Monday, May 31, 2010

A Tile Story

The top tile is in the style of the first one I made about 11 years ago. Previous to this tile, I began experimenting with tile making and they were more "commercial" with thick, glossy glazes. They were nice, but my heart wasn't entirely in them. I equated them more with money than a personal artistic expression. After spending several months on this other commercial tile, I was reading an article in an art magazine about a painter who paints seeds into her canvas. As the son of a gardener, I was already inclined towards seeds and plants, so this article piqued my interest.

At that moment, I abandoned all my previous efforts and began making tiles with nine bumps as shown above. I combined the painter's idea with my experience of a seed bulging the soil just before the first stem breaks the surface. After 10 years of making, they have evolved from the original.

From the original tile with the implied sprouting seed, I began to apply slip to the tiles. Again, the first ones are quite different but the idea remains. Over the years, I've experimented with different patterns and texture tools. Some patterns languish and I forget about them only to rediscover some past ideas several month later. Then I combine old ideas with current textures, and over time I have an entirely new tile, all within the same aesthetic framework.
This one is new and it's created by drawing my finger through the slip along an axis to create this leaf/rib pattern.

We moved to Toquerville 10 years ago and I came here with the new tiles in mind. I quickly set to work making them and they were a sudden hit both here at our home gallery and wholesale around the country. With the building/construction boom, I couldn't make them fast enough. In the past year or so sales have slowed down and they are just now beginning to pick up again.

We miss the money that came from their previous success (who doesn't these days?), but we celebrate the timing of their success. We moved here with no prospect of a job, just an idea to make art from clay and hope for the best. If it weren't for the tiles, we might not have gotten a foot hold here in Southern Utah.

There's an irony here. The first tiles that I experimented with were just to make money and they might have worked as intended, I'll never know. These tiles however, have been hugely successful and I've made them because I love making them; no thought of money, no drudgery, just the love of material, line, texture and color.

Thank you to all that have supported us over the years. If you would like to see a slide show of how they are made, go to my website and watch.

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1 comment:

Micah Thompson said...

You have a nice feel to your work Russ. I am a big fan and I become an even bigger fan the more I see your work. I'm glad the tile sales kept you here to eventually be my neighbor.