Tile Festival. Tile Feast.

Last Friday I shared with you the unique historical gem that is the Moravian Pottery and Tile works. Today – I wanted to showcase some of the tile artists who I had the good fortune to exhibit with at the annual show.

First up: Mary Philpott:

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We talked of myth and fantasy… and Crow Girls

Mary Philpott tiles!

A long time fan – I was thrilled to see these beauties in person!

Mary’s tiles are ” Contemporary Art Tile. Design within a Historical Tradition
Sculptural work exploring Flora and Fauna”. I have been a huge fan of her work on Instagram and was delighted to meet and chat with her in person. Her mythic/folklore references, her choice in animals, her respect/acknowledgement of the Art and Crafts style in her work… you can see why this all resonates with me.

Her images themselves are so lively, and her use of line! She glazes her porcelain pieces with her own glaze recipes – the translucency accentuating the carved lines : masterful! I could go on all day.

Philpott collage

Next I would like to introduce you to Earthen Craft Pottery from Lansing Michigan:

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This one currently is hanging over my desk…

Brian and Katie were neighbors in my tent! Heavens. Their precise design/line work! Their delicious glazes! And as   a person of Celtic descent as well, it spoke to me on many levels. (Their stoneware tiles are fired to ^5 for you clay people out there.) They also had pendants – I have a stunning knot work pendant I think I may bead for myself!

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My direct neighbor was Claudia McGill. I viewed her tiles for 2 days, and continued to be drawn in – both due to her exuberant use of color and her whimsical style. Her subjects of daily life are relatable and engaging; from sleepy cats to street scenes with garbage trucks. I liked her interiors the best. ( Terra cotta tiles, painted in underglazes, fired to ^05)

C. Gill tiles

Last – but not least is Mission Guild tiles. Their stunning tiles are exemplary of the Arts and Crafts style. Paired with hand crafted wooden frames they are truly gorgeous. Their work references many mottos and motifs from the Arts and Crafts era in the us.

Their tiles are earthenware – fired to ^04 – and there are some great glaze effects!

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Mission Guild also works in Metal clay. Its lovely to see these two side by side! Makintosh rose.jpg

The Moravian Pottery Tile Festival is a tour de force in the ceramic tile world. I was happy to see colleagues, and meet new fellow tile artists. I look forward to a reunion next year! ( The tile festival occurs in May each year. )

 

 

 

 

 

The Moravian Pottery – and Tile Festival!

( This post was originally published on the Art Elements blog – by yours truly.)

It was a temperate day in May and the clouds were fluffy…

Snapped as I was unloading. Great place to spend the weekend!

Last month I was thrilled to return to the Tile Festival at the Moravian Pottery and Tile works in Doylestown, PA. The historic pottery/tile works has been in operation since 1898, and hosts a spectacular artist’s exhibit and show each Spring. Artists from as far as Canada, Alaska, even Russia were represented this year. ( More on that in my companion post.)

The Tile works is a unique building – cast in place, in concrete, and studded from top to bottom with mosaics and inset tiles. Henry Chapman Mercer worked with this style of construction for not only the Tile Works, but also his “home” ( mansion? castle?) named Fonthill. Both are located in parkland owned and maintained by Bucks Co. PA.

Kraken mosaic in situ.

Henry Chapman Mercer was from this area, and after school ( Harvard and U Penn Law) and extensive travel in Europe – he settled down in the area. He served as the Curator of American and Prehistoric Archaeology for University of Pennsylvania in the early 1890s. This lead to his love of and research in American artifacts, and later pottery; he apprenticed with a local German American potter. He was heavily influenced by the American Arts and Crafts Movement – and founded the MPTW in 1898.

Courtyard, with chimneys. And yes, the chimneys have mosaic bands of decoration!

The gift shop, tucked into a Medieval style barrel vault.

