Preserving an aptitude for craftmanship

March 15, 2013

Hathern Terra Cotta has over 100 years of experience with traditional hand pressed architectural Terra Cotta and Faïence since it was first established in 1874. This experienced factory supplies both bespoke and standard range Architectural components. Products can be specifically designed to integrate with the wider, extensive product range offered by MBH.

Since 2009, when Hathern Terra Cotta was moved to the Charnwood plant, it has had the pleasure in hand-crafting the built environment that surrounds us. The Savoy Hotel and Victoria and Albert Museum are just a couple of prestigious projects it has had the privilege to work on.

Handed down

David Maddocks, Business Development Manager, proudly says, “the manufacture of Architectural Terra Cotta is art not engineering and we pride ourselves on preserving this artistic skill.”

The skills and experience of the management and production team that have been handed down over the generations, continue to deliver the highest standards of imagination and expertise in their craft.

The process followed at Hathern Terra Cotta is based on customer service and each specification evolves with the client, through communication of the manufacturing program. The team will often invite you to the factory to explain this process and to experience the tactile nature of this inspiring material.

The surface of the block is hand finished to remove any imperfections, seam lines and to ensure a smooth surface.

Comprehensive and diverse

David continues, “Our resources enable us to provide comprehensive and diverse services, throughout the manufacturing process. For specialised bespoke art or restoration pieces (our true passion), we will explain the stages that are crucial to ensuring the best end product.”

This begins at survey and design, where shop drawings containing detailed measurements and profiles are taken from each unit type to be replaced. Information from the shop drawings is then used to make zinc profile templates for the models and moulds stage. Lengths of plaster are then run with the template and cut to length to make closers or returns.

Precision

The precision required can be visible through specific joggle joints, ensuring each section can be correctly re-assembled for use. The protection of the finished product is paramount at MBH and is consistently at the forefront of the design when beginning to creating intricate moulds. The Terra Cotta piece must be able to strip away from the mould without damage.

The pressing stage is where the factory can get involved with the clay, with each batch processed on site to the specific requirements of the project. The moulds are filled by hand pressing the clay to the extents of the profile, where supporting webs will be incorporated in the walls as required to help maintain shape during drying and firing.

Once the mould has been stripped away from the surface of the block, it is then hand finished to remove any imperfections and seam lines. It will be air dried for a few days before mechanical dryers remove the remaining moisture during a five day operating cycle.

Nick a craftsman from Hathern Terra Cotta presenting a bespoke cornice return unit of Faïence , for the restoration of the Strand Palace Hotel in London.

For Architectural Faïence each section will require glazing prior to being loaded into the kiln. Metal Oxide glazes are sprayed onto the surface of the block in layers.

The blocks are loaded on to kiln cars and wheeled into the kiln. Our products are fired to 1170 degrees centigrade and the firing cycle lasts for 4 days. Once fired the units are checked then packed on pallets for delivery to site.

During the manufacture of such an intricate product, a committed team of specialised craftsman can be working on the fabrication of one component. The dedication and patience, that are intertwined in this tactile process are a crucial skill provided by the employees at MBH.

Frank Hanna, Group Commercial Director of MBH quotes William Morris, “We are only trustees for those who come after us.” Frank continues stating, “It is vital that we protect our built environment, by learning with traditional craft to visualise a contemporary future. The professional service at Hathern Terra Cotta promotes innovation and is always looking towards the next challenging restoration or design rarity to create and preserve.”

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