Biography / Artist Statement
I was born in Moorhead MN, and grew up in the Fargo ND and the rural Detroit Lakes MN area. Growing up surrounded by artwork, the smell of oil paint, and the aroma of kiln firings, it cemented an early foundation of art especially clay, that would be invaluable later in life when I decided that this would be my full time vocation. After graduating from Concordia College in 1989 with Political Science major and Psychology minor, I did not immediately pursue a career in this field. Knowing that goal was to start a business, and be my own “boss” someday was a long term desire.
Everything came together and on July 24, 2000 the first baby steps of the eventual forming of my business Cotton Lake Tile. Starting out with clay, a few glazes and a tricky wood kiln, I began working out of a 12x20 studio at the family lake place. My thought was if I were going to have any chance to make this full time, I would have to concentrate on tile.
Beginning with framed decorative tile and working with shops and galleries, I quickly developed a glazing style that was abstract. This inevitably led people to have me make tile for indoor/outdoor applications. Then also the business branched out to include installation of my tile as well as any that customers wanted for home application or commercially oriented.
Now 15 years later, Cotton Lake Tile, based out of North Fargo, has branched out into a variety of tile applications. These include counter tops, back splashes, tables, mirrors and mosaic decorative work in home. In the end, they all end up being tile art. That is what I enjoy most, the creative aspect.
A lot of my creative tile artwork that I make is influenced by my extensive travels around the U.S. and Europe. I have found the south western region of the U.S. particularly New Mexico to be an endless source of inspiration.
Since the inception of Cotton Lake Tile, my tile art has been entered in 6 solo shows, 24 group shows, as well as countless art fairs and sales around the country. I have had the honor of being awarded 3 first place, two second place and two honorable mention awards as well as two purchase awards to date. In June of 2006 I was chosen to film a segment on HGTV’s “That’s Clever”. The episode 362 still shows on a re-run basis. Never did I get into this for accolades, but it is gratifying to be recognized for the years of hard work put into this endeavor.
My latest foray in the creative art world is painting. As a child, my father, the late Orland J. Rourke would encourage me to paint with him, as well as hand building with clay. Recently, my painting has re-emerged. I have found a more personal creativeness when taking a blank canvas and turning it into either abstract or realism
Wood Firing at Cotton Lake