Tuesday, June 22, 2010

In the Studio with L'esperance Tile and a Fantastic Giveaway!



I am so pleased and excited to visit with one of my favorite Etsy artists, Linda Ellett of L'esperance Tile.  I have been a fan of her work for a long time, and I wanted to know more about her.  Simply put, I am blown away with everything she has accomplished and is still accomplishing - it's absolutely amazing.  So pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea and settle in for an interesting artistic exploration AND a big finish with a very generous giveaway!

FK: Linda, what’s your morning “cuppa?"


I really enjoy my morning tea; my favorite is Constant Comment or Earl Grey. Every other Friday morning I meet up with my friend Sara at the local coffee shop and we have our “Chai Tea Chat”. My afternoon tea break is usually a vanilla chai or chai latte.




FK: Great! I'll pour for us both while you give us ALL of the online sites where we can find you ...

My Etsy shop is http://www.etsy.com/shop/lesperancetile
My blog is “She’s so clever!” at http://linda-ellett.blogspot.com/
My personal Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/lellett?ref=profile
My fan page on Facebook is http://www.facebook.com/lesperancetile
My Twitter page is http://twitter.com/lesperancetile
My Flickr page is http://www.flickr.com/photos/linda_ellett/
My website (under construction right now, new look coming soon) http://www.lesperancetileworks.com/

FK: Wow - that's quite a list! I'm curious - what does “L’esperance” mean?

L'esperance means "Hope" in French, a tribute to my Grandmother, Elizabeth Hope Collopy, whose great-grandparents came from Canada and anglicized their name from L'esperance to Hope. I started the business with a $1000 inheritance that she left to my Mom when she passed away, and which my Mom gave to me. Some very strong, caring women in my family!!



FK: What is your art education background?

I completed my BFA in Ceramic Art at Alfred University College of Ceramics in 1979.  After becoming addicted to tile during an apprenticeship that summer at The Moravian Pottery and Tile Works in Doylestown, PA, I established L'esperance Tile Works three weeks after returning home and have been making tiles ever since.

FK: That's impressive that you were so determined at a still relatively young age.  Tell us something about your family and where you live.

I grew up in Lansingburgh, NY (also called North Troy), which at the time of my childhood was the typical idyllic small town with turn of the century homes and tree lined streets with boulevards. Anyone from that area who was a child in the 50’s will remember waking up to the smell of the local bakery, Freihofer’s, who became famous for their white bread and chocolate chip cookies! Alas, they are no longer in existence…..





After returning home from college and my apprenticeship at The Moravian Pottery and Tile Works I moved into a lovely Victorian brownstone in downtown Troy on Washington Park. My husband Don and I were married in October of 1987 on the steps of the Million Dollar Staircase in the Capitol Building in downtown Albany, which is made of carved stone columns and banisters depicting the local floral and fauna – breathtaking! We fell in love with the space after completing a reproduction of a historic fireplace for the Lt. Governor’s office.



Our son, Harry, was born in 1990 and we lived in Albany until 1998, when we again out-grew our studio footprint and bought an old school house in Rock City Falls, 45 minutes north of Albany. We moved most of the tile making studio up there, but kept the glazing, packing and shipping part of the business (with a full crew) in Albany for 3 years.

Finally, in 2002, we brought everyone up to Rock City Falls, which is just 10 minutes west of Saratoga Springs. We consider Saratoga our downtown, and really enjoy all of the arts and culture that the city offers.

We just finished creating the Artspass Tile for the Saratoga ArtsFest for the 4th year. You can see the step-by-step process on my flickr site here.



FK:  It looks to me like the work you show on Etsy is smaller and more personal. Am I right about that?

I opened my Etsy shop in Sept of 2006, after my father told me about Etsy. I had a very active Ebay business, where I sold seconds and overrun tiles, and he thought Etsy might be a good place to sell. I immediately was drawn to the layout and look of the site, and how easy it was to set up shop. But I decided that this was the place to let my creative, personal side of tiles rule. I had been making small ornament tiles for Christmas gifts for family and friends for a few years. I didn’t really spend much time on my Etsy shop until the following year, when I began to learn that to have a successful shop you need to put energy into it. It seems simple now, but it didn’t occur to me that if you don’t list and keep things fresh, buyers won’t find you!

