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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 July 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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Deb LeAir Ceramics  
Saint Paul, Minnesota

Deb LeAir has been creating art in some form or another since she took her first ceramics course in high school. She has an MFA in Ceramics from the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, and has been a full-time artist since 1996. She exhibits and sells her work at art festivals across the country and at select galleries, including Ripple River Gallery in Deerwood, MN and Seasons on St. Croix in Hudson, WI.
"Openings and Doorways," 14 x 29 x 1 inch
These earthenware tiles are mounted on plywood. No molds are used; they are hand-carved from slabs that are 1/2 inch to 5/8 inch thick, often using Kemper ribbon tools. The surface is terra sigilatta, which she uses instead of a glaze because it doesn't melt as much and has a soft matte finish.  Over that she uses a black copper wash which lies in the recessed areas; the rest gets wiped off. The tiles are fired to cone 04.
"Black Willow Walk," 26 x 36 x 1 inch, mounted for hanging 
At one point Deb built a small house in west central Wisconsin, deep in the woods, splitting her time between the house and a studio in St. Paul. Plant forms became a part of her visual vocabulary while she worked to create environments of color for her clients. When she began as a full time studio artist, all of these experiences informed her work. She found herself carving landscapes and working with botanical themes.  
"Kiva Day #5" 45 x 9 x 1 inch (Detail from top) 
Deb has been the subject of a substantial article in a 2007 Clay Times magazine, "Line, Color and Life" (click on the magazine cover below her bio).  Her work was also included in a 2008 Lark Books publication:  "Making and Installing Handmade Tiles" in the chapter on slab rolling.

To work out details on prices, designs, and sizes for vessels, tiles, or boxes, please contact Deb directly.  Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery of orders.   
- Contact -
Deb LeAir Ceramics 
St Paul, MN 

Elfstone Studio  
Susan Meyer 
Kirkland, Illinois


Susan Meyer does absolutely every­thing involved with the cre­ation of the work she sells, from the orig­i­nal sculp­ture to the fir­ing. She used to have helpers when she did more fine art and crafts shows, but has managed to go it alone now for sev­eral years.  She'll be at the Midsummer Festival of the Arts on July 19 & 20th (this coming weekend!) in Sheboygan, WI and then at Celebrating Art in Nature on July 26 & 27th in Woodstock, IL.  See her website for a more extensive list of upcoming shows.
"Woodland Scene" backsplash
Susan says this about her work and inspiration: "My Irish grand­mother got me started early in life hunt­ing for lep­rechauns, fairies, and elves. I never did see any, but devel­oped a pro­found love of Nature in the process of search­ing for them. My work is an extension of that love."
Ginko Leaf Border Installation, 6 x 6 inch tiles 
This image is a side view of a shower border using a single glaze, in this case a semi-matte grey-green.  Border tiles can be easily created using simpler images that are meaningful to the client, in a monochromatic color, as above.  Com­mis­sions for mod­i­fi­ca­tions (flatter, less sculptural) to exist­ing designs for installations are welcomed.  Borders give a finished look and add immediate interest and individuality to backsplashes, fireplaces and showers.
Turtle, monochramatic version from "Woodland Scene," above
As to advice for beginning tile artists, Susan has this to say "If people like your work they'll keep coming back for more. The objective is to find those people. Shows are generally a good place to start because there are lots of people who actually have exerted a little effort to see art; they like it, like to live with art around them. They don't think it's weird or frivolous to buy art.  If they like yours, they'll buy it."

"But my best advice would be to marry a good marketer."

- Contact Info -
Elfstone Studio, Susan Meyer 
Kirkland, IL
Retail Store:  

Stone Hollow Tile     
Wendy Penta
Blaine, Minnesota

Wendy Penta's passion for clay began while she was still in high school; her mother built a huge high-fire kiln in their backyard and turned their basement into a working studio. Out of the potters' dust arose a mother-daughter team with a thriving stoneware business called Stone Hollow Pottery.

Calla Lilies, 6 x 6 inch, Old Turquoise glaze

All of Wendy's tiles are conceived, drawn, sculpted, molded, rolled, pressed, fired, glazed, and then fired again, by her. She creates her applied clay tiles in one of two ways: relief designs are lifted from molded tiles, manipulated and reshaped; the rest are hand sculpted, forming one-of-a-kind shapes, which are then applied to the clay tile base, adding dimension and depth.

Blue Black Green Tile and borders

Wendy's three-toned tiles in blue, black and green reflect the feeling of the Art Deco era. With both stylized and realistic tree motifs, these hand painted tiles have been a favorite of hers since she created her first in 1998. Working the design out directly on the tile with various sized brushes, she hand applies the glazes, ensuring no two are alike.
"Oak Leaves Circled," Old Bronze glaze
6 x 6 inch tiles with 1 inch borders
This tile series can be seen as a backsplash on her Architectural page, showing a multitude of installations using her tiles, including kitchen, fireplace and bath applications.

Wendy has won several awards for her tiles including The Tile Heritage Award in both 2007 and 2011. This year she took home Best of Ceramics at the Park Point Art Fair in Duluth, MN in June. Her tiles can be found at Krista Artista Gallery in Anoka, at AZ Gallery in lowertown in St Paul and at the Clay Squared Showroom, in Minneapolis. She will also be at a number of art festivals including Blueberry Arts Festival in Ely on July 25th-27th.  See her Art Shows page for more or visit her website for in stock, ready-to-ship tiles or for custom orders. All tiles are ready to hang or install. One-of-a-kind art tiles are available too and make unique gifts.

- Contact -

Stone Hollow Tile - Wendy Penta
8532 Edison Street NE
Blaine, MN 55449

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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