I Made all the tiles for this fireplace, the art tiles and the field tiles. It looks awesome! The size of the field tiles are 2″x 2″, 2″x 4″, 4″x 4″, 4″x 6″, 6″x 6″, and 4″x 8″. There are four different glazes. I used the clay from the mudflats next to Anchorage to make a good tile clay body.
Three New Four-Inch Tiles
This is one of several new designs for this summer season.
I like the eyes of the otter, so the new seal and fox designs might be reworked to have similar eyes. The x-ray style, common among the Alaskan Coastal peoples, is hinted at with the inclusion of the red ribs
This is what the paper cut outs look like before the pieces are separated and glued onto a matte board plate. The plate is impressed into clay to make the tiles.
Twelve-Inch Plaster Mold Tiles
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.
Collagraph Plate, Wolves
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.
Four Spotted Skimmer Dragonfly
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.
Horizontal Pictogram: Seal, Fox, Caribou
Revised Fox & Hare
Fox & Hare, 6″ x 6″ x 3/8″, $75
One villages tale of why night follows day. The fox is the moon and the hare is the sun and they are in this continuous chase through the sky, and that is why night follows day. This is a revision of an earlier design which had the hare sort of upside down. The collagraph plate was about seven years old and wearing out, so it was a good time to make a new printing plate with a slightly different layout. The xray style is indiginous to the coastal areas of Alaska.
The red is new, it is a majolica base with red stain and without the opacifier. Also new is the temuko gold for the background. The clay is from the mudflats next to Anchorage, Alaska.
6″ Copper Plate Etching on Clay
Tile on the left and copper plate etching/engraving on the right. Click on the copper plate image to see a better quality scan.
The copper plate is an engraving that is used to print onto the clay. I have a large etching press that I use to print on the clay like if it were paper. I don’t have a problem with the clay curling during firing since I make my own clay body and have added stuff to the clay body to counter the tendence of flat tiles to warp and crack.
The image on the right of the tile is a white whale, the center is a half man half seal, and on the left is a swan turning into a salmon. The three are samples of Alaska native art that were once drawn on the bottom of wood food bowls or on skins.