So – you’re right – my Etsy shop is all about the tiles that aren’t available to our distributors, my small tile ornaments, and the pottery that I was inspired to create just for my Etsy shop. I also have focused on gift tile lines for the Etsy shop that have become very popular. Examples are My Victorian Postcard series, including “Sailing Away.” 



I also joined the Etsy Mud Team, which is a wonderful group, very personable and full of suggestions and support, although, sadly, I just can’t seem to find the time these days to keep up with the forum thread. Hopefully I’ll get back into the thread soon.


Victorian Valentine Tile Ornament - Bird with Love Letter





FK: I’d like to know a little about Lesperance Tile Works. It sounds like a big operation.

 It’s been over 30 years since I founded L’esperance Tile and we’re still going strong. I started out using local red clay that we dug from the nearby banks of the Hudson River and carved my tiles with inspiration from nature – flowers, plants, birds, etc. I sold my tiles to local home owners and through a local tile company for the first few years.

Then, in 1981 I connected with an architectural firm who asked me to reproduce a fireplace that was missing from a historic site in Elmira, NY: the Arnot Art Gallery. I used historic photos and a few tile samples that were found in the basement to recreate it. With that I entered the restoration world and found I liked it! Don and I began to exhibit at shows that focused on historic restoration and reproduction and really created a name for ourselves in tile reproduction. L’esperance Tile is in five State houses, including the Lt. Governor’s Office in Albany, NY, and the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, OH. We also have tiles in many historic homes, including the Mark Twain Home in Hartford, CT (2 fireplaces), The James Thurber home in Columbus, OH, and the Daniel Webster Home in MA.


In 1992 we met one of the owners of Waterworks at a tile convention and became one of the core tile offerings at Waterworks based in Danbury CT, with 30 showrooms in major cities around the country. We sell most of our tile through their NYC and West Hollywood showrooms, to clients that include John Cusack, Barbara Streisand, Ben Stiller, Sean Connery, Lorne Michaels, Al Roker, Jay Leno. A lot of celebrities have our tile in their homes, but we’re still waiting for that party invite! *grin*  Our tile is also featured in two Hollywood movies: “The Game” with Michael Douglas, and “Duplex” with Ben Stiller. The upstairs bathroom where the little old lady lives is all our tile!


Although we grew steadily with the Waterworks sales force putting our tile out into the world, we unfortunately don’t get to see most of the installations for ourselves. But there has been a conscious effort to keep the business small enough to be part of the production team, which I thrive on.

We have between 3 and 12 employees, depending on the demand of the jobs in the shop. For the field tile production (plain glazed tiles with no pattern) we extrude our clay into long ribbons that get marked and cut by hand, dried between plaster boards, edges get sponged soft when the tiles are dry, bisque fired, glazed, and refired to either 1950 F, 2050 F or 2165 F, depending on the glaze we’re using. Decorative tiles get pressed on our hand press from the blank ribbons of clay and treated in a similar manner as the field tile.


I’m the designer/reproducer, carver, and glaze creator/matcher of L’esperance Tile. We have a mould maker who makes production run moulds for us, but Don or I will create moulds for small run tiles ourselves. My husband Don is the direct contact for Waterworks, and for the architectural firms we work with. He also is in the production shop with our large dust press and wet clay extruder, while I’m in the glaze shop or at the computer with our online presence.



Victorian Greeting Card Ornament



FK: I have seen your flickr page showing your process.  Can you give us a brief explanation?

