“Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”. ~John Muir
Hey There! If you have been following me on any of the social media avenues, (and if you’re not, you ought to get your fanny over there and follow for a behind the scenes look at Fire Creek Clay!), you would know that I am a backpacking wander woman. I am at my happiest when I am in the backcountry away from news, rotten television and cell phones. If you are new to the blog, welcome and yes…I need fresh air and sunshine to breathe and to be happy.
Ceramic tile countertops add beauty and personality to a home.
~ And they are easier to care for than you think!
I WANT ceramic tile kitchen countertops. CRAZY, right??? I know! Perhaps, it is merely because I am a tile artist and have this funny obsession with tile, maybe it is because I was merely trying to save money by using my trade. There is some truth to those last two statements, but don’t think I didn’t do my homework. Tile may be my obsession and because it is my trade, it may save me some money, but this is a permanent fixture in my home…one that could cost me value. I did my research. I am familiar with the common complaints of ceramic tile countertops. People either love or hate ceramic tile countertops…there really is no in between. I am not here to convince you or change your mind. I am here to give you the facts and let you decide for yourself.
Inspiration is everywhere and often found in the most unlikely of places. Fire Creek designs are often inspired by the backcountry and the animals that reside within. Today, Fire Creek introduces The Angevin Rose Medallion and the story of its beginning is different.
We study genealogy to answer the great questions of life; where do we come from, why are we here and what could our futures possibly hold. Understanding the hardships of our ancestors is a powerful example of our true grit and the strength that is inside each and every one of us. Genealogy is bringing distant history to a personal level. I dabble with the genealogy of my family in fits and starts; working until I become frustrated by dead ends. Traveling down the twists and turns of the lives of people who built me, is inspiring and motivating. Not too long ago, the road lead me back to the 11th century and the beginning of the Plantagenet Dynasty.
Along with the love of researching family history, comes the excitement of learning about the lives of others in a different time and place. I devoured every book that fed my curiosity of Eleanor of Aquitaine, a distant grandmother. Eleanor was one of the wealthiest women in the Middle Ages and a leader of several armies during her lifetime. (I feel a strong resemblance to my 25th great-grandmother, well except for the being wealthy part. Just kidding). With her husband King Henry II, they would create the Plantagenet Dynasty and lead England through transformation, the Magna Carta and war.
Through the personal lives of my grand-sires, I found the art and culture of the time. Handcrafted tile was a big deal back then! Beautiful, two-toned inlaid tiles covered the floors of Abbeys and Churches during the 13th-16th centuries. The dark earthenware clay was stamped using a heavy wooden block design. Crafters set white clay slip into the deep recesses, giving the tiles a two tone appearance. The creation of this new process of creating tile, is considered one of the great inventions of the time. It gave rise to the ability to mass produce tile.
The designs of these inlaid tiles are enchanting, often depicting animals of the hunt, coats of arms, and intricate designs of leaves and vines. Being the tile artist that I am, I began to wonder what it would be like to bring these tiles to life with a Fire Creek twist…carved in deep relief.
The result is Fire Creek’s Angevin Rose Medallion, a hand crafted ceramic tile hand carved. These 4- 6 inch relief tiles allow the glaze to puddle and pool. A beautiful piece, perfect as the showcase of a kitchen backsplash or fireplace surround. The Medallion shown is glazed in a stunning cobalt blue, but consider an evergreen, warm amber brown or a classic snow-white glaze. There are so many options with such a versatile, classic design.
~Thanks for visiting!
P.S. There were magazines last month that featured handcrafted tile. Handmade tiles are making a comeback…get yours today!
It has been an unusual summer for Fire Creek. The weather has been extraordinarily pleasant. So unlike the hot dry heat we here in Idaho are so accustomed to. As I sit here talking with you, I am sitting on my back patio. Completely enjoying the cool gentle breeze that stirs my wind chime from sleep. It has left me in a rather reminiscent mood. As I sit listening to the birds chirp, I dream about the future of my little business.
Using Fire Creek Tiles in your next remodel project, can personalize your home the way big home improvement stores can’t.
