I’ve spent the past month creating my latest tile boards. These will be on display at the 14th Annual Tile and Art Festival on November 2nd and 3rd at the Mt. Baker Community Club in Seattle. I can’t wait to see what my fellow tile makers bring this year. I’m especially excited for the “Salish Sea” juried show. My entry “Ghosts of the Salish Sea”, shown above, depicts sea otters which once flourished in the waters along the coast of Washington. If you’re in town that weekend be sure to check it out – this show features some very talented people.
Well it was a very busy weekend. Despite all the rain and that amazing lightning storm on Saturday night, I installed the second garage panel. I really enjoyed doing this project but, it took nearly the whole summer to make the tiles, and it feels amazing to finish it! Still have some cleaning and polishing to do but I’m ready to start thinking about the next project.
I haven’t posted any of my tilework for awhile but I’ve been working on a few different things. I’ve got the concept for “Garage Panel 2” done but I’ll save the sketches for that project for a separate post down the road. The panel will, once again, feature animals of the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be using the orca tiles again but in a different way. I will also include the octopus tile I designed last year. I was never happy with the way the octopuses interlocked so this year I designed a squid companion for them. I’m using this incredible underglaze that Amaco makes called “Flame Orange”. It holds up to a cone 5 firing so much better than their other reds and oranges. I also designed a pair of interlocking sea otters that will float above the deep sea creatures. I’m showing them clustered together but there will be a lot of blank tiles separating them on the panel.
Although I won’t be incorporating it into the garage project, I recently redesigned the flying fish tile I made last year. This version is a bit more sculptural and a little less grumpy than it’s predecessor. I’ve also been experimenting with stamps to make ceramic frames. They’ve proven to be more challenging than I anticipated (lots of warping and cracking) but I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. I’m hoping to make a few to display more elaborately detailed individual tiles.
Last month I traveled to Grand Rapids Michigan to spend some time with family there. While searching for a place to have lunch in the downtown area, we were struck by the the city’s commitment to public art. There were beautiful murals everywhere. Maybe it has something to do with the local art school, Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University. Most impressive to me were two multi-media pieces: “Imagine That!” (2009) by Tracy Van Duinen, Corey Van Duinen, and Todd Osborne and “The Metaphorest Project” (2011) by Tracy Van Duinen, Todd Osborne, Phil Schuster, and Andy Bellomo. These two murals combined handmade tiles, mosaics, trompe l’oeil painting, printmaking, and sculpture in such imaginative ways. My photos don’t do them justice.
Look what came out of the kiln today – my first insect tile planters!
I made this series of insect tiles to use on the upper panel of my garage project. It will be awhile until I have the time to do that project so I decided to make some planters with these tiles in the meantime. I’ve made planters from tiles before but they were much larger and used many more tiles. These are relatively quick to make and nice for small house plants. I’ll be posting them in my Etsy shop soon, except for the yellow one. I’m keeping that one for myself. 🙂
To see a demonstration of how they’re made check out the video on my Etsy shop “About” page: https://www.etsy.com/shop/GoodPressCeramics
Well my kiln broke last weekend so tile production is on hold until Seattle Pottery Supply sends someone out to fix it. In the meantime, I’ve been playing around with stamps and vessels. I made a few new stamps and I’ve been experimenting with pressing them into different types of clays. The act of pressing can be a little tricky. I think the patterns look better when they’ve been pressed deeply into the clay but this often results in cracking during drying or firing. Hopefully, some of the clay bodies I’m testing out will be more resilient.
I’ve been enjoying the new slab roller so much that I decided to buy an extruding gun. The Super Duper Clay Gun (yes, that’s what it’s called) is amazing! It only comes with a small round die but you can purchase additional ones. They even sell a set that allows you to make hollow shapes. It’s really, really fun. So far I’ve only used it to make feet for a couple of vessels but I can’t wait to make other things with it.
I’m always trying to keeps things simple in the studio (and in life) but here’s an instance where my efforts were kind of backfiring. For the past 5 years or so, I’ve insisted on rolling out all my slabs the old fashioned way – with rolling pins. The problem is, this is difficult to do without a lot of patience (which I don’t always have). I knew if I wanted to enjoy making vessels it was time to invest in a slab roller. I don’t have much space in the studio and they typically require 8 to 10 square feet. I’d seen table top versions but they seemed kind of cheap. Then, I came across one on Etsy that looked pretty good so I bought it. https://www.etsy.com/listing/449252632
So far, I’m very impressed. It was designed by the husband of a potter who was dealing with some of the same challenges. It’s well constructed of steel and wood (no plastics) and, although it required some assembly, the instructions were clear. The only flaw with this roller is that there should be measurements near the adjustment knobs. I printed out rulers and taped them on.
I couldn’t wait to try it out so I decided to make some mugs based on the “darted cups” by ceramic artist Liz Zlot Summerfield who posted a great demonstration video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w63bZyZ9svo
Everything went smoothly at first. I build the cups, painted the sides with underglaze, and carved my coffee beans. Then I made the mistake of attaching the handles at two points. My clay body is not very forgiving and all the handles broke. I managed to scrape them off but it’s kind of odd having tea cups decorated with coffee beans. I did make one cup with a different handle design that works as a mug but I’m still exploring other ideas. It’s so nice to be making vessels again 🙂
When people think of handmade tiles, they often assume the tiles will be used as accents in a field of conventional tiles. When I received a request to do a fireplace surround composed of 85 of my monkey tiles, I was surprised but very excited to take on the challenge. In order to complete the project in a timely fashion, I had to make several monkey molds and press tiles throughout the day for several days straight to allow for adequate drying time. It was a very different way of working for me but I’m so pleased with the results. I especially love the wallpaper that was selected to surround the fireplace. It compliments the tiles beautifully (or maybe the tiles compliment the wallpaper).
I’m so excited to be be displaying my latest “Scratching Dog” portrait tiles at this year’s PNA Winter Festival on December 1st and 2nd. There will be over 120 artists and craftspeople selling their work, as well as, live music and food. I’ve never been to this event but I’ve heard it’s a lot of fun. Please check it out if you’re in the area!