Monday, January 31, 2011

Artist Statement


The medium of handmade tile is a culmination of many artistic directions explored over the years, especially experiences in drawing, etching, batik, enamel and cloisonné, pastels and painting.

Naturalist interests and imagination are both evident in my design and subject mater. The palate is bright color, composition modern and style free.

I learned the skills of making stoneware tile from John Turula, a neighboring artist who is well known for his fanciful outdoor stacked sculptures, imaginative computer creations and his local magazine, Turula’s expertise in achieving bright glaze color is evident in my work.     

I have become immersed in the creative exploration of the handmade tile making process, often forgetting everything as the million small decisions of design, color and technique melt away everything else. The visual and tactile manipulation of materials and ideas results in a small essence of my perspective. Each effort gives me a gift of absorbed concentration and timelessness.

The unique quality of making one tile at a time feels right to me. Coarse red clay is rolled out and cut. I etch and compose a design to fit within the framework of a nearly dry cut tile shape after one day of drying. The cut may be freeform, shaped or with a randomly lopped off corner.

Glazed, while greenware with commercial glazes, each layer of color is laid three coats thick between etch lines with very small (sizes #00-1) paint brushes. After the clay becomes bone dry, it is high fired to stoneware in an electric kiln. Another glazing and firing to a low temperature adds intensity to colors. The process stretches over three to six weeks. 

Design choices often arise from the concepts of dichotomies and of elemental entities. I see the wide awake beauty of physical the world, bold and endlessly fresh, juxtaposing the murky and double edged aspects of reality. 

I am mindful of the vibrant sub atomic elements, becoming concrete realities, rocks, sky, the Earth, living things. This speaks to me and feeds my wonderment and drive. Retired now from a career as an Elementary Science and Gifted/Talented teacher, perhaps these themes make sense. Often there is a moon or stars or trees in my imagery. 

Elements, earth, air, water, fire, combined with my intention, twenty-one days, oceans of ideas, vitrified mud to rock through heat of stellar intensity, painted in melted glass color, made to last for millennia. Fascination with the semi-precious stone results.
Formerly a Public School science teacher, my students found art omnipresent. Young students, many of them non native speakers, could experience science and codify what they learned through art, showing their understanding through visual expression. 

My tile studio shop, welcome to visitors, is in my pole barn at home in a rolling river valley of Western Wisconsin, about 45 minutes from St. Paul, MN. Margy Jean Balwierz can be reached at

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