We have been in our house for almost 16 years! Holy Cow, where does the time go? In those 16 years, we have yet to make any kind of improvements to our home. You know…we were busy with trying to keep up with two boys…who has the time. Now that our boys are older, I have the time to look around my house and notice all of the old, out dated stuff in our home. The kitchen had to be first. I walked around the typical Box Home Improvement Stores that every town has, trying to decide what to do with my kitchen. New countertops was a must and I would love to have a beautiful tile backsplash…cuz you know… I love tile.
As the Tile Crumbles ~ The Ongoing Saga of a Girl and her Little Bits (of tile).
It is very easy to get too big for your britches. I have made tiles for over 5 years. I’m pretty proud at how far I’ve come, what I’ve learned, and how I’ve done it mostly on my own. Boredom from repetition had settled in and it was time to stretch myself. I’ve designed 8″ tiles that have turned out beautifully every single time, what could go wrong if I tried an actual mural out of 12 – 8″ tiles? I mean really…
I had decided to pick a picture of my favorite place in Idaho. It is a beautiful photograph of the Sawtooth Mountains surrounded by a lazy meadow at the end of Fish Hook Trail. After my drawing was traced onto a transparency, the image was projected to a large piece of plastic and traced. Confidence coursed through my veins. This was going to be great!
Since I don’t have a slab roller… my studio is very tiny…I set to work hand rolling clay slabs and cut 12 perfect 8″ square blank tiles so that I could carve to my little hearts desire. It took longer than I had expected, luckily all of my boys were away at summer camp and would be gone for the entire week, which allowed me to work the way I work best. I prefer to work with a lot of zeal, little interruption and for as long as it takes to complete a task for before getting some shut-eye. This opportunity doesn’t come around often, which is probably a good thing… After working like that for a week, I was glad to see the boys at home. This girl was in desperate need of sleep and some decent food. (I had lived off of one frozen pizza for a week!)
Once I pieced together my tile blanks, it was time to start carving. This was my favorite part. I love to carve the clay away to reveal something amazing…something beautiful. The table that I had set up was much too short for the tall stool that I had perched on, so I often carved for hours leaning over the giant slab, but it didn’t matter. Mt. McGowan began to emerge from the flat slab of clay. Trees began to grow and bushes sprouted from nothing. My photograph emerged before me, and I would soon have a tangible picture of my favorite place.
It was about 18 hours of carving that I had decided to go ahead and cast each tile. At first, I had never considered it. I wanted this piece to be a one of a kind. The 18 or so hours I had spent bent over a giant slab of clay, the back ache and the tennis elbow that was making itself known; I hated to think that it would all be for nothing if even one tile broke during the drying, or the bisque or even the glaze fire. I had a lot to lose, so I decided to make a trip down to my local Pottery shop for 100 lbs. of potters plaster. It took me another day and a half to make a cast of each tile.
Once the molds were dry, I pressed clay into each one and let every tile dry completely. Each tile was an exact match of the original and all had dried completely flat! Yes! I knew what I was doing. Even though I had never done a project this big or detailed before, it was going to work. I had this! It was going to be exactly as I had pictured in my mind.
It was time to under glaze my master piece. I painstakingly sat down with a tiny brush and painted my mural with earthy under glazes. It became exactly as I had envisioned. I couldn’t wait to mount it and put it on display at the Art Fair that was coming up the following week.
After I had it under glazed, I carefully loaded each tile into my kiln for a bisque. I had never lost a tile during the bisque fire. I was confident that every tile would be fine and ready for me to over glaze in a couple of days. Piece of cake! Well, until I opened the kiln the following day. Each tile I pulled out of the kiln was perfect, except one. Hey, no problem. Perhaps, statistically speaking, one tile out of 12 isn’t bad. Perhaps it was a fluke, perhaps it had a hairline crack before I ever placed in the kiln. No problem, I have a mold. One tile is not a big deal, I can fix that in no time. Putting aside the cracked tile, I over glazed the rest.
Here it goes…the final step before I would reveal the mural that I had dreamed of. I carefully set each tile into the kiln and said a small prayer to the kiln god for a successful firing and closed the lid. In 24 hours, I would be reunited with my first mural.
