The Tile Man

Photography by Linda Odette
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Sporck Tile Art interiorA sign with peeling paint on M-204 outside of Suttons Bay reads “Sporck Tile Art” in red letters. It leads to a tiny, one-of-a-kind gallery, where ceramic artist Leif Spörck sells the tiles he creates. He’s known for more than 500 designs of fish, birds, deer, flowers, outlines of towns and nature subjects.

His latest project is making tiles for the Pure Michigan campaign.

Making tiles requires carving a design and creating a mold, then hand-pressing clay before firing, glazing and hand-painting them.

Sporck Tile Art exterior

“When you pull them out of the kiln, it’s a special moment,” says Spörck, who also has a gallery in Leland’s Fishtown.

“The tradition makes it really important to me. There’s something special about what I’ve done.”
— Leif Spörck

He credits his success to a strong work ethic and producing affordable art. “My product’s not a $15,000 painting,” he says. “It’s a tile people can afford to buy.”

Sporck tilesSpörck calls his work unique because of his freestyle carving method, being raised by a potter and growing up in isolated northern Michigan. “I don’t know of any second-generation potters,” he says. “And there are very few 6-foot-7 men who are potters.”

Spörck played basketball and studied law at Hope College but returned home because he realized he would regret it if he didn’t carry on the family business. “The tradition makes it really important to me,” he says. “There’s something special about what I’ve done.”

His Fishtown store closes for the winter and reopens in May. The M-204 gallery is open all winter. Spörck’s work is found in galleries around the state and at art fairs. You can see his tile designs at sporcktileart.com. They’re perfect for a souvenir of a trip to northern Michigan, home decorating and special gifts of art.

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