When it comes to artisan tiles, we tend to think of grand mosaics, funky backsplashes, or quaint inlays—in other words, staid kitchen and bathroom installations that require long-term grouting commitments. Not anymore, though. Ceramicist Sherry Schalm is changing all that with tactileDesign, an ultrachic, contemporary line of tile wall art.
These modular clay ensembles have energy, depth, and room to breathe, and from an interior-design perspective, they’re very versa-“tile”, too. The rich, earthy colour combos, for example, can warm up an ultramodern space, and the burred edges of the individual pieces can add architectural grit to a soft traditional space. And you never have to give them up, either. That’s because they adhere to the wall with double-sided tape or stainless-steel pins. So whether you’re downsizing or climbing up the property ladder, these lush, glossy clay arrangements can be spaced out (or in) according to your new square footage.
“The great thing about them is they are expandable and contractible,” says Schalm, calling from her Calgary home studio. “They can be removed and moved with you.”
As Schalm recalls, her inspiration for creating beautifully repetitious work goes way back.
“I grew up in the Prairies, so herds played a big part in my life,” says Schalm, a Brooks, Alberta, native. “It’s so big and vast and there’s lots of groupings, like the multiple telephone poles stretching out alongside the roads—they become quite soothing because they have their individual strength and then, as a collective, they become something different.”
She honed her craft at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she earned a BFA in ceramics. Then she headed back west again in 2003 and officially launched her company in her home studio. That’s where she spends her days forming puzzle pieces from wet clay, which are then fired and glazed by hand. She currently splits her time between fully customized work and her four core collections, sold online as well as at Parliament Interiors (115 Water Street).
The Slots are rectangular doughnuts that come in three-foot-by-two-foot or two-foot-by-five-foot arrays, as well as in made-to-order arrangements (about $100 per square foot for each). All you need is one of these amazing, puzzlelike works of art to create the perfect centrepiece above a living room sofa, and don’t worry—assembly is pretty much foolproof. Each array includes a choice of two or three colours, numbered pieces, and a custom template that Schalm takes painstaking measurements to map out.
“I design the arrangements standing on a stool above a table with a bird’s-eye view,” said Schalm. “It’s amazing how just moving something a quarter-inch can change the energy.”
Then there are the Dots. These smooth, elegant cubes come in sets of 50 for $400. The possibilities are endless here. You can spray them haphazardly around a corner to marry two spaces or create a self-contained structured grid if your room needs some cleaner lines.
The Hoops are equally popular. Schalm assembles these curvy organic doughnuts into strict geometric shapes, giving them a progressive, studious vibe perfect for a home office, live-work loft, or library type of environment. Sets cost about $120 per square foot and can be glazed in any combo of colourways.
Six-inch-by-six-inch decorative Amoeba tiles come in sets of three ($120) and five ($200). These beauties are great for adding a pop of colour atop neutral-toned wallpaper or for picking up hues in bold wallpaper patterns.
A big part of what makes these compositions so inspiring is Schalm’s bang-on colour palette—nouveau naturals paired with retro tangerines, lemons, and eggplants.
“I’m a child of the ’70s, so I like the avocado greens and oranges,” she says. “They weren’t afraid of colour back then and I think that rubbed off on me.”