June 23, 2020 (Petaluma, California) ….FLM Ceramics is pleased to introduce the Sound Wave tile series, hand-crafted by Forrest Lesch-Middelton. The Sound Wave series is comprised of twelve 6″ x 6″ ceramic tile designs, in two colorways, Cast Iron and Inverted Cast Iron. The series was inspired by 18th century sound experimentation by physicist Ernst Chladni, where frequencies are introduced to a steel plate balanced on top of a tone generator that when dusted with sand, creates unique patterns through tonal vibrations. Each Sound Wave tile design in this series is named for the unique frequency the plate was tuned to when the pattern appeared, or relates to the number Ernest Chladni assigned to the pattern. Forrest is the only ceramicist to apply Chladni’s sound wave patterns to the creation of tile.
It was while he was at Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis on a McKnight Fellowship that Forrest developed the tile. He borrowed the equipment from the University of Minnesota physics department to research the effects of sound waves on pattern. Chladni’s work in the 18th century became the catalyst that bridged the gap between idea and object. Forrest had already mined history for his first tile collection and wanted to go beyond the cultural history of pattern and look toward the deeper human and metaphysical connections that inspired the origins of pattern.
Forrest describes his research process, “As a tile maker I am limited physically by my equipment, as a thinker I am only limited by my mind. It took me years to find the time and equipment to justify the research needed to develop the Sound Wave tiles. Once the research was complete I felt a great deal of satisfaction. The idea for these tiles came like a bolt out of the blue, and I feel as if I will never stop being curious about the meaning behind it. The sounds that create the patterns range greatly, from incredibly deep resonant tones to shrill ear-splitting pitches that literally had dogs in the neighborhood barking as I was running the tests. Visually the patterns are incredibly subjective, the interpretation of the visual language is up to the viewer’s own experiences, that is the beauty and ambiguity of these patterns.”
Once Forrest had access to the Chladni plates he experimented for 8 weeks before attempting to add clay to the mix. The meticulous process involved replacing the original steel with a wafer thin porcelain plate made with porcelain slip and using a tone generator to create patterns by sifting ceramic pigments (instead of sand) over the porcelain. Once finished, the porcelain plates were kiln fired to permanently affix the patterns. Finally, a photo was taken and digital versions of each pattern were created to make the silkscreens necessary for creating multiples of each design. The tiles are sold individually and can be composed with either a tessellated repeat or a variegated composition. Tiles are heat resistant and can be installed indoors or outdoors on vertical surfaces and floors with light to medium traffic. The Sound Wave series is available exclusively at FLM Ceramics: www.flmceramics.com 415.272.9997
Top photo: Variegated Sound Wave in Cast Iron.
All photography by Beth Schaible of FLM Ceramics.
Forrest Lesch-Middelton is a potter, tile maker, and educator living and working in Petaluma, CA. His custom handmade architectural tile graces private homes, restaurants, hotels, and commercial spaces throughout the world. As each tile is made by hand, the final results yield beautiful variation, rich hues, and subtle textures that give new tile installations the immediate patina of history. Forrest has spent his career as an accomplished potter and educator with many accolades including being named American Ceramic Artist of the Year by the American Ceramics Society in 2014. Forrest published his first book, Handmade Tile in 2019. The book is a contemporary guide for ceramic artists, designers, architects, and anyone interested in custom tile fabrication and installation.