Birth of a Mural
Del Norte High School - 2003

There are some experiences that can cement the bonds of friendship for a lifetime. Some projects are so special that they seem to take on a life of their own and come up in conversation twenty years later. While we recognize that building a mural is not exactly comparable to walking on the moon, we find that mural construction gives that same sense of group accomplishment.

Please enjoy this step by step guide to the process of building an original ceramic puzzle mural. The guide is illustrated with photographs from the Del Norte High School Mural project. For more information about building ceramic puzzle murals, email Harley Munger.

Process of Building a Mural
Click on any of the pictures for a more detailed photo.

Step 1 : Get all your ducks in a row

So you want to build a mural. Now what? First you need to determine the content of the mural. Is there an overall concept? Will it match any particular theme? Where will it be placed? Do you have a specific goal in mind? Find out what organizations are interested in getting involved with funding and labor. Once you have that information, do an artistic rendering of the design and break it down into puzzle-type shapes that will all fit together.

Step 2: Make your ducks into templates

Transfer the initial design onto plastic templates. Each cut-out should represent a single piece of the puzzle mural. Make sure to number each piece very clearly so that the puzzle can be reassembled with minimal effort.

Step 3: Toss those ducks in the oven

Use the templates to cut out individual puzzle pieces from the clay. Make sure to transfer the numbering system. Then place the puzzle pieces into the kiln and fire at "bisque" temperature, 1915 degrees. Each piece is then individually glazed with the correct color -- all glazes are handmade to the project -- often times students assist in that process, learning both math and chemistry.

Step 4: Assemble the pond

The tiles are fired one more time at their final glaze temperature of 2232 degrees. Allow the tiles to fully cool. The tiles are then removed from the kiln and assembled on a large flat surface, leaving room for grout all around.

Step 5: Tape their feathers in place

They are taped together once assembled for easier installation, making it easier to install and grout the groups rather than the individual tiles. Once again, we make sure that all the proper markings are clearly visible.

Step 6: Make sure they flock together

The groups of tiles are then grouted. The color of grout must be chosen very carefully because it is going to be one of the most prominent colors in the mural. We make sure to use a color that is complimentary to the overall scheme of the design.

Step 7: Release them into the wild

The mural is than cleaned of its grout residue and polished with a soft cloth. A coating of sealer is put on a few days later, when the grout is fully set. Often times larger murals can be installed on a metal frame so that they can be moved if necessary.Students are safely involved in every aspect of the process.

Visit our Public Murals page or

School Murals page


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