Artist of the Month January
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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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