A-Z of Ceramics - E is for Encaustic
The term encaustic, literally meaning 'burnt in', is given to several quite different artistic processes. In ceramics it usually describes objects, often tiles, with decoration inlaid into their surface using clay of a contrasting colour. Wedgwood, however, also used the term to describe Greek-style vases with decoration painted onto their surface using coloured clay slip.
Medieval inlaid tiles were decorated by stamping the clay with a carved wooden block. The indentations were then filled with white pipe clay. In the 19th century, these tiles were called 'encaustic'. Today the term normally refers to Victorian inlaid tiles. These were made in a similar way, but instead of stamping the design into the tile, the clay was pressed into a mould with the design in relief at the bottom. Once the tile was removed from the mould, the indentations could be filled with a contrasting clay. Mechanised processes using powdered clay to form the tile body and inlaid design were also used by some manufacturers.