Arts and Entertainment

Artist finds inspiration for tiles in nature

Bellevue tile artist, Sallie Herling finds her inspiration along the rugged hiking trails in her Somerset neighborhood.

Herling's ceramic, Northwest-themed tiles are handmade in her home studio, from the rolling of the clay to the firing in the kiln. Each hanging tile depicts images of native species from the Big Leaf Maple to the Licorice Fern.

Herling will show her tile work at the 4th Annual Handmade Tile Festival on October 10.

The festival is presented by the Artisan Tile Northwest, a non-profit collective of handmade tile artists from the Pacific Northwest. The event takes place at the Pioneer Hall in Seattle and will feature more than 30 artists including Herling and three other Eastside artists, Bob and Iris Jewett and Karen Morrice.

Herling first discovered the art of ceramics after relocating to the Bellevue area in the late 1970s. Her husband took a job with the Boeing company and Herling began exploring her new surroundings. While strolling around Kelsey Creek Park in Bellevue, Herling was drawn to the large salmon spawning in the creek bed. She also began peaking in the windows of the Kelsey Creek Education Barn, where they offered classes on pottery.

"When I first started ceramics, I got hooked and it's remained that way ever since," she said. "I'm constantly trying new techniques. It's a lot of trial and error, but that's what I love."

For the next 25 years, Herling honed her craft of ceramics, molding wall art in the form of Northwest-native salmon and other fish. After years of success, Herling moved her focus to tile making.

To create each ceramic tile, she first rolls out a slab of wet clay with a slab roller. She then cuts the shape of the tile from the slab using a needle tool. The images on the tiles are often created by pressing a leaf or fern frond into the wet clay. For texture, she uses a piece of fossilized bone she found on a beach in South Carolina. The image is then enhanced using underglazes. When completely dry, the pieces are bisque in an electric kiln. Herling brushes a glaze onto the surface of the tile and then fires them a second time to approximately 2300 degree F.

"It's always a mystery to see how each one will turn out, but that's half the fun," she explained. "I'm constantly learning and adapting. With art, it's all about interpretation."

Herling's tiles are on display at the South Bellevue Community Center and at the Lakeshore Gallery located at Lakeshore Gallery 107 Park Lane in Kirkland.

The 4th Annual Handmade Tile Festival takes place on Oct. 10, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Pioneer Hall, 1642 43rd E, Seattle. For more information, visit or call 360.331.1295.

Lindsay Larin can be reached at 425.453.4602.

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