Sorticulture tile artist creates through child’s eyes

Carol Rose Dean likes the story about Picasso when he once overheard a man criticizing his work at a museum, saying his 6-year-old could have done better.

Picasso told the man he was right, but the trick is to do art as an adult.

“So bringing the eyes of a child to what you are doing, seeing the wonder, seeing the new thing, that is really hard to do,” Dean said.

Dean is a ceramic tile artist who brings a childlike whimsy to her work, filling the clay squares she creates with playful images of moo-cows, mermaids or motorcycles.

Dean also has a kid-inspired sense of humor that splashes out of the tops of her ceramic garden planters, which are shaped like a man’s head or the head of a dog, in the form of sedums and cactus.

“Like the Buddhists say, you have to see the world with the eyes of a child,” Dean said.

Visitors will get the chance to see Dean’s tiles and garden planters with their own eyes at this year’s Sorticulture.

Click here for Sorticulture details, including the map and schedule.

Sorticulture is the city of Everett’s annual art and garden festival where visitors can welcome summer and celebrate home and garden as artists and vendors provide acres of eye candy.

The festival, in its 15th year, is held at Legion Memorial Park Friday through Sunday and features garden and glass art, stepping stones and sculptures, rustic furniture and water features, rare plants and chicken coops.

There’s also musical entertainment, speakers and arts and crafts projects for the kids.

This will be Dean’s third time at Sorticulture and she’ll be showing off her tile collection and garden planters, including some of her latest pieces, including the unique “torso-esque” planter shaped like a female torso.

Dean said she didn’t want to be the kind of artist that was “shoeboxed in” to one style.

Dean, who has a degree in ceramics sculpture, has also done construction work for close to 20 years. She said was one of six children growing up in a family where kids learned how to make themselves helpful.

She went from painting houses to construction. When she turned 30, she opened her business in Freeland on Whidbey Island called Dean Tile and Design.

“It’s a weird intersection of art and function,” Dean said.

Dean, 47, said her clients hire her for her design skills. She particularly enjoys doing custom work and is working on a tile backsplash for a kitchen with five tiles intersecting with a bird and vine motif.

She recently did a 7-foot circular mosaic with 12 custom colors for a church.

“I’m always thinking I want to do something that I’m proud of,” Dean said. “Something permanent that is beautiful and clients are happy with.”

Combining an artistic knack with construction skills has allowed Dean to survive through a tough economy.

She said her clients see her whimsical artwork and feel like she can help them “bring out some wacky idea they already have that they might consider far-fetched.”

Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424;

Dean Tile and Design: 1660 Roberta Ave. Freeland 360-331-1295

Carol Rose Dean’s studio has a gallery space that is open to the public. She is a licensed tile contractor and active member of the Northwest Handmade Tile Association: Artisan Tile NW, which she founded seven years ago.

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