To create a decorative tile I first put the design into Photoshop and make sure it’s the right size. The wax original needs to be 11% larger than the finished tile because our clay shrinks that much. Then I pour a wax blank – I use discarded candles that my Mom brings me from her church, melt them in an electric pot, and pour the hot wax into a flat enameled pan to produce a blank wax that measures about 11” x 17”. Then I take the printed image and trace over it onto the wax. After I lift the paper away I have a line drawing of what I’m going to carve. That’s when the fun begins! After I’m finished with the carving I set it up to pour a plaster mould, which after drying gets pressed into the wet clay with our handpress. Photos of the process (and Abbey the cat overseeing the action) are here on my flickr page.

FK: I was first attracted to your site because I love the arts and crafts/art deco/art nouveau styles. And your fossil tiles are wonderful! Do you do a lot of research to get the ideas flowing? It looks to me like your tile art and colors are period authentic, and yet they look very contemporary at the same time.

A lot of the tiles that I create are custom requests, either for reproductions of early 19th century designs, or designs to suit the homeowner. I created the fossil tiles last April for a local woman who is a retired Earth Science teacher. She was redoing her kitchen and wanted a custom backsplash. She choose a few of the fossils that are pictured in the Earth Science study guide, and I took it from there. I’ve always loved fossils, so it was a really fun project for me. Her husband is an avid Adirondack High Peaks climber and gave me a photo of his favorite peaks. I created a decorative panel of the site that sits above their stove area. Those are the types of jobs we get all the time. It’s always a great treat when the projects are close by and we actually get to see the finished project. Read my blogpost about the project here.


As far as my glazes go, I love glaze calculation and have over a dozen base glazes that I’m constantly tinkering with to get different results, at all different temperatures. Some of the glazes like to be brushed, some we spray on, and some we dip. I also use commercial glazes if they fit the puzzle of reproduction. We use the technicians at Alfred University to do our materials testing for us, as some projects need the material to meet certain standards. We just completed a large tile restoration project for the MTA at the Ocean Parkway train stop in Brooklyn, NY, which had to be certified for exterior freeze/thaw conditions.

We love research and spend a lot of time studying the original English and United States tile producers. In 1984 I won a grant to research medieval and Victorian tiles in England, and Don and I spent a month exploring cathedrals and abbeys all around the country – it was amazing. I took photos of the tiles and I have a set based on some of the Medieval images.





My favorite U.S. tile maker is JG Low Art Tile Works and I’ve been commissioned to recreate about a dozen of their tiles. Their finest carver was Arthur Osborne, I’m a huge fan of his distinctive style. I’m influenced greatly by the early tilemakers, but I only reproduce tiles when I’m commissioned to. When I carve for fun I draw on nature themes and ancient cultural images. I have 2 tiles that were inspired by many trips to the Native American wing at the Natural History Museum in NYC – the Inuit Ivory carvings are just so fascinating to me and after staring at them for an hour I went home and carved a “Fish” and a “Bird” tile in that style.



FK: You definitely work hard!!  Where’s your “quiet place” when you need a break from creating – somewhere you go to rest, refresh, meditate?

I’ve created a garden in the area that used to be the school’s playground. It's the place that I go at the end of my studio day - and sometimes right in the middle of it - to sit, to dig, to explore, and to observe.

But my favorite places to chill and rejuvenate are the nearby Adirondacks, in summer/early fall, swimming or canoeing/kayaking on the northern waters of Lake George near Huletts Landing. I out-last everyone in the water – I stay in until I’m a prune!









In winter I enjoy cross country skiing at Garnet Hill in North Creek, or long walks in the woods behind our house that follow along the Kaydeross creek. Sometimes my cat Abbey will join me.


FK: What part of being an artist is the most gratifying to you? What part is hardest for you, or that you dislike the most?

The finished work is so gratifying that it fuels the creative process for me. Whether it’s reproducing a design that someone else originally created, or designing tiles myself, it’s such a long process to get to the final product, that when the tile finally emerges from the kiln, glazed and complete, I’m inspired to start new ones. I can’t always anticipate what the glaze will look like on the completed tile, and it’s most usually a real treat to see one for the first time, and very rarely…not so much!

