Pottery Travelogue: Eastern Washington

Eastern Washington

Chief Joseph lantern slide. Source: Wikimedia Commons

When we drop down into the United States, the change is marked. Not the landscape. The locale we just left has the warmest weather in Canada and the population has exploded, as Baby Boomers retire to more temperate climes. But once we enter Washington state, we enter an area that is dry, remote, underpopulated. We left the main highway at Omak and drove through the Colville Nation. We passed through some of the most beautiful land I’ve ever seen. The Colville Indian Reservation is one of the largest reservations in the U.S., almost as big as a small state or province. Chief Joseph is buried there and it was on this reservation that he spent his last days, broken-hearted. The U.S. Army had chased him and his peoples from their native Nez Perce lands in Idaho, through Montana, up to the Canadian border. He almost made it to safety, but not quite. At one point, we found ourselves driving along the Columbia River, with the walls of Grand Coulee looming up on either side. We stopped at a turnout and took photos at dusk. Ancient stop outcrops, and coulees that looked like wrinkled elephant feet. In the distance, to the south, the broad framework of the Grand Coulee Dam was visible. It is one of the biggest concrete structures in the world and a dam of gargantuan proportions.

We spent the first night of our trip in Spokane, Washington, where my family lives. The next morning, my Mom and sister took me downtown to Artisans’ Wares. Spokane is bungalow heaven and the north side of the city is peppered with classic, well-cared for examples. Many retail stores cater to residents who want to decorate their homes in the classic Arts & Crafts style. I was finally able to see some of the tiles I’d only been able to see images of in American Bungalow magazine and online.

Motawi Tileworks: I studied these tiles quite closely. The designs are so beautiful…the glazes look much brighter than they appear in print or online. The relief is much lower than I imagined, with glazes separated by discreet ridges, an example of the cuenca technique. The tiles are quite thin, but are heavy because of the size and weight from clay and glazes.

Verdant Tile Co.: Mary Philpott is a Roycroft Master Artisan and this designation carries weight. Her work is exquisite…hand-carved porcelain…layer after layer of translucent porcelain with multiple firings. The effect is jewel-like. The tiles have heft, medium to deep relief.

We arrived in Bigfork yesterday and are now at Flathead lake at the summer residence of my in-laws. Next, we will look at the Montana scene…


About Jan

I have a background in ceramics, graphic design and journalism.
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