6th Grade Ceramic Mural

Five years ago, when my children’s elementary school did not have an art program, I persuaded the Principal to allow me to work with the 6th grade students to create a permanent ceramic tile mural on the school’s exterior walls.

I had been involved with creating ceramic murals at another school, so I knew the process. The Principal enthusiastically got on board and with the teacher’s cooperation, 70 6th graders hand-built their own tile which formed our first ever mural.

Our school’s interior “bowl” now boats five murals. This year’s mural is extra special as it’s my daughter’s 6th grade class and my last year as a parent of an elementary school child. Our theme this year is California Marine Life, based on the children’s experience at the Catalina Island Marine Institute 6th grade camp (or CIMI as it’s known to Californians).

The process of creating a tile mural is outlined in my downloadable art booklet, Ceramic Mural Project Plan. If you are thinking of creating this type of mural and have no idea how to go about it, I explain my process in full detail (including how to avoid the big mistakes!).

Here is a peek inside the making of our spectacular mural…


After the tiles were dried and fired, the children got busy painting with underglaze.

Here is what the tiles look after the first step…

…and then after the piece is fired, painted, glazed, fired again and mounted. Whew!


This is my daughter’s Shovel Nose Guitar Fish she made with her friend.


Isn’t this Rockfish beautiful?

I love the pops of red interspersed throughout the mural. Thanks to the octopus tiles!

Lots of Bat Rays and Sting Rays…

Can’t forget the California Sea Lions!

Congratulations to the Class of 2011 for creating this stunning California Sea Life mural! I’m so proud of all their hard work, keen interest and desire to do their best. Your legacy to Brandon School is now complete!


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  • Mary

    The mural looks WONDERFUL Patty! Your students did a a beautiful job with their tiles. I’m sure they’re very proud to see it put together (as of course you should be!)

  • April Benham

    What a great project. I have followed your ideas on the last murals and we put 6 panels together at our school in Cambria, California. Thanks for your help. Your wed site is amazing.
    April

  • Julie

    Wow! It looks wonderful! Can you tell us what the finished size is? Also could you post some pictures that show where it is installed and what the area looks like? I would like to propose a similar project at my school and the more photos I can show them, the better!

    • Patty

      Hi Julie, I’ll take a picture later on today and add it to the post but in the meantime, each tile is approx. 5″ x 6″. The total size is approx. 70″ x 60″. Every year, my mural end sup being a different size, but only by 6″ or so. You should try and do one. It creates such a feeling of pride within the students.

  • Anne Farrell

    I love this, it’s amazing! I’d love to do something similar with my students one day. Thanks for posting.

  • Hallie

    wow! this is beautiful! i love that every 6th grader is involved…that is really fun for them!! what a fun theme too!!

  • Dianna

    How do you mount the tiles?

    • Patty

      I didn’t mount the tiles personally. Our school district contractors used backer board, regular tile glue and grout. Hope this helps.

  • Vivian Mahoney

    This mural is simply beautiful, Patty! I am so impressed. Your students must be so proud of their work!

  • Rebecca Orf

    I absolutely love this mural. It is truely a work of art. I love your blog/website as well. I just landed my first art teaching job and am so very thankful I found your page. Thanks for the great ideas. I hope to be able to give back in some way.

  • Jessica - The ART of Education

    I don’t know how you do it, Patty! The mural comes together with such ease, but also boasts such individuality! I am blown away. I preach to never stress during clay again…More about that here: http://theartofed.com/2011/02/04/never-stress-during-clay-again/
    ….. but doing something like this makes me nervous. I will have to read your project plan if I ever attempt this. Have a wonderful summer with your family.

  • andrea

    Oh my goodness! This is the BEST! I want to do this-thank you for sharing!!

  • Kelly Yerby

    The elementary school that I teach at has a central courtyard that begs to be enhanced with outdoor installations of children’s art.

    Your charming mural idea is going onto my “To Create” List for the courtyard.

    Thank You!!

    Kelly Yerby, East Lansing Schools

  • Amy Smith

    I am blown away by this mural. I tried something (on a much smaller scale) last year however all of the tiles cracked and we were not able to complete the project! Any tips would be great!!

  • marisa

    I would love to do something like this with our church RE class. Could you suggest an alternative way if we can not use a kiln. also ages range from kindergarten to meddle school. Any suggestions/ IF not tiles do you have suggestions with this age range . We display the childrens work in our Church gallery each March.

    • Patty

      Hi Marisa,
      Not using clay would turn the project into something entirely different. If a collage-type mural appeals to you, you can use small pieces of canvas or wood and have the children create individual pieces that would be grouped together. The ideas are endless so it’s hard to answer your question exactly. Hope this helps.

  • marisa

    Ilove this idea. Our church RE class does a project each year to display in our gallery each March. WE dont have access to a kiln so this advanced project is not possible, do you have alternative ideas? Either usingor another media. Our kids range from kindergarten to middle/hs

  • Cindy deRosier

    This is stunning. I absolutely love it.

  • shaista

    I appreciate your effort. Wonderful work.

  • Keahi Brown

    What kind of clay did you use? Cone? Glaze recommendations?

  • Mary McElveen

    Would you please send me a guide to go by to make the California Marine Life and the Nautical tile Mural. Those two are made with clay and it looks like they are framed. Also if I could get it on you tube please let me know.

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