Words By Mimi Faucet
The robust collection of ceramic tiles at Portland-based Tempest Tileworks range from milky-toned field tiles to signature, so-called “wall tapestries,” which are large-scale ceramic murals dense with textile-quality pattern. Founded in 2006 by Andy Morrison and Leigh O’Dell, Tempest’s team employs traditional silkscreening methods and bespoke coloring processes to animate the clay, often deriving inspiration from antique prints and time-honored Italian fabric houses, such as Fortuny. “I love a sense of history, real and imagined,” says Morrison. We caught up with the pair to learn more about the inner workings of Tempest.
Where in Portland are you located?
Leigh O’Dell: Inner Southeast, next to Big Branch Woodworking. There are many makers all over Portland right now–whether they’re distilling liquor, making ceramics or woodworking. You can find anything here in Portland.
What inspires Tempest’s designs?
Andy Morrison: You never know what’s going to transpire into a final product. We are presented with design challenges on most days. Everything from, “Can you create a color based on my favorite this or that,” to, “Can you re-imagine this doodle into a repeating pattern.”
You often refer to tile as one would to tapestry or fabric. Tell us about this.
LO: Tapestries, fabrics and wallpaper were traditionally used to cover and enhance entire walls. Our patterned tiles do just the same. Tile does not have to be limited to a kitchen backsplash or bath shower.
How much of your work is custom?
AM: I think of all jobs as custom. This tile, most likely, will be looked at and hopefully enjoyed for years, even decades to come.
Quote to live by:
LO: The quote that is on our website by William Morris: “Whatever you have in your rooms think first of the walls for they are that which makes your house and home, and if you do not make some sacrifices in their favor you will find your chambers have a kind of makeshift, lodging-house look about them.”