search  current discussion  categories  forms - tiles 

outdoor tile and cement

updated sun 31 mar 96


Gwendolyn Yoppolo on fri 15 mar 96

I am delurking once again (hopefully in time before you all pack up
to head to nceca) to ask for guidance in my research about laying ceramic
tile in cement for use in outdoor sculptural projects. Frank Giorgini's
book does not go into the use of cement for laying tile, and my local tile
store advised against it due to cracking (however they sell commercial
tile and may just be playing it safe). The project i am envisioning is
similar to Gaudi's benches in Barcelona, or those at Grant's Tomb in NYC
(in the west 120s and Riverside Dr.). While these seem to have tiles
embedded directly in the cement, the advice i have received so far is to
shape the cement form, let it dry, and use thinset cement to adhere tiles
to the form.
This project will be built in upstate New York, and needs to
be planned to hold up through freezing temperatures. Any advice? Books?
Thanks for the air space,
gwendolyn yoppolo
direct email: on sat 16 mar 96

My Italian grandfather's hobby was casting cement benches, flower pots, and
other garden gewgaws inlaid with tiles, slates, marble, stones, minerals, and
other "found" objects. As I recall, at least for the benches--I'm not sure
about the other forms, he made the form, placed the tile or stone in the
bottom of the form in the pattern he wanted, and then poured in the cement.
It was kind of like making an upside-down cake. The tiles, etc. were also
embedded in the cement on the more complicated forms but I don't recall how
he packed the molds. He made many more benches than other things and I
remember watching him make quite a few. Some of them are older than I am
(45) and are still standing in the gardens for which he made them.

Perhaps you might check to see if there are still any garden centers where
they make these kind of garden fixtures. Or, take a walk around an Italian
neighborhood looking for them and ask their owners if they made them & how.
Four instance, in Paterson, NJ there is an old Italian man who is somewhat
renowned for the stone & tile encrusted cement garden sculptures (including
political figures) that fill every nook and cranny of his yard.

Barbara Rivolta