Artisan tile maker Deborah Osburn has met her Asian match.
The newest contributor to clé is creating tiles of Osburn’s design and shipping them to the states.
“She reminds me a little of myself – she’s got a lot of curiosity,” Osburn says. “Her family has made tiles for generations – and she’s interested in all of it.”
That’s worked out well, despite a language barrier, for clé’s newest line of tile made in the Raku manner. She calls them Eastern Earthenware.
“I said at some point that I was trying to find tile out of Morocco, like the crude terracotta that Asians make for roof tiles and clay pots and urns,” she says. “It’s not a refined art – it’s utilitarian, and an uncomplicated glaze.”
After Osburn spoke with her Asian counterpart, she began doing research and the two went back and forth for three years.
“I was conveying a crude tile with nuances, trying to communicate a Raku firing, where you just bring the wares out and cool it quickly so the oxidation’s not doing things to the glaze,” she says. “So now she’s doing a quick firing and cools it quickly for magnificent variations.”
Eastern Earthenware is a collection of tiles in yellows, reds, pinks, browns, blacks and blues, each shipment varying in hues of other colors in them. “There’s a variety of color in a Raku sensibility – and she has that and she’s developing more colors like lavenders and purples and more,” she says. “It’s still in its infancy.”
Osburn is using a tone she calls “Sacred River” for a bath in her own home. “It’s a gorgeous shade of teal but with a gray tone and browns and even a little hint of black,” she says. “I had to take them into consideration – for minimal, modern applications and for intimations of nature and texture.”
They’re tricky to develop – but her Asian artisan is on it. “Once she got what it was that I’m about, she got it,” she says.
And what she’s about is a rare kind of complicated simplicity – one that shines through in all of clé’s offerings.