And, of course…I LOVE my Etsy customers – they are an amazing group of people! It’s so delightful for me to see some of the same customers back in the shop over and over, spreading the love of my tiles to their friends and families.

Trying to price my work fairly to make a profit is always a challenge. Keeping track of employees and their personal problems isn’t that much fun.



FK: What do you do when you’re not being an artist? What activities do you enjoy?

Well, honestly, I don’t think that being an artist is something that gets turned off and on. I think I live a creative life……I’m the one who is making sand castles when I’m on the beach, creating fairy houses out of sticks and moss when I’m camping, and finding the dragons and giants in the clouds when relaxing on the hammock.


My husband and I both come from large, fun loving families, and hanging with them is great entertainment. Even though we only have one son, we both have 4 siblings, 7 in-laws, 9 nieces, 5 nephews, and 2 great-nephews! And, both sets of parents are still healthy and happy, so our family parties are great fun and last well into the evenings. We like to vacation and party with our families and friends as often as possible. We’re fans of eating out, going to the local film forums, and seeing local live music - Café Lena’s is a great place in Saratoga.


FK: Linda, I have enjoyed so much hearing about your life and your art. You must be so proud of what you have accomplished. And now what are you going to give away to some very lucky reader?

I couldn’t decide which tile to enter into the giveaway, so I’d like the winner to decide, with a gift certificate of $40 for anything from my Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/lesperancetile

FK: That's a wonderful gift, Linda. Thank you!


Here's how you can win that generous gift certificate. You have several opportunities to enter your comments. They must be entered as separate comments in order to be counted for the random drawing.


First entry: Visit Linda's shop, come back here, and enter a comment about your favorite piece. http://www.etsy.com/shop/lesperancetile

Second entry: Enter a comment if you signed up to follow Linda's blog (or comment if you already follow). http://linda-ellett.blogspot.com/

Third entry: Enter a comment that you signed up as Linda's fan on both Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/lesperancetile) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/lesperancetile).

Fourth entry: Enter a comment that you signed up to follow my blog (or comment that you already follow).  (See column at right to sign up.)

Fifth entry: Enter a comment that you signed up as my fan on Facebook (www.facebook.com/anotherbrightidea).

That's FIVE chances to enter for the random drawing!!!
More than five entries will not be counted. I will use random number generator to pick a winner after 12 noon EDT on

TUESDAY, JUNE 29.

Good luck!

80 comments:

  1. If you have any trouble posting a comment after a few tries please email me at
    a-b-i@comcast.net.

    Google Blogspot is acting up!

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. I have been in awe of Linda's work for more than a few years now. True talent such as hers is so easy to appreciate. One of my favorites is the whimsical rabbit concerto in the woods tile.

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  4. L'Esperance has been bookmarked for years, I am now a follower!

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  5. I love Linda's tiles. My favorite is shown above. The chicks sailing.

    I am a mud team member and have followed her blog and fanned her facebook, and twitter, for quite some time.

    You have a nice writing style. I am now following your blog. I envy folks that can keep up a blog.

    I am now a fan of your facebook too.

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  6. I love her work, especially the Rabbit Concerto in the Woods!

    I am bluedogrose on Etsy :)

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  7. i am in love with so many things...especially all the trays! I love the The Ants Come Marching - Flying Carpet Tray - Handmade Tile

    kshuttle@uoguelph.ca

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  8. I like the Flying Saucer Serving Tray!

    hrfarley at gmail dot com

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  9. There are so many adorable things in the shop that I could choose just one.
    So, my favorites are the Heart in Hand - Hanging Tile and the Mrs. Fancy Skeleton Magnet - Handmade Ceramic Tile.
    dikatzen at yahoo dot fr

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  10. What a magnificent shop! It's hard to choose just 1 favorite. There are so many different styles - whimsical, classic, random...but I would choose this:
    http://www.etsy.com/listing/40663611/wildflowers-in-my-backyard-handmade

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  11. I'm following Linda on Twitter (I'm 2Amanda3).