I waited until the kiln had reached 120 degrees. Usually, I open it around 250, but really what was the rush. I knew that everything would fire perfectly like it always had. I walked up to the kiln and with my heart beating just a bit faster, I unlatched the lid and opened the kiln. A warm breeze brushed my face, I peered inside and gasped in shock. At first glance, 2 of my mural tiles were split in half. Numbly, I removed the broken tiles from the kiln and set to work taking out the first layer of kiln shelves. I told myself, “it’s alright, two tiles is ok. Displaying my mural for my next show wouldn’t be possible, but I have another one in September. ” I removed the next set of shelves and yelped in pain. The next set of tiles were cracked. When the kiln was completely unloaded, every single tile…12 tiles in all…were cracked in some way.
Each tile was tossed ceremoniously into my large garbage can with shock and anger, and I really wanted to cry. There in the bottom of that garbage can sat 84 hours of my life, 50 lbs. of clay and gallons of under glaze. I stared down into the bottom of that trash can, at of all my beautiful broken tiles and sighed. Honestly, I could have promised myself that I would never do another mural again, and I could have admonished myself for trying a mural that was a bit too complicated for my first try. Instead, I stood staring into the pit of the trash can and started thinking.. Now what the hell happened?
Well, first of all, I probably took on more than I could chew…I was too big for my britches. Perhaps I should have started with something a bit smaller and a bit simpler to test the waters. I have never been known to do that, I am a jump in with both feet kind of gal and it usually works out…until it doesn’t. My next thought was, what went wrong… obviously I had tried to move through the project too fast, perhaps letting the tiles dry to quickly causing tiny hairline cracks even before the first firing. It could also be too much base relief in small areas putting stress on the clay.
As I stood looking over the ruin of my mural, did I think…I will never try this again? No, never crossed my mind. Nope, next time I will slow things down, maybe minimize some of the deep base relief to relieve the stress and give it another go. Why wouldn’t I? It isn’t all about the finished piece. It’s about the journey. There have been a few stumbles this time but I’ve learned things along the way. I will stand up, brush myself off, fine tune a few things and give it another go.
As I write this, I’ve determined that clay has taught me quite a few life lessons. I used to be a perfectionist, demanding everything in my life to be just so. Frustrated and angry when things didn’t go my way. If I’ve learned anything working with clay, it’s that life is messy and rarely goes they way you expect. You can either fight it the whole way and be miserable or you can learn from your mistakes and make yourself better. The seemingly erratic behavior of clay has taught me patience, persistence and a little humility, lessons not only for working with clay but working through life as well. Feeling a little frustrated and angry? Have you grown a bit too big for your britches? Find yourself a lump of clay and get to work. Clay will set you straight. It is all about the journey; find joy in the journey.
For me, my pieces are more than just a ceramic tile. Each design stands as a place in time, a memory of a beautiful place or creature that I have experienced on my treks into my home state, and other places as well. I consider it a gift to transform these memories into something tangible, something to have always.
All of my pieces are unique and I can create custom designs as well. Do you have an idea to make your home something special…something different than every other house in your neighborhood? Why be the same as everyone else? Let Fire Creek Clay help you create the space of your dreams; a space that reflects you. From fireplace surrounds, to kitchen backsplashes, or how about really shaking things up and tiling an accent wall with handmade tile in gorgeous hues.
Take some time to peruse through the pages of the site. There are some beautiful tiles and more are added all of the time. Can’t find what you are looking for? Send me an email or give me a phone call and we will work out the perfect tile for you!
Let Fire Creek Clay help you design a home unique to you today!
I love Idaho, always have and always will. Here, you can go to the crisp, green mountains and sit beside a crystal clear lake in the morning and drive to a warm, wide valley covered with pungent Sage Brush and Bitter Brush by afternoon. I find my peace and my inspiration here in these little hidden gems around this great state of Idaho; the lush forests, the shifting sand dunes, the dry desert ridges and fields of ancient lava flows.
