Compared to her exuberantly colored textiles, Anna Benham’s new tile designs are more about line and pattern, subtle yet timeless, like the locations throughout Uzbekistan, Jerusalem and other regions which inspired them.
“My aim as an artist is to try and create something that has a longevity, that has a subtle stunningness,” says Benham, who is originally from Bath, England, and now makes her home near Moscow, Idaho. “My style is very English, because I am English, but I love history.”
Benham’s early influences include her father, a craftsman and maker of Windsor chairs, and a neighboring family who made pottery in the midcentury modern style. Stronger still was the influence of Bath itself, whose history is a panoply of cultures and styles, from initial occupation by the Romans in the first century AD to the city’s revival during the 18th century as a resort town in the Georgian architectural style.
Despite being surrounded by the arts and attending Glasgow School of Art, Benham didn’t initially see herself as an artist. She had early success, however, with her paintings which were soon translated into a range of fashion and home décor items, launching a lengthy and celebrated career.
Then a few years ago, Benham connected with Quarry Tile, a Spokane Valley tile manufacturer, and spent the next few years learning a new design process. Working with a Northwest-inspired color palette — grays, blues, earth tones — Benham creates a single, square design. The company then uses digital technology to translate the design into glaze that’s applied to mostly local clay tiles. Once fired, the tiles are waterproof like any commercial tile, yet slight variations in the glaze application lend the tiles a hand-painted look.