Tortuga tiles are all hand-made using various mold making techniques as outlined below.  Artist and designer LuRu sculpts the original compositions in low relief to create the patterns. She earned her BFA in ceramics from The Ohio State University and her MFA in sculpture from Louisiana State University. In addition to the regular stock tiles, she is able to customize designs or adapt existing tiles to any given framework.  Please submit a quote request or contact for custom quotes. 
Mosaics are adhered to concrete board with thinset concrete. It is therefore weather resistant.  However, the clay tiles are  not completely vitrious and thus are not impervious to the detrimental effects of freezing and thawing.
Tiles are set into place.
After the mastic or thinset has cured overnight, the grout is applied.
As the grout sets up, it is cleaned off with a damp sponge.  As tortuga Tiles have a lot of relief carving a nail brush is used to get the grout out of the carvings.  When the grout has dried, the tiles are buffed with a towel. After 24 hours the grout is then sealed.
Tortuga Tile Works creates tiles to suit a variety of different personalities and aims to produce original and unusual tile pieces. Production schedules vary depending on the scope of the project, but every effort is taken to ensure timely fulfillment of all orders.  Our artisan tiles are availabe for retail, wholesale and custom markets.   For questions regarding sales and specifications please contact LuRu at

The tiles are then dried slowly for 3-7 days.  Next, they are fired to bisque temperature of 1800˚ F  in one of the electric kilns.  It takes 24 hours to heat and then cool the kiln each time it is fired.

Once the tiles are bisque fired they are hand glazed. Most of the glazes are made from collected recipes and experimentation using materials such as feldspars, frits, silica, clay and mineral colorants. Each color is brushed or sprayed onto the tile with three coats.

For multi-piece compositions intended for reproduction, large comprehensive hydrocal molds are produced.  Clay is pressed into the mold with a mallot, the back is impressed with a signature stamp for texture and the design is let to set up for several hours.  Upon release from the mold, individual tiles are then cut.

For 4" square and 3" x 6" subway porcelain tiles, a Hydrocal die is created for the outward appearance of the tile. A textured die is always used for the bottom giving the tiles better adhesion during their installation and has the added benefit of being the signature stamp of Tortuga Tile Works. Tiles are pressed in clay using a 5000 lb rack and pinion, gear driven hand-press.

Plaster molds are used for most regular stock tiles. Once there is a mold, reproductions are made by pressing clay into the mold with a mallot. Each pressed tile gets stamped on the back for texture.
The porcelain tiles are then fired to 2300˚ F and the eartthenware tiles are fired to 2000˚ F in an electric kiln. White gold and decals require and additional lower firing to 1320˚ F.

Tiles can be shipped individually, mounted on mesh for easy installation of multipart mosaics, or cemented and grouted on concrete board.  Tortuga Tile Works does not do installation, but will aid your contractor with instructions and scale diagrams to insure a successful installation.
For contour cut compositions that will only be made once and not molded for reproduction, a slab of clay is rolled out and the design is sculpted and then cut into pieces that flow around the design.  The pieces are  numbered, slowly dried over a 7-10 day period, fired, reassembled, sorted, glazed then fired a second time. Contour cut mosiacs are mounted on mesh for easy installation.
All tiles start in wet clay and are sculpted by hand by LuRu.  The original sculpt is then either made into a non-reproduced contour cut mosaic or cast in plaster or hydrocal in order to make multiples.  Depending on the scope of the project various methods are used to create the tiles.