It’s been a busy 2015 so far! I went to two arts & crafts shows in Denver in January and March, and I recently went to Doylestown, Pennsylvania for the Moravian Tile Festival. I made a short trip up to Fairbanks and picked up two new customers, the University Museum gift shop and the Wells Street Gallery. So this year started out with a bang.
Today I start a four week gig teaching student interns how to make tiles and pendants at the Anchorage Native Heritage Center. The Anchorage weekend market has been open since Mother’s Day and I’m selling there on Saturdays. My schedule this summer will be Saturdays at the weekend market downtown, and Monday, Thursday, Friday at the Heritage Center. I will be out of town three times, for the Chicago Botanic Garden show July 4th weekend, The Bellevue Museum show the last weekend of July, and the Sante Fe Indian Market the last part of August.
Other than tile related stuff, my dad, two younger sisters, and myself will be hiking for ten days on the Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostella, Spain pilgrimage. What a mouthful, how’s about just Porto to Santiago. This will be in late October, early November, so we were able to use off-season airline miles. Can you believe it, American Airlines offers round trips to Europe for 40,000 miles in the off season. We are members of Alaska Airlines and luckily American is a partner airline.
The old plate is in the upper left above and overlapped by the new plate that is being cut out of 300-lb cotton rag etching paper. The cut pieces that will be glued to a matte board are visible in the upper and lower right, under wax-paper, to keep an unexpected sneeze from scattering them about. My preferred glue is actually gesso and over the gesso will be brushed acrylic medium. This design is popular and probably has the most cut pieces, maybe two hundred or so. The triangular shape of the netted salmon gives the composition a stable and pleasing aspect. I will post a finished, glazed tile next.
I will be selling tiles at the Colorado Indian Market, January 23-25 in Denver.
I took these plant impressions to the Chicago Botanic Garden art fare. Ten each of the creme and blue background colored impressions sold, compared to only six of the green background colored tiles. Hmmmm, greens are not as popular. Sold a variety of other tiles also, including a bunch of my Alaskan themed designs. Delivered a twelve-inch tile to this collector after the show and was blown away by her 500 tiles, all hung and arrayed on various walls.
Well, sales were enough to cover the costs, but what matters more is that I got to visit my aunt and cousins, and one of my sweetheart’s friends from her fish cannery days. She took us to the beaches on Lake Michigan and they were packed during the July 4th weekend…we just don’t see people in swim suits that often in Alaska.
So, I’ll be selling tiles at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, the Anchorage Museum, and the weekend market the rest of the summer, except for when I go down to the Indian Art Market in Santa Fe this August. It’s busy.
Four four-inch tiles. The ravens are done with a two part glaze process where I apply a strontium carbonate based glaze underneath one of my usual glazes. It gives the top glaze a reduction fired look, or a variegated matte/semimatte surface. The flower has a single glaze but it was underfired to give it a matte surface and is not as variegated as the double application. The double glaze process takes more time so the tiles are priced at $40 whereas the single glaze process is $35 per tile.
The tile business is always slow at the beginning of the year and then gets unbelievably busy by about mid June. I participated in a local show here in Anchorage last weekend but didn’t sell a single tile. My main customer is the visitor to Alaska that is looking for something made by an Alaskan Native, with local materials, and with traditional themes, motifs, and stories. And they don’t show up until after break-up (When the snow piles finally melt away). I should be thankful that I have a niche.
Went to the Denver March Powwow to sell art tiles the end of last month. The economy is still soft and I didn’t sell enough to cover all the expenses, but I did get to see my Dad, brother, and sister. They still live there, and three of my other siblings and I have moved back to and now live in Alaska. I have never seen so many dancers and drum groups. There were a lot of vendors. My favorite were the Navajo rug weavers, wish I could afford one of their hand woven rugs.
Scooted over to San Francisco to attend the Southern Graphics Print conference. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Printmaking, so it was a professional thing. It sure is nice to go to the demos and workshops. And you couldn’t ask for a nicer city to have it in. I love cities where you can walk around.
The plant impressions did ok. I know they will do really well in Chicago when I go to an arts and crafts show at the Chicago Botanic Garden in July.
While in Denver, I took a road trip to visit the Van Briggle Tile company and learned that it had gone out of business do to the recession. It was sold last year but the buyer isn’t producing tile. The picture is of their original factory that had the kilns built right into the building. Bummer. It would have been my third visit to the factory. My first time was when it was in a horseshoe shaped building that had been a train switch building. You could walk through and see the various stages of tile making. The second trip was four years ago when they had moved in a smaller space. I should have suspected times were tough because everything was covered in dust.
These six tiles are rarely made. They are all six-inch square. They are a flying owl, blue heron, seals, single seal, cicada, and an early version of the double salmon. I’m kind of likeing the old double salmon now that I’m glazing it differently. Before, it was colored with mason stains and then sprayed with a clear glaze. It looked good until the paper scales wore away and didn’t leave an edge to catch ink while plate wiping. Sorry for talking technical printmaking lingo. These designs are early and the plates are worn and a bit harder to work with compared to the more current, newer plates, but it is still nice to make these and have a wider variety of designs for customers to look at.
Here is the finished glazed tile. Last post was the unfired clay version that ends up full of color. I just today mailed off the two toucan tiles to my aunt in Chicago.
Usually this is a slow time for me, but not this year. I’m currently sewing together a coat for Object Runway, an Anchorage found object fashion show, that has pseudo lambs skin/wool, halibut and salmon skins, and pendants made out of the clay from the mudflats. It is looking awsome! I will post a picture of it after the runway show on the 23rd of this month.
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.
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.
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!