Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Mad Hatter

It's "Alice In Wonderland" fever right now, with Tim Burton's retelling of the classic story opening today. Excitement began to brew all the way back in July of 2009, when the first previews became available. I wasn't actually inspired to reread the book until this January, and what grabbed me most wasn't the nonsensical story-line as much as the amazing illustrations by John Tenniel. The wonderful lines and perfect sense of whimsy in his illustrations had me staring at them and jumping ahead of the written word to see what he'd depict next.

After surveying the book twice, I knew it wasn't Alice I wanted to carve, but the fanciful animals and imaginary characters that Tenniel brought to life. I began to collect and format the illustrations that pleased me the most, in anticipation of carving. My first thought was to create small tiles to add to my magnet and ornament series, but after I began to format the images, I knew that I wanted to make them into larger collectible tiles, and 4x4" just felt like the perfect size.

So what to carve first? The Cheshire Cat? Mock Turtle and Griffin? The White Rabbit? The thing that kept grabbing me was the crazy bowtie, waistcoat and collar, and overall dramatic posture of the Mad Hatter. And since I don't usually carve people, I liked the challenge of the image.

My process begins with formatting the image to the correct size of the tile - It has to be carved 11% larger in wax to end up as a 4x4" finished tile - that's the shrinkage of my clay body. I put the image into photoshop, clean up the details, and print it out. I lay the drawing on top of a blank sheet of wax that I've poured and trace around the lines, leaving an impression on the wax that gives me the starting point for my carving. Then the fun begins! You can see photos of the process of me carving fossil tiles on my flickr page.

After pouring a plaster mould I press the mould into a slab of soft clay, let it dry, bisque fire it, glaze, and re-fire the tile. I was really excited to see the first glazed tile, and here it is, next to the drawing I used for the layout.

Find it in my Etsy Shop at

So what tile is next? I'll give you a hint - I'm halfway through the carving...and Abbey is helping me out by modeling her lovely catness!


Blogger Judith Frederick said...

absolutely lovely work, as usual.

March 5, 2010 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger Linda Ellett said...


March 5, 2010 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger BusyBeadLady said...

very cool!

March 16, 2010 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger Smallbizstories said...

I look forward to rest! I vote for the dodo next ;)

March 18, 2010 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Linda Ellett said...

Thanks! The dodo is definitely in the running...but I hope to finish up the Cheshire Cat this weekend!

March 18, 2010 at 2:15 PM  

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