Forrest Lesch-Middelton gets points for doing his due diligence.
The owner of FLM Ceramics in Petaluma, Calif., a potter and ceramicist since age 14, reached back 250 years for inspiration in his new line of tiles.
He looked to German physicist and musician Ernest Chladni, who lived and worked between 1756 and 1827. Among the projects he pioneered was a system of translating sound waves into images – by manipulating a steel plate. “He struck the plate with a violin bow,” Lesch-Middleton says.
Sprinkling the surface of the plate lightly with sand, Chladni found that bowing it produced patterns that related to the physical dimensions of the plate.
Lesch-Middelton has updated the process for the 21st century – and created a new collection of 12 tiles from it. He calls them – wait for it – Sound Waves.
“I sit a porcelain plate on a tone generator (or speaker) and then turn it on and put pigments on it,” he says. “Then I photograph the patterns.”
Two thirds of his Sound Wave tile designs are ones he took photos of on plates, and one-third are from patterns Chladni himself drew out from his research.
Whatever. These are tile designs that offer a kind of futuristic, optimistic and modern psychological appeal, especially when grouped together.
“The Sound Wave tile looks like it comes from the atomic age, when people were looking forward, not backward,” he says. “It fits into the midcentury modern aesthetic, back when people were thinking about humanity’s explorations.”
And for a light- to mid-traffic stoneware tile, it can be used in a number of applications. “We just did a pool, and a series of restaurants in Florida with barroom floors,” he says. “We do a lot of backsplashes, floors in bathrooms and showers that are very functional, and entryways in homes.”
That kind of versatility is not a new concept for the tile industry. But turning sound into images – well, that’s something else altogether.
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