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Handmade Tile Association Newsletter
S P O T L I G H T on artists and events




Our 15th Year

Welcome to the June 2014 spotlight on Handmade Tile Association artists. We feature three tile artists every month, plus links and resources (at right) to many of the tile events, gallery shows, and workshops featured around the country. 

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Alma Artisan 
Tina Schowalter
Alma, Wisconsin

Tina Schowalter has been making tiles since 1994 when she created her own backsplash using handmade tiles.  More recently, Tina has been focusing her attention on creating individual pieces of ceramic wall art, like this piece, below.

From "Clay as Canvas" collection, 6 x 8 inch   

This work, similar to one currently for sale in her online shop, AlmaArtisan.etsy, is made of a creamy porcelain stoneware clay with a waxy white glaze.  Each piece is signed, numbered and ready to hang.  The pebbles, laid out vertically and a primary part of many of these pieces, are actually clay made to resemble natural stones.

Tina enjoys "being in the moment" of creativity and experimenting with automatism, moving or functioning without conscious control.  She loves to go into her studio when she feels as though she has no rules, that she is just letting go, experimenting and exploring.  Innate symbols, found in many of the pieces, are of interest to her as are similar patterns seen in both the atomic and the cosmic scale. 

From "Clay as Canvas" collection

Tina graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1991 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and an emphasis on sculpture.
Her 6 x 8 inch pieces have been very popular and have been purchased by collectors as far away as Australia and are sold through several galleries and art fairs and in her Etsy online shop.  She says her hope is to give others joy through her art.  


- Contact -
Alma Artisan - Tina Schowalter 
Alma, WI  54610
Earth, Wood & Fire 
Laura and Jim McCaul  
Danbury, Wisconsin


Laura McCaul is an artist who loves to carve.  After receiving her B.F.A. in printmaking, she made hand-rubbed woodcuts of her ancestors before turning to ceramics.  Jim McCaul designs and hand builds finely crafted furniture and accessories featuring Laura's black-wared tiles.  Jim and Laura live and work at their home on a lake in the woods of northwestern Wisconsin.  Their art is available through galleries, art fairs and private commissions.
"Chickadee Portrait" 4 x 6 inches
Each of Laura's pieces is one of a kind: hand-built and hand-carved. She uses her own version of a Native American firing process called blackware (made famous by Maria Martinez), finishing her work with terra sigillata, a refined slip that is rubbed to a sheen.  After a bisque firing to make the pieces functional and washable, Laura fires them outdoors, with wood, in a three barrel kiln.  When the fire is hot enough, the space between the middle and inner barrels is filled with sawdust and then covered.  The trapped carbon is permanently absorbed into the clay producing unique earthy tones and flashings.  Laura's process was featured on the PBS "Hometime" series in 2001, when her tiles were used in the Autumn Woods House.
"Bubble Talk Long" 11 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches

Laura began as a printmaker but decided not to continue in that medium. For three years she took classes at the University of MN in Duluth, spending every break in the ceramics studio. Finally, at age 35, she took her first ceramics class, taught by Thomas Kerrigan, who became her mentor. She says she loved the quiet, peaceful way he worked. Although she was supposed to make 3D pieces for that class, she was desperate to complete something to her satisfaction.  In the end, it turned out to be her first carved tile.  After that, she became obsessed with clay. 

Walnut Framed Oak and Pine Mural

Jim and Laura had a longtime dream to collaborate: putting her tile into his furniture. When their youngest went to college, they moved  to their cabin on a lake with 37 acres of woods in northern Wisconsin.  In that setting, nature surrounds them and inspires their  furniture and accessories, created with traditional joinery, often on solar-kiln dried quartersawn black walnut.  (Click to view the construction process here.)

Laura and Jim do commissions; check out this page to see examples of what they can do and then contact them to discuss the design possibilities for your project.    


- Contact Info -
Earth, Wood & Fire   
Danbury, WI 54830
(715) 866-8410  
Gallery:  The Grand Hand Gallery, St Paul 

Kathleen Mellin Grubbs, LLC    
St Paul, Minnesota

Kathy Mellin Grubbs has always worked with her hands.  As a child she signed up for ceramics classes on the military bases where her father was stationed.  A skills assessment informed her she was excellent at spatial relationships and would be a good engineer, so she enrolled at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  She finished college at the University of Saint Thomas with a major in business, working first as an entrepreneur and interior designer before starting a landscaping company, The Garden Lady, LLC.  Currently she's Executive Director of Minnesota Rain Gardens.

"God Separated the Waters Between the Earth and the Sky"

In 2005, while teaching a seminar for home gardeners, she met a mosaic artist and became hooked on a new hands-on hobby that tied in with artistic features for her gardens.  By 2012 she had installed several large murals at Windom Dual Spanish Immersion School.  She also received a small Irrigate grant to create a mural along the City of St Paul's Light Rail Line, at the Seton Clinic Building, on University Avenue.
Windom Spanish Dual Immersion School
Her future goals spring from her life experiences: she sees herself working with veterans and/or military families in addition to creating art for sacred spaces, such as churches and meditation chapels in hospitals and care facilities.
"Our Lady of the Trees" 2010
Kathy teaches Beginning to Advanced mosaic classes in her studio, and at art galleries in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Please leave a message for her at 651-260-7885 to arrange for classes in fine or folk art mosaics or for murals for private, public and sacred spaces.


- Contact -

Kathleen Mellin Grubbs, LLC
1895 Lincoln Ave
St Paul, MN 55105
(651) 260-7885
Did these artists spark your interest for your tile project or tile collection? If so, contact them to let them know what you like about their work. Sign up for their mailing lists and/or social media. One of the best ways to support handmade tile is to share your favorite tile artists with friends and colleagues. Be a tile maven and help spread the word!     

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Josh Blanc
Handmade Tile Association, LLC  

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