Lori Friesner spotted Royal Oak artist Laurie Eisenhardt’s vibrant ceramic tiles at an art fair years ago, and she’s been a fan ever since.
“Some remind me of fairytales, some are more traditional with fruit and flowers,” says Friesner, a Troy resident who is blending Eisenhardt’s tiles into a kitchen backsplash at her cottage in the Thumb.
“One with a girl reading a book really hit a personal chord with me. I like the colors Laurie uses and the stories some of the tiles tell.”
Eisenhardt, a welcoming, energetic force, grew up near Mount Clemens reading Grimm’s fairytales and books on mythology — and it shows in her work. Those stories “play into the (artwork),” she says, as does “a weird tension from my own life. The images are from my head.”
The drawings on the tiles are her own, and include playful animals (she’s a cat owner and lover), stars, moons, plants, people, faces, and abstract designs.
Over the past long winter, working in a converted garage/studio behind her home, she designed 29 new tiles, which she calls her Winter Cocoon series. The designs — composed of tiles in varying sizes that fit together as a puzzle — feature plants, animals, and patterns.
Eisenhardt began her artistic life sketching pencil drawings as a youngster. Encouraged by her teachers, she received a full first-year scholarship to attend Detroit’s College for Creative Studies; she graduated in 1982 with a degree in fine arts. She and her husband, a commercial photographer, have one son, also a photographer.
Eisenhardt began working with clay in the mid-1980s, clearing a section of her basement for the work. “I bought a kiln and I really committed to it,” Eisenhardt says.
Her regularly updated website explains her experience in the studio: “Every time the kiln was unloaded and new work emerged, it felt like Christmas morning.”
After finding success selling her tiles, Eisenhardt expanded her creations and added platters, wall pockets, ornaments, and sculptures. This year she will sell her work at nine art fairs, as well as online and in her always-welcoming studio.
“I try to create great shapes; (I’m not) trying to be representational or funny or slapstick,” she says. “A lot of people say they get a good feeling from my work.”
In recent years, Eisenhardt has been commissioned to create and install larger ceramic artworks.
“That’s my favorite work,” she says.
One piece, a large mosaic completed in 2012, shows mothers and babies “on a journey” and hangs in Henry Ford Hospital-Detroit’s neonatal intensive care unit. Also at the hospital are nine 12-inch tiles adorning a hallway niche and another mosaic that hangs above the nurses’ station.
Working on the larger installations forced her out of a comfort zone and made her realize that “You get energy from other people.”
Eisenhardt urges people to take chances when shopping for art. “If you see something you like, get it,” she says. “Don’t overthink it, or think it needs to blend with something you have. It’s annoying to me that the trend is to keep things neutral. Go with what you love!”
Laurie Eisenhardt hosts special sales at her Royal Oak studio and at Michigan art fairs. Her work ranges from $10 for ornaments to about $1,200 for larger pieces. She will be part of the Ridge Fine Art and Handmade Wares Show on Nov. 22 at the Drayton Avenue Presbyterian Church, 2441 Pinecrest, Ferndale. Check for other sale dates and samples of her work online at laurieeisenhardt.com.