Textured Tiles that Tell a Story

Places / February 14, 2011

Ali Sobel-Read is a self-taught artist who uses found objects to form lasting impressions in clay.

In her travels to Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands, she collects remnants from everyday life, saving them for later use.

She’ll press items like doormats, pot holders or metal grates into wet clay, forming ridges and valleys of positive and negative spaces.  Once it’s dried, she’ll apply a glaze to accentuate the pattern’s properties and make its texture pop.

“It completely changes,” she said.  “I’m able to say something of my own – and that’s exciting and artful.”

Her work spans the spectrum – from necklaces to tiles to boxes, vases and planters.  And she’s begun to work in collaboration with architects, like Oxide in North Carolina, to install decorative clay panels into exterior residential design.  One is a series of interlocking circles, mulberry in color, under a window overlooking a garden.  Another is a column adjacent to a front door, 13 ½ inches wide and seven-and-a-half  feet tall, a mixture of large and small tiles that adds lightness to the entryway.

She uses two sets of palettes for her work.  One is whimsical, with reds, yellows and purples.  “I love to make people happy with my work – to make them laugh,” she said.  But there are also the darker, more serious tones, created with a second glaze or copper, highlighting valleys in the patterns.  “It draws people in,” she said.  “I want them to touch it, to investigate it, and to get up close.”

Her goal is to bring the angled patterns of urban life into her clients’ homes.  Her next venture will be silkscreening  industrial images – cranes, container ships and harbors from New Zealand and the Cook Islands – into clay.  “The photos are quite rugged.  It’ll be the ultimate experience of bringing the outside in,” she said. 

It’s all part of an art form she calls “textured tile work that serves as a canvas and tells a story.”

For more on Ali Sobel-Read, go to http://www.potteryali.com/

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Mike Welton

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