The tiles made at the MPTW are diverse – and range from impressed terra cotta pavers to sculptural tiles designed for mosaic use. There are flora and fauna, ships, ancient cities, Colonial era occupations… and many Classical and literary references. They tile employ both glazes and colored slips – playing with the contrast of matte and glossy. Inspirations run the gamut from Medieval and Byzantine eras, the Celtic Revival, and the Arts and Crafts Movement.

Original designs still in production!

I take this picture every time I visit. There is something so evocative about the idea of working in that space…

There are literally tiles everywhere, every surface. Shown here: “The Quarrel”, castle, triton, and a vignette from “The New World” fireplace.

“Bookplate” Mosaic panel – designed by Mercer for his friend Dr. R. Bell. Based on an actual book plate.

The clays used were originally locally sourced, and today the MPTW uses similar. comparable clay bodies. As seen in the picture above – at times color is NOT applied – but the tiles are “cindered”. The term is what I would call a sagger firing: tiles are placed inside a ceramic container, with sawdust. They are them fired in the kiln – created a reduction atmosphere in the saggar/container. This results in the clay absorbing carbon from the combustible sawdust – which darkens the clay body itself. ( Ceramicists: simple definition for the lay people, forgive me) The mosaic catalog on the MPTW website showcases the New World series and has many examples of these “cindered” tiles used in mosaics. The New World Series? It ranges from Vikings,Atlantis, and  Aztecs, to Raleigh and Powhatan!

A polychrome zodiac!

I find this place to be infinitely inspiring. It makes me love terra cotta all over again. And I will admit to ideas and plans for some smallish mosaics of my own. There are classes and apprenticeships available. An tours, of course. So if you are in the area – please take a look. It’s truly living history.

As to the show? The tile festival itself? More on that – Stay tuned.

“Queen of the Sea” – the May Art Elements COM reveal

I usually don’t title pieces. But wait til you see this one… It went through many fits and starts and emerged; making a rather regal statement. This month Lesley sent gorgeous shell slices – and I selected the satiny copper green seen below:

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Shopping the stash: I pulled artist beads for the preliminary pairings. Marsha Neal Studio, Diana, Staci Smith, Tracey Donogue, Karen, Mary/White Clover Kiln, Diane Hawkey… 

In my head I saw the shell as the center dangle on a large/statement amulet piece. (I was directly inspired by Cathy’s piece using Lindsay’s leather cab. Thank to Cathy for her advice!) Here is the first incarnation:

As you can see – it was a “no-go”. I simply wasn’t happy with it. So I dove back onto the stash to see what else leapt out at me:

So you can see the plan for the overall composition here. Its going to be a large piece, wearable for special occasions? Or cosplay… Since I was fixated on this composition – Caroline’s luster cab was the best choice – both for scale and color. This wasn’t the color palette I would have ever predicted – but I love the two ceramic pieces together!

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Beaded, and dangles selected: crystal points and mismatched headpins by Nikki Thornburg.

The beaded cab/bezel is sewn to the wire framework with 24 gauge wire running side to side. The supplemental wire ( visible on the bottom section) is to prevent the beaded cab from spinning in the wire frame.
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Sketch for the necklace portion with possible gems. 

Trying out gem combinations – what do YOU think? I am leaning towards the oval aquamarines. While they are smaller in scale – the colors accentuate and visually link the  necklace to the shell. Those huge citrine nuggets are pretty yummy, though… I plan to stare at it for a few days – then finish it off with silk!
Until then – please take a look at the friends and colleagues participating this month! And  thanks Lesley for such a beauty!
Art Elements team
Laney Mead

Spoutwood May Day Faerie Festival: muddy mayhem

 

This was my 6th year vending at the Spoutwood May Day Faerie Festival. I fell in love the first time I stepped on the farm. Its hard to describe to a newbie what a sense of magic and community and wonder this place, and this event creates… The event celebrates Spring, and awakening of Nature, and all things faerie/fantastical/mythic. The community is inclusive, welcoming, non-judgmental, and supportive. I have made life long friendships there with artists, actors, musicians…

 

