BIA Providers Conference

BIA Providers Conference

Peter Lind Sr.

I haven’t posted in over a month! Where does the time go? So I did the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) Providers conference selling my art tiles from December 2-5. I was between a couple of real artists. The gentleman in the picture beyond the corner of my table is Peter Lind Sr. He has done stuff for Museums and the Smithsonian, and on the other side of my table was Alfred Nauman who has made full size Aleut kayaks for a Paris Museum.

The Dena’nina Convention Center is large. We were on the second floor which is like four floors in a normal building. You can see the sidewalk across the street in the background. A guy was zooming about on a segway that had a specail attachment that scattered gravel and salt around when it started snowing.

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Latest Kiln Load

Plaquette Glyph

Loon and Pendant Glyphs

Getting ready for the Anchorage Museum Thanksgiving Crafts Fare. The loon is a four-by-four square inch tile and the necklace pendants are maybe 1-1/4″ squarish pieces. The glyph stamps are fishes, fox, stars, eagle, letters, seal, owl, and the crazy swan turning into a salmon creature. The pendant pieces will be strung with simulated sinew singly and in groups up to five pieces. It has been a while since I have sold something other than tiles, long ago I use to sell fine art prints but the market was soft, or it could have been the timing, given that the economy went through the wringer at that time. All the pendants will be made from the Cook Inlet glacier clay with various slip colors and glazes applied to the front side.

Last Friday, I went to see my necklace mentioned in my last post, at the Native Alaskan fashion show, Wear Art Thou, hosted by the Alaska Native Arts Foundation, and I was really impressed by some of the pieces. I plan to make something for the show next year. Anyway, my necklace was worn lower than I envisioned but still looked good.

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Glacial Clay Necklace

Necklace made with local glacial clay

Glacial Clay Necklace

Made this necklace for the Alaska Native Arts Foundation for a fashion show they will soon host, possibly later this month. I rolled out a lot of small thin tiles, brushed various majolica glazes on them, stamped images onto the tiles while they were still soft, and finally brushed on mason stain colors to enhance the images. The two holes at the top of each tile were bored before the glaze application. The tiles were strung together with simulated sinew. The Russian trade beads across the nose of the manikin were originally going to be used between the tiles but it looks fine without them. The stamps are usually used to decorate the back side of the art tiles I make and sell.

I’m planning to make a bunch of necklaces with one to five small tiles on each for the Anchorage Museum Thanksgiving Crafts Fare November 29, 30 and December 1. Also I will put together a piece for next January’s Object Runway here in Anchorage. The garment will have a good part of the front covered in tiles similar to the ones on the necklace. Can’t wait to get started on it. It’s nice to do something other than the square art tiles.

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Dragonflies and Rose

Dragonflies and Rose

Dragonflies and Rose

Six-inch square collagraph print on Cook Inlet glacial clay, $75

This is one of my earlier designs and you can see it has a raised border around the edges because the plate itself is six-inches, so 3/8″ had to be added so that the finished fired size would be just under six-inches. Funny how you make tons of small mistakes that get corrected over time. New designs are put on a full 6-3/8″ square plate so trimming is quick and without measurements. This particular tile sold at the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) conference in Fairbanks last week.

I did well sales-wise and met a lot of people including ceramics professionals, though all non-native. The last traditional Alaskan native ceramics maker died in the 1880’s not to far from where many of my family have lived and died, in Northwest Alaska. The hand built, pit fired ceramics had been made in that area for about 5,000 years.

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Halibut Man


Shaman in His Animal Spirit Form

$75, Six-Inch Square, Multiglazed Tile

A shaman could take the form of his animal spirit, in this case, a halibut. Also, animals could take the form of humans, but they couldn’t speak. I don’t sell too many of this tile, for some reason people are uneasy with it. Doctors don’t mind it though, the medicine man part of the shaman they consider to be one of their own.

The background glaze is a caribbean sea green. It’s a nice pebbly variegated surface and color.

I will be in Fairbanks October 24-26 for the Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) conference as a vendor. It is my best show of the year!

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Heart Shaped designs


Valentine Seals


Valentine Ravens

Six-inch Square Tiles, Multiglazed, Cook Inlet Glacier Clay, $75 each

A former art student classmate, Shara Dorris, owns Octopus Ink (, a really cool handmade useable art boutique store in Anchorage. She silk screens her own designs onto clothes and she has maybe a dozen other artists selling their handmade wares in her store. She asked her artists to make a valentine themed object for last February’s First Friday art walk, so I made these two designs for here store.

