This tile is one of three card tiles made for an upcoming May show at the Anchorage Humanities Forum. There will also be about twenty 12″ x 12″ tiles, every 12″ tile that I have designed and made, in the show. I’m about 3/4’s done.
It has been over a year since I last added a post to this tile blog/website. I blame Facebook. The Anchorage Native Heritage Center helped a group of us start Etsy stores connected to Facebook, and we all got caught up in the never ending connectedness of Facebook. Nothing is for sell in the Etsy store…yet.
I will be selling at the Denver March Powwow from March 25-26. Then I’m attending a ceramics event in London, the Ceramics Art of London, March 31-April 2. Since I’m there, I’ll throw in a extra few days to sight see.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Click on the picture to see a larger image.
12″ x 12″ x 0.7″ Multiglazed tile, Cook Inlet glacier clay, cone 6 oxidation
The fish in the center are dolly varden, arctic char, and pike. This tile was the last one of thirteen that I made for NANA Development Corp. and it is outside the elevators on the basement floor. I got a ton of compliments from people that have walked through the building just to look at the art tiles. Had some interesting comments the last time I posted the cut-out that went into making the plate that is impressed into the clay slab, so I decided to add another post but along side the tile that it made. I usually sell my art tiles during the summer, but the winter commissions have been picking up, so I don’t starve during the winters anymore.
A lot of the old art work along the west and north coasts of Alaska had a sort of circular aspect to it because it would fit onto a drum skin or inside a wood food bowl. I used the circular motif on several of the tiles for NANA and on the tile above. The x-ray view of the caribou and the seal is also a style common in the area.
This isn’t tile related but I feel like writing something about native Alaskans. During the superbowl, a local commercial came on saying how over a thousand students have benefitted from the ANSEP (Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program), a part of the University of Alaska system. It made me feel good. I was just the third native Alaskan to graduate from the Anchorage civil engineering program way back in the day, and now it is more common.
Berry Picking in Alaska. A favorite pasttime for many. The birchbark baskets are in a style found in the Northwest around the Kotzebue sound area.
Adding a bit of folk lore to the tile, on the upper part are the hare as the sun and the fox as the moon, and they are in an ongoing chase. That is why night follows day.
I got invited to the Best of the Northwest Art and Fine Craft Show in Seattle on March 23 & 24. Fun. The economy is on the mend and I did well in Seattle at a tile show last Fall, so I thought I’d try some other shows in the lower 48 (what people in Alaska call the rest of the U.S., except Hawaii.)
The last few posts had blurry pictures. I cleaned the lens on the iphone and this picture looks better. Anyway, This is a partial cut out of the 140 lb. cotton rag paper that will be used to make a plate. A collagraph plate is a printmaking term for a process where you just glue stuff to a stiff surface and then use it as a plate. I use a light table to transfer the initial drawing onto the 140 lb paper and then to cut the images out. Notice the “Arches Huile France” water mark on the lower left side of the paper. The plate is thirteen-inches square so that the final fired size of the tile will be twelve-inches after shrinkage. The fish with the zigzags are chum salmon, the fish below are white fish. The smaller caribou make up the upper edge of a birch bark basket.
I can’t complain about 2012! I love to travel and got to go a lot of places. Went to Chicago, Fairbanks, and Seattle for tile related shows. Then Seattle again for a ceramics conference. I Went once again to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland Oregon for an end-of-season vacation. And the big one was when me and my sweetheart went to Spain and Portugal.
Tile sales slacked a bit compared to 2011, but I had two winter commissions that more than made up for sagging sales. As a side note to running an art business, I attended a workshop on how to do better on the business side of art, like pricing work, and projecting a friendlier, attentive demeanor when selling at arts & crafts fairs. It was put together for Alaskan Native artists by the First Peoples Fund; they help out indiginous artists internationally when it comes to the business aspect of living the life of an artist.
Six-inch Double Salmon, $85
Collagraph print on Cook Inlet clay, cone 6 oxidation
Multiglazed with background of Tenmoko gold over a strontium carbonate base glaze.
Salmon fishing is a huge industry in Alaska as are other types of fishing. On researching the salmon, I found out that it is descended from European river trout. Cool. It looks like any other fish, silvery, at sea, but once it hits fresh water to spawn, it turns red, green, and it’s teeth get all snagly. My blood pressure was trending upward with age and my doctor recommended eating salmon once a week, and sure enough, by blood pressure went down. Now each summer we stock up on fresh salmon in the freezer to last through the winter. It’s cheaper to buy whole fish during the height of the season and have it cut up, filleted, and vacuum sealed in meal sized portions.
I read “Four Fish” by Paul Greenberg and worry about the fisheries. Today, I’m not against farm fishing because there are not enough wild fish to feed the world’s population. I’ve even taken a liking to tilapia, a fresh water vegetarian fish that’s been farmed since ancient Egyptian times. And it doesn’t require other fish to be used as feed as some of the other farmed fish do.