Clay on the Wall: An Introduction to Hanging Ceramic Wall Pieces

wall-piece-695

If you are interested in taking your ceramic art from the tabletop to the wall, but aren’t quite sure how to do it, you’re probably not alone. There are many different ways to hang ceramic wall art 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, in an excerpt from her book Wall Pieces, Dominique Bivar Segurado goes over several materials and methods for hanging ceramic wall art. – Jennifer Poellot Harnetty, editor.


The Ultimate Guide to Hanging Clay on the Wall

by Dominique Bivar Segurado

Every ceramic art hanging material – 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.


This was excerpted from Wall Pieces, which is available in the Ceramic Arts Shop.


Hanging Materials for Ceramic Wall Art

wallpieces_03-300x268Ceramic lugs and wire can be used to hang smaller scale wall works as shown in this detail of Stoneware Wall Block.Ceramics 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. 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

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 work.

Perspex/Acrylic

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.

wallpieces_wire

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.

**First published in August 2012
Comments
  • The concept of clay on walls – and ceilings – has called to me for years. I would however, encourage anyone wishing to try this to please ask someone with more technical knowledge in metals. Aluminum IS solderable, and with the proper tools any wire, even stainless steel, is easily manipulated. And please don’t limit yourself to wire. Brackets of all kinds are easily fabricated to support even the largest of clay pieces. It is best to engineer the clay piece to accept a bracket mount, be it metal or wood.

    Silicone adhesive/caulking is also a good glue to use on ceramics, as it bonds to the silica/quartz at a molecular level (a form of silastic bonding). The ideal here is clay piece mounted on glass, but any silicone adhesive formulated to stick to metals or woods will do nicely. The bond is quite durable and needless to say, waterproof.

  • A tile shop I once visited had an ingenious way of hanging heavy tile sample boards by gluing the tiles onto a wood backing and then hanging the piece from metal carpet edging. one piece of the edging was attatched to the tiles and one piece was attatched to the wall. The “tile” metal piece slides down into the groove of the wall “metal” piece. You can cut the metal to fit the size of your piece.

  • I have been working on ceramic murals for almost 20 years and the best method for my work is using wood. My icons are mounted on wood (either as a frame or as a backing) and I use contact cement. Once you have glued it…there is no way to separate the parts!. I have used it even for metal as a base for ceramics/ I also use it for adhere sculptures to wood. You can see my work in anacaravias.multiply.com

    E-6000 is great to use for fused glass because it does not show and it does not yellow.

  • I use plywood adhered on the reverse with urethane (Gorilla glue) or sometimes epoxy. I usually use pins through the plywood into the ceramic for a mechanical joint in addition to the adhesive (much like Harvey’s description above, although sometimes drilled afterwards with a carbide-tipped ‘glass’ or ‘masonry’ drill bit). The plywood back is smaller than the ceramic, with beveled edges. The excess hardened adhesive is ground/sanded away, then any imperfections are filled with black caulking, or simply painted black if no imperfections. The plywood has a pair of leveled keyhole-type slots routed into the reverse for hanging. After assembly and finishing I make a cardboard template to facilitate placement of screws and hanging on the wall. Here are some examples: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2027864&id=1493786289&l=e7ee2f2ca0

  • My clay tile mosaics are large-ish, high relief and heavy. After much experiment, I found a type of particle board called “Hunter Board” in a half-inch thickness, the best for mounting my work. It does not warp, and takes both adhesive and paint well. When the work is ready for mounting, I make a paper or cardboard template of the outline for cutting the wood. Also after experimenting, my adhesive of choice is a product called “Household Goop”, or “Marine Goop” (all the Goop types seems to perform equally well). This adhesive has excellent hold, and does not seem to be affected by humidity changes (no problems with it in pieces over 20 years old). The hanging device is one I learned from another artist – two interlocking wooden brackets – one affixed to the wall, one affixed to the mounting board of the piece itself, in lengths cut to suit the weight and size of the work.

  • My clay tile mosaics are large-ish, high-relief and heavy. After much experiment, I have found that a form of particle board called “Hunter Board”, in a half-inch thickness, the best for mounting my work. It does not warp, and takes both adhesive and paint well. Also after much experiment, my adhesive of choice is a product called “Household Goop”, or “Marine Goop” (all the Goop line of adhesives seem to work equally well). This adhesive has excellent hold and stays somewhat resilient, and does not react to changes in humidity (no problems with pieces made over 20 years ago). For hanging I use a device I learned from another artist – two interlocking pieces of wood, one attached to the wall and one glued-and-screwed to the back of the work itself.

  • I agree on the silicone caulk. It is flexible, waterproof (good for fountains!) and removable. The fine print says “up to 400F” so in dire circumstances a trip thru the oven will let you start over!

  • I use the product, “Liquid Nails” to attach ceramic pieces to wood and other things. Also use it for attaching sculptural clay components together – sometimes using threaded metal rods between them…

    Liquid Nails comes in tubes and in cans (like paint cans).

  • Stainless steel or Dyneema fishing line is very strong. The Dyneema line is very light,comes in many colors,and can be purchased in line weights that can hold well over 100lbs for reasonable cost per foot.

  • i have pottery frames already fired and glaced which i first wanted them to put on a shelve, now i would like to hang them but don’t have anything on the back to hang them with. do you have any suggestion what i can use.

    regards

    lorraine from malta

  • Hi I am looking for some advice.
    I am commissioning a large format printed 6ft square diabond substrate that will support ceramic pieces being attached to the front with a strong adhesive.

    i need to make sure the diabond substrate will carry the weight of the ceramic pieces, and I need the glue/cement to a) work and b) not to be corrosive to the printed diabond. I thought if the ceramic pieces couldn’t be bonded directly to the diabond, perhaps I could mount them on clear perspex plaques and mount those to the diabond?
    I would appreciate any advice?

  • Liquid nails (construction grade) utilized with wood and unglazed ceramic failed on some large tile mounted in wood frames. This was an embarrassing and potentially dangerous as it occurred after purchase in a client’s home. Avoid liquid nails and use 100% silicone caulk. It binds successfully to both materials.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Enter Your Log In Credentials
This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.

Larger version of the image

Send this to a friend