I’m taking off for Seattle this afternoon to be in the Artisan Tile of the Northwest show at the University of Washington’s Center for Urban Horticulture. The show is Friday from 3-8 pm and Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. I want to ask other tile artists if they ever go out of the country to do shows, because I would like to go to London and visit the William Morris Museum. He was an early proponent of the arts and crafts movement.

I have to collect some Cook Inlet glacier clay before it gets too cold!

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Six-inch Halibut Tile

Green Halibut

Green Halibut

Grey Halibut

Grey Halibut

Spearment Halibut

Spearment Halibut

Collagraph Plate

Collagraph Plate

Three six-inch tiles and the collagraph plate. I like the spearment inside the halibut on the bottom left, but the best combination is the grey halibut on the upper left with the spearment as the water color. I also prefer a darker brown for the exterior of the fishing boat with a lighter brown interior.

Halibut can get too big to easily haul on board. A previous boss of mine caught a 295 lb. Halibut and the boat had to go to dock because they could not get the fish aboard. I just bought a 14-1/2 lb. halibut from the local fish market and had it cut into 1-1/2 lb. vacuum sealed packets for a several gourmet meals.

I bought the halibut mainly for the skin which I plan to use on a coat for a fashion show next January. I tried the old Inuit way of processing fish skins by soaking the skin in day old urine. The urine breaks down into ammonia that tans the skin, but the skin still smells strongly of fish! So I used a process that I learn this summer from a fellow artist at the Alaska Native Heritage Center. The skin is soaked in a solution of half rubbing alcohol and half gliserine for three days and then in dishsoap for three more days. It really does cut down the odor but not completely.

I will be in Seattle October 4 & 5 at the Artisan Tile of the Northwest tile show at the University of Washington Center for Urban Horticulture.

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Four-Inch Copper Plate Etchings on Glacial Clay





X-ray Frog

X-ray Frog

Leaves with fish stamps






Array of four-inch etchings on slipped Cook Inlet glacial clay, each $25.

I have not posted any tiles made from copperplate etchings. Here are six of the smaller size tiles. They take less time to make so they are $10 cheaper than the multiglazed tiles. The swanfish is an actual design from long ago; the artist claims a distant ancestor darted the creature as it was transforming from a swan into a fish, and it got stuck that way and still wanders around in the Yukon.

I have made a new 6″ halibut design and still need to cut it out from its drawing. So maybe next posting will be the halibut plate. I have also ordered supplies for making a mud facial mask, of course using the Cook Inlet glacial clay, and supplies for processing or tanning salmon skins. This weekend is the end of the Anchorage Market, and I will have a little time to play around with something new and different.

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Three Halibut and One Gingko

Halibut and Ginkgo

Halibut and Ginkgo

Array of four-inch tiles, halibut and ginkgo, multiglaze, $35 each

These are the newest designs and the plates are made from 300-lb. cotton rag etching paper on matte board. The paper is thicker than what is usually used to make the plate, but it helps keep the glaze colors separate a little better than the 140-lb. paper. The stem of the ginkgo leaf is nice and thin plus the width of the stem and leaf outline is varied, kind of like calligraphy writing. With the thicker paper, the stem won’t get covered up by glaze when the tile is fired.

I’m going to make a six-inch tile with a halibut next. The halibut will be as big as the boat of the fisherman. The size is exaggerated, but not by much. Halibut can get up to nearly 400 pounds.

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Stamps and Back of Tile

Stamps used to impress images into the back of the tile.

Back of the tile:
Silver Hand Artist
Aug 14 2013
“Stamps: swan/fish, fish, star, fish, and fox”
Cook Inlet Glacier Clay

The “Silver Hand Artist” means I’m registered with the state of Alaska as a aboriginal artist. Vitrified means the tile won’t absorb water and the tile is good for wet or outdoor use if a person wanted to use the tile in a shower stall or outside in a garden. My last name is pronounced “mile” as the “igh” rule makes the “gh” part silent; it’s old English and back then the language was more gutteral and it sounded more like Michael and is actually a variation of that name when applied to the arch-angel. I make my own tile clay body and the major component comes from the mud flats next to Anchorage. The material is the surrounding mountains that were ground up by the glaciers.

Made new halibut and gingko leaf plates and will post the resulting tiles next week.

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