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  12. I fanned Another Bright Idea on Facebook.

    Whew! :-)

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  13. I love the Victorian valentine trio of ornaments – they are lovely!
    jenny.maurer84 at gmail dot com

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  14. I’m following Linda’s blog on GFC as Jenny!
    jenny.maurer84 at gmail dot com

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  15. I’m following Linda on facebook (as Jenny Bolech) and on twitter (as JennyBolech)
    jenny.maurer84 at gmail dot com

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  16. I’m following your blog on GFC as Jenny!
    jenny.maurer84 at gmail dot com

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  17. I’m following you on facebook as Jenny Bolech!
    jenny.maurer84 at gmail dot com

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  18. The Sunflower Bowl - Turquoise and Aqua is beautiful and so is the cream and blue sunflower bowl!!
    cheatingpiggies at hotmail dot com

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  19. I really like this one: http://www.etsy.com/listing/43657815/leaves-and-berries-handmade-ceramic-tile


    boswife @ gmail . com

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  20. Wow, Linda's work is beautiful!

    I love the Sunflower Bowl - Turquoise and Aqua, just gorgeous!

    debyeo at hotmail dot com

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  21. I LOVE this:

    Rabbit Concerto in the Woods - Handmade Ceramic Art Tile - Victorian Postcard


    SheilaC

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  22. My favorite piece is the rabbit concerto in the woods

    A_C_E_ at hotmail dot com

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  23. Amazing talent and how far she has come! I love the Frog Musicians hanging tiles, the Fiddler and the Drummer puts a smile on my face, incredibly cute!

    Thanks for the lovely giveaway.

    yumihamano@gmail.com

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  24. I follow your blog, thank you.

    yumihamano@gmail.com

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  25. Christina - xristya@rock.com - If I won, I'd get my four favorites: Sunflower, $10; Victorian Valentine Ornament, $10; Peace Bird On A Branch, $10; and Bird Of Peace, $10 - all that you can wear as pendants!

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  26. The trilobites made me look- the Blue Corn Borer tile made me HEART! I think I need one of those...
    carapacenator(at)gmail.com

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  27. I follow your blog...

    carapacenator(at)gmail.com

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  28. And I follow Linda's blog!

    carapacenator(at)gmail.com

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  29. I like the Dogwood Flowers - Handmade Ceramic Tile - Victorian Style! :)


    thecountryblossom AT hotmail DOT com

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  30. I follow Linda's blog!


    thecountryblossom AT hotmail DOT com

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  31. I am Linda's fan on Facebook: Katy Mc. Ald. and on Twitter: KatyLMA


    thecountryblossom AT hotmail DOT com

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  32. I am now following your blog!


    thecountryblossom AT hotmail DOT com

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  33. I am a fan of yours on Facebook! Katy Mc. Ald.


    thecountryblossom AT hotmail DOT com

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  34. My favorite is the froggy drummer spoonrest, tea cozy


    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

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  35. I like Two Share a Heart - Handmade Tile Pendant Necklace.

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  36. My favourite piece is the 'Oxeye Daisy - Handmade 3x3 Tile'

    Kate1485 at hotmail.com
    http://ntfancy.blogspot.com/

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  37. This was the best etsy artist interview I have ever read; thank you!

    I adore the fossil magnets feature in the interview, and also the Spiral Triskele symbols in all the different colors - I can't choose a favorite.

    urchiken at gmail dot com

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  38. Ceramic Tile Tray - Flying Carpet Design
    deannalw47 @ hotmail.com
    xoxoxo

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  39. follow your blog
    deannalw47 @ hotmail.com
    xoxoxo

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  40. new follower to linda's blog
    deannalw47 @ hotmail.com
    xoxoxo

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  41. What a great interview! I know Linda and I learned some new things. I have a collection of the small ornaments. They're real little jewels!

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  42. So I really like the squirrel pendant and the squirrel tile...

