Making some 4″ x 6″ book covers from the glacial clay from the Anchorage mudflats. Its a work in progress. Used coptic stitching so the book lays flat. The paper is 140 lb. cotton rag water color paper.
Working on some nice plant impressions and should have them online soon.
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.
Bald Eagle, Six Sq. Inch, $75
Collagraph printed, multiglazed, cone 6 oxidation. Cook Inlet glacial clay.
I see a bald eagle about once a month. They like hanging out at small lakes where ducks are found. The lake inlets usually remain unfrozen but the area gets small and the concentration of ducks attracts predators. During salmon season, scores of bald eagles can be seen along some rivers.
Fur Rondy starts the end of this month. It’s a winter get together around the start of the Iditarod sled dog race. I like to have some new designs to sell, so the previous post’s raven, this post’s eagle, and next post’s tundra swan were made for the Rondy. One of the local malls hosts Alaska native artist from all over the state where all kinds of traditional and contempory native arts and crafts can be sold.
Six-Inch Multiglazed, Collagraph Printed Raven, $75
Photos of a raven collagraph plate, two raven tiles, and the back side of one of the tiles. On the “back side” photo, you can see my name at the top, and underneath is “Silver Hand Artist”, which means I’m registered with the state of Alaska as an Alaskan Native Artist. The tile was printed on January 17, 2012. The five stamps are decoration, but a couple hundred years from now, people will think it’s some kind of code. “Cook Inlet Glacier Clay” means that the main clay in the tile body is from the mud flats next to Anchorage, Alaska. “Vitrified” means that it is fused and has less than 1/2 percent water absorbtion, so it is similar to porcelain in that respect.
I like doing different color combinations; though some designs will settle down in one or two versions over time. I mixed a new glaze called “floating green” that is used for the bottom ground in one of the tiles. I like developing new glazes. I mix my own, usually from recipes in books or on-line. Some glazes need a bit of tweaking before they work on the local clay.
The collagraph plate that was used to print the raven tile is made of 140 lb. etching paper and matte board. It is coated with gesso and acrylic matte medium.
This is part of the studio space where I make tiles. I’m currently working on a large mural that has nineteen twelve-inch tiles and fifty-one four-inch plant impressions. I make the original and then cast a plaster mold of the tile. Wire racks are for making sure the tile dries from both sides. My Cook Inlet clay body works great for tiles. Even the large tiles hardly warp at all. Noticable on one tile is a raven and on another is a tree. It’s great to do some relief tiles every once in a while. The molds weigh about forty pounds each.
It has snowed a couple of feet in the last few days and has been below zero every day for more than two weeks now.
Plate used to print wolves tile constructed of matte board and 140 lb. cotton rag etching paper. Glued together with gesso and coated with acrylic medium. The plate is good for 100 or so printings. The tiles I print with the plate are therefore a limited edition, handpulled print, but without numbering, and of course on clay instead of paper. They are more valuable than any machine made, mass produced pseudo art tile. The etching paper is the negative space on the plate and the recessed line on the plate creates a raised, printed black line on the clay. I wax the black line and that keeps the different glazes separate in the final firing. The constant wiping with the tarleton cloth slowly wears away the acrylic medium and eventually the gesso. You can see the greying of the edges and smaller areas where the ink is starting to stain the underlying paper. This six-inch design has more color glazes than other designs, it can have ten or more glazes.
Six-inch Dragonfly, $75
Contrary to popular belief, the mosquito is not Alaska’s state insect. That would be the four spotted skimmer dragonfly. The four spots are on the leading edge of the wings. They get fairly large, four to six-inch wing span. Once when I was selling tiles at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, a dragonfly landed on one of the dragonfly tiles. That was cool. Later in the summer, I was telling another artist about the incident and wouldn’t you know it, but a dragonfly landed on my shoulder. It was close to my ear and it startled the bejezzers out of me. Anyway, it is a great story to tell visitors interested in the design, and I feel there is more to the incident than mere coincidence, sort of like nature saying, “nice tile”. I’ve seen dragonfly designs in the magazine “American Bungalow” and the design of my tile does have an arts & crafts feel to it.
Three Hares, six-inch, $75
Cook Inlet glacial clay art tile with collagraph printed hares in x-ray style of coastal Inuqiaq. Three hares, three ears, yet each hare has two ears! A while back I made a large woodcut (about 3-1/2′ x 5′ – playing card aspect) using a sheet of plywood that required a steamroller to print an image of three hares similar to this tile, and titled the Three of Hares. It was the third steamroller print event put on in Anchorage. The idea for the three hares came about as a piece in a local group show with a theme about St. Francis and a hare that leads other animals to their respective heavens (put together by James Riordan, an assistant professor at the University of Alaska, Anchorage). The image of three hares was in some medieval monastaries and represented the trinity, but of course, the original design is much older, Etruscan, and historians don’t know what significance it had. Someone referred to the tile as the three rabbi’s.
Six-Inch Caribou, $75
Collagraph print on clay tile body made from local glacial mud flats. The x-ray style, the depiction of the insides such as the ribs and stomach, is common to the coastal native Alaskans such as the Yupiq and Inupiaq (Eskimos). The big dipper to the polar Inupiaq represents a herd of caribou. The polar star that people in lower latitudes refer to as the north star is not used for directions in the arctic because it is over head and unmoving and doesn’t help in determining directions. I’ve seen caribou carcasses in yards in Point Hope, my mother’s village. They were frozen and being eaten by dogs – a kind of old school dog food.
The two newer glaze colors used on this tile are nutmeg for the background and tenmoko gold used for the body. I mix my own glazes and these two were made at the same time, and each glaze, when wet looks like the other glaze’s fired color. It was confusing. This one potter at a craft show asked if I was a “purist” when I told him about making my own clay and mixing my own glazes. I do it because people like that the materials are local and the imagery is a contemporary take on traditional designs. Also, now that I know that hand built, pit fired ceramics were made in my ancestral area of Northwest Alaska for thousands of years, I will someday, test some of that areas clay for use in my tile work.