An art history scholar and painter, in 2009 Jacqueline Moore found herself “anxious, afraid, stunted in creativity and at a crossroads”. The journey that began in England and had brought her to Southern California, led one afternoon to a garden in Montecito. She was strolling amidst lush plantings, breathing air fresh from a recent rain and captivated with what she considered “wee art works”: old hand painted tiles that dotted the landscape.
Moore had an epiphany on that sunlit stroll. Using her extensive knowledge of art history, design and architecture, her virtuoso skill with a brush, near forensic study of materials, and trust in her artistic voice, she began creating decorative tiles. As an expert in Restoration and Conservation in Decorative Antiquity, her chosen substrate was wood, a material she knew intimately.
Working with tile industry veterans, Moore discovered the process that would enable her to create a durable tile in Baltic Birch that would provide the canvas for her elegant painted imagery. Created in as many as 20 layers, each tile is interspersed with paints and sealants that protect the surface and edges. Moore likens it to a “lasagna” effect with striations that create an impermeable patina. Traversing decorative ideology, Moore draws inspiration from the styles, movements and artists that captivate her imagination. She attributes her sense of balance and graceful proportion to a Palladian symmetry and draws courage from German Expressionism. Moore works viscerally, allowing the patterns and colors to essentially “choose themselves.”
“Each tile is emblematic of an emotional response,” she says, “They don’t trace anything in particular, nor as a pictorial rendering of something existing somewhere else, but are in fact recordings, captures, of an emotional reaction to an experience.”
The French 17th century painter, Antoine Watteau figures prominently in her design choices, which harmonize spontaneity with detailed execution. The evidence of folly is seen in the Commedia Dell’Arte series, populated with Moore’s delightful characters. Each rustic wood tile with a worn gesso base is overlaid with a meticulous figure in Delft inspired blues with umber and ocher oil washes. The Monkey Harlequin that prances into the Rococo of the 18th Century is Italian Commedia meets Singerie style by way of Tim Burton.
In the Rococo-Chinoiserie series the wood base is distressed and then painted with a red underlay and a Black crackled topcoat. Distressed and worn gold leaf is applied to create borders and motifs. The Brighton tiles are atmospheric in mood with umber and ocher washes and a silver leaf ground coat. The delicate hand-painted botanical scenes are subtle and ephemeral. There is historical reverence in Moore’s textured interpretations.
She believes the tiles are conceived in ”truth and fully fledged joy” while their presentation is “nuanced, storied, worn and with tales to tell.” Listen closely.
“Tileista” is a monthly column that explores the beauty of artisan tile. JoAnn Locktov is the author of two books and numerous articles on contemporary mosaics. Her public relations firm Bella Figura Communications represents creative individuals and businesses in design, architecture, art, and travel. Follow her musings on Twitter: