Art to dye for

Talk about a wow factor. “Wow” is exactly what Rick Miller hears practically every time someone looks at his murals on tile.

The murals feature photographs incorporated onto a series of ceramic tiles.

Miller said it is the photographs’ clarity, vividness and intense colors that elicit the response he gets when showing his artwork to others.

Customized for each person, the tile murals can be mounted and hung like any other piece of fine art, attached directly to a wall like a traditional mural, incorporated into a kitchen backsplash or used in a tile bathroom.

They are so versatile because the images are a permanent part of the tiles.

“You can’t wipe it off,” he said of the image.

Using a wide-format printer and special paper and inks, Miller creates his murals tile by tile. When the inks are put under intense heat and pressure, they are turned into gasses, which permanently enter the pores of the tiles and solidify when cool. This makes the photo an indelible part of the tile, Miller said.

Miller said he discovered the process, called dye sublimation, at a franchise show here in Las Vegas, but it was used more for creating marketing items such as tile coasters, mugs, T-shirts and mouse pads.

“The image was stunning,” he said of the first tile coaster he saw. “I took it from there.”

Miller said one of the biggest challenges is manipulating the photographs so that the images split correctly when put on the tiles and wrap around the tiles’ sides to provide a more seamless mural. But, he added, his nearly 30-year career as a stage hand and lighting artist for Broadway shows has honed his artistic eye so that he has a good feel for what will look right.

Because of the skill needed to put the images on the tiles, Miller said he considers himself an artist and the murals themselves fine art.

The individual tiles are available in sizes ranging from 4.25-12 inches. The sizes of murals are limited only by the resolution of the photos to be transferred to the tiles and the weight of the tiles themselves. The weight issue, however, can be less of a problem if the tiles are mounted directly to the wall instead of creating a mounted wall hanging, Miller said.

“The higher the resolution, the larger the mural can be.”

In addition to photographs, Miller said he can put computer-generated graphic images onto the tiles.

Three finishes are available: high-gloss, satin (matte) and Old World (tumbled stone). Miller said the murals look best in the high-gloss finish, where the images seem to literally pop off the surface, but that the satin finish is slightly more durable.

“The Old World tumbled stone finish is good for a backsplash, especially in a Tuscan-style kitchen,” he said.

Miller has been creating his tile murals for about a year, although he has been taking photographs for most of his life. He said his experience in theater has taught him a great deal about how proper lighting enhances the image.

“You really need to see them to appreciate them,” he said. “And I’m happy to come around and show them to you.”

They also can be viewed at several locations throughout the area.

Recently, he arranged for several of his tiles to be sold at the gift store at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Visitors Center. Tiles on sale at the center feature photographs taken in the conservation area.

Also, this month and throughout July, Miller’s artistic murals can be seen at the Costco in Summerlin, where he is serving as the executive business member of the month.

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