We’ll take a hundred please

These art tiles were just an idea of ours until one day while sitting at my booth on the corner…

Setting up our business on my favorite corner of the market brings me an abundance of content for blog postings, stories to tell friends and family. Musings for myself and yes, opportunities. I am set up there first and foremost to sell our art work. There is a living to be made. A mortgage to be paid.

Several months ago a Hindu family – mom, dad and daughter, stopped by for a look and a chat. Their attention turned to the Om (aum) art tile. I let them know that we were working on a new design for another Hindu based art tile. It would still have an Om in the center but in a circle surrounding it there would be a mantra in Sanskrit – the Gayatri Mantra. This news was met with delight. They told me that the daughter was to be married in August and that they were looking for a gift to give to each person attending the wedding. They left with one of the Om pieces and our information. I went home and told Jeff. And we thought – “Wouldn’t that be nice.”

We don’t make our pieces in any great quantity. Each one really is made by hand. We sit in front of a bucket and mix the polymer plaster powder and water to the proper consistency – no scales are used. It’s just done by feel and 18 years of experience. The molds, usually 5 or 6 at a time of several designs, are laid out and prepared. The plaster mixture is poured into them. We wait. As polymer plaster hardens, it heats up. Chemistry. When they are hardened and still very warm, we pop them from the mold. Sand lightly around the edges and put them on the finishing table. Cups of color have been prepared based on what designs are being done and brushes lined up. We apply the finishes. Because the tiles are warm, the water based colors are drawn into each piece. It’s a layering process for some parts of the tile, a carefully brushed on color on just the right areas of others. Every layer and brushed on line has a certain time allowed to make sure that we can move on to the next. Timers? No. Just instinct. Timing is based on the humidity and temperature of the air in our studio. Once they have cooled they can no longer accept the color and we could lose the piece. We can only make a handful of pieces at a time. Crazy? Yes. But it works.

Afternoon Kat,
We are excited to let you know that we would like to move forward with your art for our wedding. At this point it will be for 100 units and we look forward to be discussing more of the details with you. Special note, packaging, etc. Do you have an updated sketch?

So – when we received an email several days after my encounter with the family at the market we were elated. And then reality – “Kat – we don’t even have the design completed”. “Jeff – they want 100 of them. In 6 weeks.” Well then. First we sorted out pricing and delivery time and got to work.

We figured on 9 weeks. Finish the design, art work, make the original, mold it, then make 5 molds, cure the molds, mold, wax, label and package. All while maintaining our inventory for our booth at Pike Place Market and web orders. Nothing that we do can be done in phases. Everything is start to finish – on each tile.

I am sharing this, my final tile design. Please do not copy or use this for any purpose other than to envision what the final tile will look like. It is not to be reprinted or reformatted to any other use. I have not watermarked it but trust that you will not use it for any other purpose.

The color finish will be red, gold and tan, just like the Om that you
received at Pike Place Market.

Her response? “Beautiful !” And off we went. They were a joy to make but we were very glad on the final day that the very last piece was carefully packed up. Her parents met me at the market with a cousin to help carry. Her mother looked a bit harried.”How are you doing?” I asked. “I think that I’ll not sleep again until after this wedding.” She still has a week to go. I hope she’s had some rest.

We promised to put a personal label on the back of her tiles. This is the translation of the Gayatri Mantra that her parents sent to us for those labels.:

Oh God the Giver of Life, remover of pains and sorrows,
bestower of happiness and creator of the universe. Thee art
most luminous, pure, and adorable, we meditate upon thee.
May you inspire and guide our intellect in the right direction.

May we continue to be inspired. Sitting on our corner of the universe.

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There are many versions of the Gayatri Mantra. This is my favorite. A Hindu woman told me that if you say it 11 times each morning that your mind will be clear and joyful.

Kat Allen
Symbols in Art


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