Studio Series: Andrew Cousins

Photographer and bespoke tile designer Andrew Cousins shows us round his Static studio and his rather unusual design company, Tile Fire…

Hi Andy! Please describe your studio space.

It’s split into two areas – an office area and a workspace – and obviously the workspace has the big kiln in for firing tiles, that’s easily as big as four people standing up! It’s Northern Kilns, probably the best company up in the north to buy your kilns from. It can go up to 1200 degrees, very hot. The guy Adrian who makes them is a proper character. I have two work tables; the first one is set up for screenprinting and application of the designs onto the tiles; and the second table is for loading the tiles into tile cranks, which are 40cm high things that slide the tiles into the kiln. My workspace at the moment doesn’t look like much, but eventually will have the walls tiled with photo-murals. We just had a big week and was really messy, so I tidied up especially. We moved into Static because the price was right, it’s a central location, and it’s the right atmosphere to meet people.

“We moved into Static because it’s the right atmosphere to meet people”

What work do you here?

Basically we make bespoke ceramic tiles, so ones with artwork and designs on, or photo-murals; you can have whatever photo you want, blown up to whatever size. Like a jigsaw – each tile has a little bit of the picture on, kind of like pixels. I’ve got a bluebell forest on the main table here; it was the very first mural I made. Most of my time is spent building the TileFire brand; there’s only four or five other companies like this in the UK. I was originally working as a photographer and looking for different ways to display work; I came across this way and it was very expensive, the companies I contacted charged the world. So I went about finding out how it was made, as it was something I’d never heard of. Before I knew it, I had a business loan and help from Princes Trust! I use special ceramic toners in our printer, and cover coat, then when you put it into the kiln, the actual print melts into the gloss of the tile. That’s how it works.

How many hours a week do you spend here?

Depending on how busy I am, 35 upwards. Last week I ended up working 50 hours because a customer requested the work done in a week, when usually it takes two. That was quite a big order, about 1700 tiles, for a restaurant in London, with lots of different types of designs, on a matt finish, a precise thickness (about 1cm). I had to hand cut them all!

“It’s very relaxing, which is a good thing about working for yourself”

What helps you work?

When I’m actually making the tiles, I watch a lot of TV (laughs)! Because it’s the type of work that’s very repetitive, so I watch a lot of comedy or documentaries and stuff. I’ve been watching a lot of Parks and Recreation. Last week I worked my way right though to the third season. It’s very relaxing, which is a good thing about working for yourself. At the moment it’s fine working on my own but I would like an employee.

What are your three favourite possessions in the studio?

You’re talking about the little boy painting aren’t you! My girlfriend decided to buy that it for our flat, but had it delivered here, and I took one look at it and decided it’d never make it’s way back home! I don’t know the background of it but maybe he’s the son of a sailor? There’s a big wave in the background, and he’s crying; maybe his dad didn’t come home from the fishing trip or something. THE favourite has got to be the kiln; it’s a beast of a piece of equipment. That could probably take up two favourite possessions. The important ones are the kiln, the printer and the computer – they’re the three things I need to work…

If your studio could speak, what would it say?

Use the extractor fan more. The cover-coat stuff I use is pretty stinky. I have an extractor fan but haven’t installed it yet, I need to hook it up out the roof.

If you had one piece of important advice to give to aspiring makers, what would that be?

If you’re a start-up business like me, don’t expect too much too quickly, which I did! Thinking that everything’s going to be working within a couple of months and you’ll be making millions within six months! Don’t get carried away. Always make sure you keep marketing yourself; people don’t’ always remember you. Keep plugging away and eventually things will start working for you. 




Posted on 05/04/2013 by thedoublenegative