Saltillo, and Teaching Myself to Tile

The studio space has been emptied and stripped bare.

I have pulled up the dirty carpet, unhinged the mold-covered door with the boarded up windows, capped the disconnected electric wires, patched the holes in the wall, reapplied and sealed the drywall tape.

I washed the walls, swept the floors, and smudged.

Concrete board down

When it was time, I cut down and secured cement board to the (wavering) plywood foundation.


The real inspiration came in when I came across these beautiful tiles at the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store. Though they were an investment, I was satisfied knowing I was working with a material infused with so much integrity. After hauling them up the coast in my old Volvo, I stacked the tiles up and began washing them clean.


After washing the tiles, I re-stacked them closer to my studio along my wobbly work table. Feeling nourished by the soft red of these tiles, I began to wonder of the place that these tiles originated. Wanderlust began!


A friend generously let me borrow his tile saw, and with it, I cut down the red clay tiles to fit along the edges of the studio.


A thick clay sediment settled at the bottom of the water tray just under the blade. Everything about this material feels healing to my hands.


I study my saw edges in the sunlight, thinking of the mountains and waterways that this clay originated from. In holding the organically shaped tiles, I feel a connection to the land, and to the maker. I imagine the geologic processes that have informed this clay, made it this lovely hue. I think of the hands that gathered this material and brought these round-edged tiles to form. Impressions of animal paws run across the surface of the tiles, inspiring me with their familiarity and simultaneous wildness. I feel connection to all that accompanied this mineral.

I feel the warmth of the dry clay tile. Quickly it turns dark and heavy when wet, and quickly, too, the water evaporates and the tile returns to its lightened state.


I mix up my quick-set concrete, and use my trowel to create peaks and valleys to touch the variable arches of these tiles. I rock each tile in place, until I feel secure footing under my hands.


The light pours in, and the tiles begin to set.