This year – for the first time in its 26 year history – the festival had to close early. From the official Spoutwood site: “For the first time in 26 years, the May Day Fairie Festival had to cancel the final day, Sunday May 7, due to safety issues. Although we understand that some of you may be disappointed you did not get to attend, please know that our team is heartbroken, and currently working on recovering from the devastation of the cancellation. Please bear in mind that this annual event is not only a fun celebration, but it is also the primary fundraiser for Spoutwood Farm Center, a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational farm. Fairie Festival supports the Farm’s operations year-round.” This was due to excessive rain & treacherous conditions that made the grounds and the neighboring parking area unsafe.

As an artist – I take this risk with outdoor shows, I understand that. But this is my primary income and vendors all suffered significant losses. The Farm itself suffered physical and financial trauma from the weekend. We as a community are reeling from it all.

Hours upon hours spent alone in the studio “making” and there is a loss of interaction with customers on top of the loss of sales. My pieces are extremely personal; I put a bit of “me” in them. It is a relationship, a give and take between artist and customers that can satisfy, and nourish in a way. The excitement of new work! Only to fall flat with no audience.

The less obvious loss we all feel is time. Time spent with our friends, our tribe, our kindred spirits. I have great friends locally, from college, etc. but these mythic makers are my soul mates! There is a festive atmosphere to gather together, first show of the spring… to catch up, share new work, ideas… to simply be together. Its often as if no time has passed at all. I feel that my reward for my solitude has been taken from me.

But this is life. We are a rather resilient bunch, and we will keep making. We will have reunions at future shows… If you are a Spoutwood veteran and would like to donate, the Farm could use your help! ( Click here!) If you are searching for that perfect gift – shop your local artists and makers. Or shop from the Spoutwood family of vendors.

I myself am slowly recovering from cold, wet, mud and the like. Ill be updating my Etsy ASAP and preparing for my next show… Until then, thanks for listening.

 

April Component of the Month Reveal!

Its that time of the month. LOL

Time for the COM reveal at Art Elements blog! ( What did you think I meant?)

This month Jen Cameron of Glass Addictions sent the yummiest swirly cosmic galaxy beads. At least that is what I think when I see them:

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So my bead arrived the day I left for Rochester. And I missed it by a few hours. So I kept dreaming up things I wanted to do… and they aren’t even jewelry things… I tried to capture the ideas on my iPad – and I warn you… this is a NEW medium for me and these are rough sketches. ( But if I am going to learn I have to start somewhere…)

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The first would be a stoneware/ceramic sculpture – sized so that the bead is a planet held in her upraised hands. ( It WAS just Earth Day.) Maybe 8″? But tapered to a point like the Cycladic figures I adore – and standing in a wrought iron stand.

 

 

 

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My original idea: app 12″ tall. Stoneware clay

Then after the trip to Rochester – I had this really cool driftwood, perfect for a mermaid to sit on :

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My second idea – small polymer mermaid on driftwood.

And sadly neither of those happened. I got back on the 25th! And the reveal is one week to the day. So I took a break from glazing on Sunday and this happened:

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I am thinking this would be a wall hanging… it is rather long. But it was such a visual treat to pull gems to go with this glass! Simply gorgeous. And yes – its a moon hare motif that is so very “me”.

I love this bead – and the longer I look at it the more ideas I have – who knows? I may still start that stoneware goddess figure.

For now – take a look at my AE team mates and out guests this month!

Guest Designers:

Sarajo Wentling

Deb Stewart

Art Elements Team:

Sue Kennedy

Laney Mead

Lesley Watt

Claire Fabian

Karen Totten

Cooky Schock

Caroline Dewison

Cathy Spivey Mendola

Niky Sayers

Lindsay Starr

Jen Cameron

 

Rochester Rocks! 

So last weekend I had the pleasure of a business trip to Rochester NY. I was headed up to teach at Let’s Bead, have a trunk show, and visit with Art Elements team member Diana Ptaszynski! 