    I know the story about the squirrel... it has three parts, first is Linda carved a tribute to Harry's stuffed animal "squirrelly" and part two is that she carved a nice acorn motif tile for an historic house in Albany. Part three is that a customer owned a house where the previous owner of the house had a correspondant relationship with the squirrels in the trees and thought enough of them (the squirrels) to leave written notes in the attic which the new owner found and thought them to be an endearing legacy to the house...

    So as all great synergies do... the squirrel ornament was incorporated into the acorn tile and the legacy was completed in the backsplash of the kitchen... That is customization as only practiced in this business.

    Thanks for featuring Linda...

    I will sign up to follow your blog.

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  43. What a great article! It was inspiring and informative and also made me homesick. I am from Syracuse,New York, only recently moved to the PNW, and I remember Freihofer's products well and I have visited Saratoga Springs, which is lovely.

    My favorite piece is Afternoon Sail in an Eggshell Boat. I love the design and the color!

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  44. I already follow Linda's blog.

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  45. I am already a fan of Linda's on Facebook and already follow her on Twitter.

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  46. I am now following your blog, Felicia :-)

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  47. ...and I became your fan on Facebook!

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  48. Loved the interview! I've been following Linda's work for a month or so, and am inspired every time. I especially adore her tiles with birds and the ever-so-cute bunnies!

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  49. I'm now following you, Felicia!!

    For some reason Who I Am is supposed to be Gwynnie B...

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  50. What beautiful tiles in this shop. I really like the Spiral Triskele Celtic Tile. That is beautiful. ambrerose(!at)aol.com

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  51. I like the
    Oxeye Daisy - Handmade 3x3 Tile.
    jswandrn at gmail

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  52. Great Blog concept, I am a follower

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  53. Just became a fan of another bright idea on facebook

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  54. I like the trio of tiles: "Trio of handmade ceramic tile ornaments - Angel and 2 Peace Birds" (I even already purchased the Angel tile awhile ago!)

    shelleanne(at)gmail(dot)com
    etsy: shelleanne

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  55. I follow Linda's blog now. :-)

    Shelleanne(at)gmail(dot)com
    etsy name: ShelleAnne

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  56. I follow Linda on Twitter and now "like" her on Facebook.

    ShelleAnne(at)gmail(dot)com
    etsy ID: ShelleAnne

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  57. I now follow your blog too!

    ShelleAnne(at)gmail(dot)com
    Etsy ID: ShelleAnne

    :-)

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  58. I now "like" you on Facebook too!

    ShelleAnne(at)gmail(dot)com
    Etsy ID: ShelleAnne

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  59. oh wow, those tiles are gorgeous. this is my favorite, the glaze is wonderful.
    Inuit Inspired Fish Tile - Turquoise and black
    i also like the pirate skully stuff too!

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  60. linda's blog is great, i'm now a follower

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  61. i'm a facebook fan!
    don't do twitter

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  62. Love Afternoon Sail...........

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  63. I've loved Linda's work for years and use her beautiful pieces in treasuries all the time. It's hard to pick a favorite, but I love the stories told in pieces like the rabbit concerto. Congrats on a great interview.

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  64. I adore the turquoise Mad Hatter Tile, it's beautiful.

    Atoxim at gmail dot com

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  65. I love all of Linda's tiles and if I had to pick one it would be the Rabbit Concerto in the woods.

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  66. I love- http://www.etsy.com/listing/42882567/large-spoonrest-with-sunflower-design

    samyrocks92 at msn dot com

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  67. I am Linda's fan on both Facebook and twitter

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  68. I'm Following Lindas blog

    Atoxim at gmail dot com

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  69. I'm following Linda on Facebook

    Atoxim at gmail dot com

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  70. I'm following your blog (rainbowlips image)

    Atoxim at gmail dot com

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  71. Following you on Facebook

    Atoxim at gmail dot com

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  72. Love that Linda's a tea drinker ... and that she enjoys Bigelow's Constant Comment! Great interview and information.
    -Deb for Bigelow Tea

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