A lovable kind of grotesque: The Lewis chessmen

If you scout around online, you’ll find armies of replica Lewis chessmen (chess pieces carved from ivory in Norway around the twelfth century that made their way to the Scottish island of Lewis) for sale, mostly in three-dimensional sets and single figures, but also in posters and prints. My adaptations for Tree of Life Ceramics are a wee a bit different since they flatten the … Continue reading A lovable kind of grotesque: The Lewis chessmen

Book of Kells, Christ

Artwork in progress: Book of Kells portraits

This week (early September ’17), I’ve been working on two relief adaptations from portraits in The Book of Kells—the Latin manuscript of the Christian Gospels, produced around 800 CE, probably on the Scottish island of Iona, decorated in mind-boggling complexity.   Modern artists have long borrowed material from this book, adapting its lavish interlacings, knotworks, and animal motifs. But, as staggering as many of these … Continue reading Artwork in progress: Book of Kells portraits

Making decorative stone coasters

Plenty of inspiring crafters’ tutorials online show how to decorate ceramic tiles. Not many, though, show how to work with original art. In this post, I want to share my process for applying original artwork to decorating stone coasters. It’s from a seasonal project for Tree of Life Ceramics, a series of twelve coasters adapting “The Twelve Days of Christmas” (a traditional song with a … Continue reading Making decorative stone coasters

Bullion Stone Tile

Sure to appeal to lovers of drink, lovers of horses, and lovers of drinkers astride horses, the Bullion Stone is a slab dating to c. 900-950, found at Invergowrie (near Dundee), Scotland, and dug up during road construction in the 1930s; it’s currently held by the National Museums of Scotland (NMS). It features a bearded warrior on horseback, at an angle suggesting a steep incline (hence … Continue reading Bullion Stone Tile

Tree of Life Ceramics Store on Etsy

We’re delighted to announce the opening of our store, on Etsy, at https://www.etsy.com/shop/TreeOfLifeCeramics . We opened with 9 tile designs—six Lewis Chessmen figures, The Wanderer, The Wife’s Lament, and a Tree of Life—in various materials and finishes. We’re also excited to have made our first sale, though our four-and-a-half-year-old son had a hard time seeing us pack it and prepare to ship it out (a … Continue reading Tree of Life Ceramics Store on Etsy

Tree of Life Logo

Our logo comes from one of our first tiles, which was cast in plaster, stained with wax, and sanded for a distressed finish. It’s based on an image from a Pictish stone carving, currently held in the Groam House Museum, in the village of Rosemarkie near Inverness, Scotland. The original is a powerful, stylized design, conscious of its symmetry in balancing the four curling lower branches … Continue reading Tree of Life Logo

Introducing Tree of Life Ceramics

Ahoy! We are a small, family business based in Chicago, getting ready to sell original sculptures and ceramics crafted by hand. Our first lines are inspired by ancient artifacts: patterns, motifs, and figures from Pictish standing stones, Celtic carvings, early Christian bibles, and Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. Our process is fairly straightforward: sculpt in clay, make molds, cast in plaster or cement, then paint and varnish. The … Continue reading Introducing Tree of Life Ceramics