What a wonderful weekend! First off – a short visit to a local park and Lake Ontario. A bit angry after storms and winter run off…. But gorgeous – and the driftwood!

Let’s Bead is a FANTASTIC bead store. Large, open, welcoming space. Friendly and knowledgeable staff. Very well stocked in gems, finding, seed beads and Czech glass! There were Czech glass beauties I had never seen anywhere else!

Saturday was an all day class: my “Word Mojo” pendant as a necklace. (Do you remember when it was a COM?) Mold making, polymer, collage, wire wrap… a little something for everyone. And the results were so diverse! Sunday we created Luna pendants – the same style that was featured in Step by Step Wire magazine!  The classes were pretty full and totally fun! A huge shout out to all the creative women who came to take a class, try something new, and create with camaraderie! I appreciate your trust in me. Take a look:

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Saturday afternoon – wire wrapping!

Diana and Colin are great hosts! I got to see the highlights of the city, sample some fine brewed libations, see the Canal and my first Great Lake… and then this happened:

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Reunion of bead sister! Kerry, Diana, Anne, and me! 

And there were cats: ( Mr Elliot declined to be featured on the blog.)

Thanks to everyone who made this trip possible! Made it a success! Made it so much fun! I hope to go back! 

Oh and stay tuned – Diana and I did some antiquing/ treasure hunting. I’ll do a “loot” post tomorrow!

Eggs and arrows…

April. One quarter of the year gone by – happily in a blur of creative time. New tile designs, new ideas, new projects. One project I am on track with is the monthly beaded tapestry. Last year – goddesses, fully beaded. This year – hands – with fibers/felt/silk. January was felt – there are a few things to work out there. February and March are showcased here:

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February was inspired by the Irish goddess Brigid, whose name means “Fiery Arrow”. She is tied to Imbolc ( aka Candlemas February 2) in the Celtic calendar – marking the midpoint of winter. Lambs are born, snowdrops emerge through the dustings of snow.

I have incorporated a scrap of hand dyed silk from my friends at Foxglove Reyen Designs, as well as some curly locks from Sarafina Fibers. I love the colors and he texture these elements add. The colors of the swirls are a bit more subtle than I had intended – as you can see in this detail.

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Feb. Brigid detail

March also features a scrap of Reyen silk – I mean those colors!!!! The March hand alludes to the Spring Equinox – or pagan Ostara. Although recent scholarly articles debunk some of the mythic/folkloric ties between Easter/Eostre/Ostara – the spring is life, newness, freshness, and rebirth! The egg is seen as a symbol of rebirth and new life in myriad cultures all over the world. The green shoots of leaves and grass – the scattering of pinks like buds… springtime is upon us!

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Now on to April… and since I post this on April 16th I better start beading! 

Planes, Trains… or postage stamps?

 

I am an Anglophile. To those that know me that comes as no surprise. I lived in London for a semester in college and it was the most formative impactful period in my life. My husband and I went to the UK on holiday for our honeymoon and my 40th birthday. (That was a surprise, too. I have never happy cried so hard!)

My work is deeply, fundamentally inspired by my Celtic heritage, by folklore and fairy tale, by myth and magic. And every so often I try to “cross the pond”. You may know I also write for a fabulous blog called Art Elements. My team mate and friend Lesley has invited me to visit and have an art retreat of sorts. ( We have done the same here at my house the last few years). So in an effort to raise the necessary funds – I have created these pieces. This year is the Queen’s Sapphire Jubilee – what better way to raise funds and nod in respect to Queen Liz than there?! The stamps come from my childhood stamp collection – and may go even further back to my  Dad’s collection.

The pendants are double sided – the back included UK map sections. Maps taken from the Encyclopedia Britannica atlas from my childhood! They are going to be listed on Etsy as soon as I finish here… and while sold as pendants with my fellow creators and designers in mind…. can easily be made into a pendant with a gemstone angel for a small additional fee. If you are interested in supporting me and my travel fund – please check them out! I am designating 100% of the sea of these pieces to my travel fund!

