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.

1 Sherry in her studio

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.

2 Scoring the clay

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.

3 Creating hoops

Creating hoops

“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.

5 Grouped hoops on the wall

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.

4 Glazed hoops

Glazed hoops

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.

6 The amoeba series

The Amoeba Series

8 Wide shot of amoebas on a wall

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.

9 the dot series

The Dot Series

10 Dots spread out on a wall

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.”

11 The slot series paired with dots

The Slot Series paired with dots

12  Slots grouped together

Slots grouped together

12 Grouped slots in a living room setting

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.

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