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Artist of the Month January 2001

Ella Bucholz ~ Tile Magic
by Carol Wells

When I entered Ella's home, an elegantly tiled archway caught my eye. The beautiful colors of the tile and the exquisite pattern that ran the entire front shape of the arched doorway set it off perfectly without overstating the effect. Other tile designs graced the front of a built in shelf.

I'd first come across Ella's incredible tile work when she entered the Moab Art's festival last year. I was struck by her pieces because they weren't the usual tile work I'd been exposed to; there are vignettes in the pieces themselves. Almost like little stories here and there being framed by the rest of the tile design. I also like how Ella uses the grout as part of the overall design. In the planter pots where the tile doesn't cover the entire piece, the grout is feathered out and done in a color that complements the tile and provides contrast between tile texture and the smoothness of the grout.

There's a sense of fun with Ella's pieces. Sometimes there's an inverted cap that forms the center of a flower pattern, or an unusual shape like a teapot knob top, adding even more to the 3-dimensional look.

How did Ella get started in tile? It was something she had always wanted to try. Ella had been working as an independent gardener for the past 25 years, and four years ago she finally got the opportunity to scratch the creative itch in Denver, Colorado. One of Ella's clients who was aware of her desires to get started in tile, offered to pay Ella for 15 hours a week to create artistic tile pieces in the client's yard during one winter. Ella began with tile stepping stones and went on to create benches, a bird bath and other decorative areas in the yard. Her client graciously offered Ella a studio space and art show in the greenhouse, and Ella's been doing tile ever since.
"Did you take classes on tile, or read books?" I asked Ella.
"I read a lot of can labels on latex, mastic, grout, and the like, to know how these products would respond and what they would work with. Being able to work in someone's yard like that helped a lot because I could experiment and find out what worked and what didn't," says Ella.

Through her experience, Ella prides herself on state of the art products so that the end result keeps its longevity.

Like a lot of artists that don't have formal training in design or art theory, they intuit what they do, and genuinely feel their art as second nature. Ella is no exception, in that working in tile is something she always felt she could do and the sheer joy she experiences when working in tile, shows in her work. The other factor..."I love to smash," Ella admitted. Even though she loves to "smash," plates, pottery and the like for materials, she also uses a crimper and a wet saw. And Ella still uses tiles from a private stash that Euro Bath and Tile in Denver gave her whenever they were changing their displays and wanted to get rid of the demos.

I asked Ella what she felt contributed the most to her sense of color and design. "Probably all the exposure in fabric stores when I was a child, growing up in Pidgeon, Michigan. Sewing, and looking for clothing patterns didn't agree with me. But I had a lot of fun looking at all the bolts of colorful cloth." "Sometimes design and color depends on the piece, what it's being used for and how many colors I think I can stretch on the size of the piece," explained Ella.

Through her experimentation, Ella has found that any surface can be tiled. She has tiled a vase bought at KMart, which furnished the initial shape she needed. Additionally, antique tables have been metamorphosed into beautifully tiled tables, as well as counter tops, mirrors, you name it, Ella has probably tiled it.

Where does Ella get the inspiration for her designs? Places like children's picture puzzle books, among others. Sometimes Ella specifically hand crimps plates or other pieces to keep a repeating pattern in tact. "Sometimes though, it's more amazing what's left over when you get done crimping," says Ella. "For example, I'm in the process of making an entire pot of dish labels, you know, the hand written label on the bottom of plates and cups. And I have another piece in progress made entirely of teapot knob tops."

Those are two pieces I can hardly wait to see. However, Ella has already done some unusual projects which include, among others: a mountain scape in a shower, a 23 foot long bar that included the lettering and entry way of Proto's Pizza in Longmont, Colorado.
Here in Moab Ella has taught a tile class at CEU and they have planned for her to teach another sometime this spring.

While teaching at Moab's alternative middle school, Ella's students tiled the top of the cube coffee table at Four Corners Mental Health Center, around which staff meetings are now held.

But perhaps Ella's most unusual piece is the one she's currently working on. Yes, it's the coffee mug outside of Eklecticafe on Main street. People are guessing as to just what's been going on under that tent and when they will be able to see the end result. Amazingly enough, it was just 1½ years ago that a friend of Ella's who happened to be visiting Moab took a picture of the Eklectica cup and brought her the photo while Ella was still living in Denver.

Shortly after her move to Moab, Ella was encouraged by a dear friend, to enter the Moab Arts Festival. After people had been exposed to her work at the Arts Festival, a few suggested Ella contact Eklectica about re-tiling Eklectica's mascot – the coffee mug, in need of repair since the tiles were falling off. The rest, as they say, is history, and the future unveiling of the mug will be during one of this spring's artwalks, so keep an eye out. Until then, you can peek at some of Ella's other works of tile art at Eklecticafe. Or you can reach Ella at 435-259-1729.

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Reproduction of information contained in this site is expressly prohibited.