It’s amazing what can be done in tile art, and Handforth Gallery has a big collection of beautiful examples on view now presented by Artisan Tile Northwest (ATN).
More than 60 pieces make up this exhibit, showcasing works by nearly 25 artists, including Tacomans Claudia Reidener of Ixia Tile and ceramics artist John McCuistion. All of the artists are part of ATN, a non-profit tile makers group dedicated to the preservation of the art and craft of handmade tile. ATN also holds an annual tile show to raise public awareness about the range and diversity of tile being produced in the Northwest – and what range and diversity there is.
Entitled “Literary,” the collection at Handforth encompasses so much variety in themes, colors, shapes and dimensions that each individual piece stands out on its own as a fascinating testimony to the skilled hands and vivid imaginations of the artists. From the dramatic to the whimsical, this is art that everyone can appreciate.
Some of the artists make three-dimensional pieces that seem to come right off the wall. Karen B. Morrice’s (of Oddinary Tiles) “Downstream” was done in the perspective of looking down upon a koi pond, with the finned backs of three little koi fishes sticking up above the water’s surface. Maria Root’s (of Primitiva Pottery and Tile) “Legends of Ravens and Crows” shows the heads of 15 of these black birds sticking right out at the viewer.
With a show title like “Literary,” and the fact that Handforth Gallery is located inside the Tacoma Public Library, themes from books are everywhere in this exhibit. Irene Otis (of Irene’s Tiles) gives the Big Bad Wolf a break in her “Once In A Blue Moon,” a square tile that shows the wolf and Little Red Riding Hood sitting romantically on a porch swing under a full, blue moon. The text reads: “Once in a blue moon a decent wolf comes along….”
Sallie Herling (Herling Studio) presents an illustration of a Rudyard Kipling fable “The Elephant Child.” In three scenes, the artists shows how the elephant got its “really truly trunk” thanks to a toothy crocodile. Animal themes populate the exhibit as well. Bob and Iris Jewett (Wilburton Pottery) create finely detailed tiles of plants and creatures in their natural habitat.
“Literary” also takes on the history of tile making on this side of the world. Encased in tall showcases are fascinating examples, one that dates back to 1600s Mexico where Franciscan missionaries produced the earliest tiles in the Americas.
“Literary” shows through April 12 and admission is free. Tacoma Public Library is located at 1102 Tacoma Ave. S.