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Convo me if you want a necklace with gemstone dangle! 

One print at a time: exploring fairy tales.

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Art by one of my favorites: Trina Schart Hyman

It started with a query – from 2 scholar/witch/fae/creatrix – would there be interest in an online course on Fairy tales? The dynamic duo of Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman are folklore scholars, authors, Phd candidates and all around magical women. the answer from the “tribe” was a resounding YES. And so The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic was born.

We read original tales, we read variations, oral accounts, famous versions, obscure versions. We discussed themes, cultural and historical context, symbolism…. I created a kick ass Pinterest board for myself. I have been a reader of fairy tales my whole life I didn’t stop at an age when so many “grow up”. I had one rare elective block in college/art school and I studied Children’s Literature, for fun. I regularly reference fairy tale themes in my current work. If anything I appreciate them more now for their symbolism, and archetypal references.

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This G. Laite illustration is one I remember vividly from my childhood!

So as the Carterhaugh course drew to a close, we began to think on our ( optional) final project. Optional? Really? This is the whole reason I wanted the course! To discuss, and learn, but to put that all into practice. I decided to do something COMPLETELY different than the artwork I do as my job. I was giving myself permission to play – to take the path less traveled… Enter block printing.

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I decided to do a series of 6 prints based on the tales we read. There were 10 lessons in the course – I WANTED to do 10 prints and I still may over the course of the year. But 6… ok I have three done. I designed the compositions to use and re-use many iconic motifs, a mix and match in a way. I just finished today, on the due date! Ink is still drying… but let me share with you…

Red Riding Hood: 

I have always liked Little Red Riding Hood. I like the versions where she makes choices, where she chooses her path. Literally and metaphorically. There is a great article by Terri Windling here that looks into the symbolism of needles and pins in the RRH tale. Choices, woman’s work, woman’s roles… SO I knew needles and pins would be included in my print.

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RRH print: 4 printed motifs, hand colored, drawn details.

 

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Limited edition prints and cards. Coming to Etsy soon!

 

BlueBeards’s Egg:

From the Perrault “BlueBeard” to Angela Carter – I am drawn to this gruesome tale – again with an active female protagonist who makes choices! Im not really a princess kind of girl… I do find the symbolism of key and egg and blood to be evocative, and not too Freudian but very primal and archetypal. Blood and fertility and sex and death.  This is an icon I have used before in jewelry – it was greatly satisfying to add text. A little spin on the egg, referencing the tales and their tellers.

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Skin tones were a challenge with my limited palette of printing inks. These two are the best.

Aschenputtel ( Cinderella)

We all know the tale of the Fairy Godmother, the pumpkin coach, the singing Disney mice. But I find the older German version ( Grimm Bros naturally) much more haunting. Cinderella/Aschenputtel waters her mothers grave with her tears. A pear tree grows – and through all the magics the tree is the benefactor. Theres a natural Earth/goddess vibe here, IMO, a remnant from pagan folk roots? Ash is put through trials, she perseveres, and is aided by creatures from the natural world. This morphed in my mind with the Tree of Life in cultures around the world, and became a very rich, multi faceted idea. I will revisit this in clay – perhaps a Mythic Nature tile?

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Here are a series of images to show the printing process. Each item is printed individually – and I simply eyed up the placement. No complex registration marks needed. Broom. Tree. Tears. Then Dove 1, Dove 2. Pear, Mouse 1 and Mouse 2. Whew! These are strewn about the studio – ink wet – as I write this.

Next up will be a design from The Glass Castle – a variant of the Sleeping Beauty tale. I simply ran out of time.

One thing about printmaking? There are multiples! I have a limited edition run of each print – 9 or 10 of each. And I printed cards as well. I will be listing these on my Etsy shop this weekend if you care to take a look.

Thanks again to the Carterhaugh School and Sara and Brittany! It was a pleasure and I look forward to future courses!