ceramic wall pieces.
Perspex, also known as acrylic, acrylic glass or plexiglass, is a successful material to use as a backing: it is durable, weather resistant, soundproof, lightweight and easy to drill into and join ceramics to. Another advantage is that it can be obtained in many forms – clear, opaque, colored – and also in varying thicknesses, so there is vast scope to interact with the wall surface or disguise it if needed. As a material Perspex also has a very modern feel, if that is what you need.
For Belgian artist Jeanne Opgenhaffen, who works with thin pieces of colored and printed porcelain, Perspex makes an ideal clear white lightweight backing. In “How the Wind Blows,” (shown at the top of the page) each individual piece is positioned on the surface of the Perspex. The Perspex is then attached to the wall by a wall bracket fixing. It could be described as a ledge with a lip (on the wall) and then the Perspex slots on to this ledge.