Ceramicist Sherry Schalm confirms it. “The terminology that goes with ceramics is exactly the same as baking,” she says from her Calgary studio. “It’s clay recipes and glaze recipes.” And yes, that roller that’s sitting on her work bench does the job of a pasta maker.
Sherry Schalm in her Calgary studio
“I can change the depth according to the thickness of the slab I’m using and it just rolls out,” she says of the machine that spits out sheets of clay. She then cuts into the dough-like material –freehand – to create a series of shapes – dots, slots and hoops before firing them in the kiln. Just like making cookies. Sort of.
Scoring the clay in different shapes and sizes
Schalm manufactures a line of six by six inch decorative wall tiles in various shapes and colours – 24 colours at last count – designed to be grouped together to form patterns on an interior wall. The lightweight tiles are held in place with pins and double-sided tape.
“I’ve always enjoyed making and assembling things,” says Schalm. She says it was her cartography class at the University of Lethbridge that introduced her to patterns and layers. Using a scribe and sheets of multi-coloured acetate, she learned how to give an aerial photograph a three dimensional effect using colours to indicate different elevations. Red indicated one elevation, green another,etc.
Grouped hoops on the wall
“I think that was a natural extension into ceramics”, she says of her unorthodox entry into the 3D world. She then transferred to the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design to continue her studies.
No cups or vases for the transplanted Albertan though. “I could never throw,” she says. “It made me motion sick. I had to find another way other than at the potter’s wheel.” Presto, the idea of extruding slabs of cookie dough-like clay was born.
The Amoeba Series
Wide shot of the Amoeba Series
Schalm cuts each tile by hand so no two tiles are exactly the same. She says dots and slots are the most popular shapes. Off-white is the most popular colour although tangerine is a favourite too.
The Dot Series
Dots spread out on the wall
“There’s an immediacy that comes with the method of making them,” she says. “Each one is hand cut or, in the case of the amoebas series, hand pressed. There’s a connection between whoever’s got them on their wall and the maker, a sense of where they come from. It’s a very basic material and it’s a beautiful, permanent surface.”
The Slot Series paired with dots
Slots grouped together
Grouped slots in a living room setting
Schalm’s business is evenly split between interior designers looking to spruce up an interior lobby and homeowners anxious to add a little zip to their living quarters. The purchase price includes a consultation with the artist and a template that suggests placement. Schalm’s wall tiles are available in selected stores across western Canada and through her website.