My family and I visited Craters of the Moon last weekend. It was our first trip out this year. The weather is finally beginning to warm up and a trip was well past due. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is one of our favorite places to go, but a place that is best visited in the cool of the Spring or Fall.
At first glance, Craters seems like a barren and a very forbidding place to visit. The vast sprawl of ancient lava flow looks devoid of any living creature, uninhabitable by plant or beast. Take a closer look…once the snow melts in late April or early May, the wildflowers begin to bloom. From the tiniest of purple Monkeyflower and dwarf buckwheat, to brilliant red Paintbrush and by early June vast displays of the sweet-smelling Idaho State Flower, the Syringa. Limber Pines twist and bend up through the sharp crags of lava rocks, creating shelter for sweet-faced Pika and Pygmy rabbits. I didn’t believe it at first, but it is said that Bear traverse through this area as well. What is there at Craters for a Bear to eat? I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen a post on the Craters of the Moon Facebook page, proudly displaying a picture of a creamy brown, black bear traipsing through the Limber Pines on the very weekend we had visited!
Craters of the Moon is a fascinating place for day hikes. There are multiple paths through out the monument to walk. Each step deeper into the park is walking deeper into another world. Even NASA thought so:
According to the National Park Service,” NASA’s Apollo Astronauts Alan, Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, Eugene Cernan, and Joe Engle learned basic volcanic geology here in 1969 as they prepared for their moon missions.”
The quiet, barren landscape is almost unnerving, but unlike anything you will find anywhere else. To add to the strangeness of this place, you can also explore caves and smaller lava tubes. The largest, Indian Cave, is a large lava tube that is easy to climb down into and walk through. Others, like Boy Scout cave are a little trickier to negotiate, but well worth it. In order to visit these caves, make sure to stop by the Visitors Center to get yourself a permit.
If you do stop to visit Craters of the Moon here is a bit of advice for you. Make sure you dress in layers if you are going early or later in the season. Even on a cool windy day, you warm up quickly on the hikes but the caves will be chilly, often having ice in them well into June. It’s a good idea to always bring water with you. It may be a cool day, but the wind is pretty constant out there and will dehydrate you quickly. Don’t forget your flashlight! Most of the caves you can visit without flashlights but some can get pretty dark! Most importantly, stick to the trails. In order to preserve this strange but beautiful area, trails have been established to protect the lava flow. It is also important to stick to these trails because this is not an area that you want to get lost in. Exposure to the elements is a real danger here, but not if you are smart and know where you are.
If you do visit, I would highly suggest staying a night in the campground. Here is where the stars touch the Earth and the number of visible stars is infinite. It is truly a breath-taking sight to see. Along with the star gazing, if you sit still and quiet, you can catch glimpses of bats flitting around the night sky, weaving and dodging to catch bugs in mid-air.
How can you not be inspired in a place like this? I’ve always had a fondness for the strength and determination of a twisty, stubborn Limber Pine. And the sweet faces of the ever elusive Pika have always been a muse but for this trip, it was a big, noisy Raven.
In the evening, we would sit back at our camp site to soak in the stillness, that is stillness until our steak hit the grill. A giant Raven flew by and saw that juicy steak sitting on the grill and pulled a U-turn and came to rest on branches of this amazing, twisted Limber Pine just opposite of our campsite. He sat hollering and belly aching from his perch, hoping that we would leave our fine, well marbled steak unattended. There was no amount of noise or clatter that would have driven me from my dinner that night or any other night, and he left hungry just before the moon rose above the black, bizarre terrain. He made sure to visit us every evening around dinner time after that; hoping that we had left some tasty morsel for him. From his perch he would call, beg and plead for just a little bite. He would twist his head from side to side hoping to spy the tiniest of crumb. When all else failed, he would spread his wings and fluff his glossy black feathers in a huff. I truly enjoyed watching him pout and throw a fit. What an amazing and an intelligent creature!
I know that there are some amazing Raven tiles out there, but how can I not make a tile of the magnificent creature who came to entertain and talk with me every night? If there was a way that I could have brought home that Raven, I would have wanted to. Instead, I will keep his memory preserved safely in clay.