The Art of the Glaze: Bella Vista Tile

For 30 years, Lisa TeviaClark has been experimenting with clay and the alchemy of heat, salt, ash, minerals, and glazes. In 2003 she and her husband James Clark established Bella Vista Tile in the mountains of western North Carolina, setting up a limited production studio and laboratory.

A careful study of ancient Chinese wood ash glazes inspired more than 50 contemporary tile collections. Because every tree specimen, from Bull Pine to Madrone, interacts with the earth in its own way, each ash they use is one-of- a-kind.

Lisa and James make their own molds, hand-press their own clay, and mix custom glazes to apply by hand.  They carve and impress their own bas relief patterns.

As Lisa creates each hand-thrown vessel, platter and icon, she also seeks to transform the space in which it will reside. “I usually get a strong sense of what our tile can bring to the atmosphere,” she said.  

After a recent visit to hot glass artist David Goldhagen, she brought back buckets full of glass shards, powders and chunks, and began to experiment.  The raw material gave birth to a new collection of porcelain and glass called “Fascinations.”  It consists of delicate carvings in three dimensions, matte and metallic glazes, together with fragments of glass.  Melted and merged when fired, each tile is a window of light and a well of saturated color reminiscent of stained glass, with light glowing from beneath.

When her customers began to reproduce her sample boards as kitchen focal points, she began to create elaborate panels of stones, gems, pearls, and ceramic medallions. Ornate and richly colored mosaics, they are malleable concepts for materials and textures that invite close observation.

She sees Bella Vista Tile as an antidote to a perceived demise of beauty in the world.  “More and more, spaces feel stark and oppressive,” she said.  “I want to create art that speaks to and gives comfort to the souls of sensitive people.”  

And, she said, she believes we’re all sensitive people.

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  – JoAnn Locktov

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