Decorating Ceramics / Whitewares

Decal Detail

Digital decal technology completes major tile project for Glasgow subway station.

FotoCeramic, a specialist in digital decals, announced it has successfully met the challenge of providing all the tile transfers for a major piece of public art at

Digital decal technology

FotoCeramic’s transfers were used on this 12-m mural at Glasgow’s Hillhead subway station.
(Photo courtesy of SPT.)

Glasgow’s Hillhead Subway station—a 12-m-long mural recently unveiled to city travellers. The ambitious artwork, which dominates the back wall of the station, was created by the well-known Scottish artist Alasdair Gray and was commissioned by Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), which owns and operates the system.

The project included fellow artist Nichol Wheatley and his team from Perfect Circle Art, and involved the development of a pioneering method of working with ceramics to deliver Gray’s artistic vision. It has reportedly been the most complex work yet undertaken by the FotoCeramic team, which has many years’ experience in the ceramic decorating field.

“We were delighted to be chosen to supply the tile transfers for this 12 x 2-m decorative panel,” said Howard Quinn, FotoCeramic director. “We worked well with Perfect Circle Art and, in terms of both scale and color, this was a job that required very close attention to detail. I think they realized that the expertise to deliver on this project was to be found here in Stoke-on-Trent, and everyone involved up in Glasgow is delighted with the results.”

Technically challenging, this could be the first time a work on this scale has been attempted in quite this way. Alasdair Gray—a favorite cultural son of Glasgow—attempted something novel in often having complete buildings in his giant artwork cut around as individual tiles. This resulted in a large ceramic jigsaw rather than a standard piece of repeat tiling.

The use of ceramic was key to the success of the project, particularly because of the constantly changing underground temperatures in the subway. In total, the mural took two years to complete. In order to produce the transfers to fit perfectly, each hand-cut porcelain tile set new standards in accuracy of fit and consistency of fired color for digital ceramic technology. It is thought that nobody has ever made digital ceramic transfers on this scale before for application to polished porcelain tiles.

“It was a hugely difficult technical thing to try and translate Alasdair’s incredible drawing into the tiles, because nobody’s ever cut porcelain to make this kind of jigsaw as far as I’m aware of before,” said Nichol Wheatley, director of Perfect Circle Art. “That was the technical challenge we faced.”

Howard Quinn added, “This is by far the most difficult and time-consuming contract that FotoCeramic has worked on, but it’s all been worth it—especially when you consider that the fruits of our work will be seen by thousands of commuters every day for many, many years.” 

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