Tile Heritage-ENEWS

(Available on the first of each month to Tile Heritage members who e-mail the Foundation from the address they would like
E-News sent to. Contact: foundation@tileheritage.org)

Saluting Tile Partners for Humanity

Excerpted from a letter dated December 9th from Ally Fetitta, Executive Director, Tile Partners for Humanity (TPFH):

Thanks to the hard work and support of you and many others in the industry, TPFH marks its second anniversary today! It doesn’t seem like we’ve been doing this for two years, but Habitat affiliates have tiled more than 100 homes in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia as a result of our industry and its members…. Thank you to all of you on the board and representative organizations for doing so much to build this partnership up and help keep it alive…. I truly appreciate the opportunity to work with you to continue pushing forward.

I would like to encourage everyone to visit the Tile Partners for Humanity website. If you have tiles, setting materials, volunteer labor, or can make a financial contribution, most likely there will be a Habitat for Humanity housing project close by in your community that can benefit from your participation. Learn how today. Visit www.tpfh.com


Sheila Menzies, board member TPFH

A Winter’s Tale from the Gulf Coast

In late November Sheila Menzies and Joe Taylor had the opportunity to explore some new territory with THF member and Alabama native, Gaye Lindsey. Initially our travels took us to Pensacola and from there we headed out to the Alabama coast to Fairhope, a historic community on the east shore of Mobile Bay. Gaye’s a great tour guide and we spent the next few days traversing the highways and byways from Orange Beach, Alabama to Gulf Port, Mississippi.

Fairhope is a prospering city, developed initially as an intentional community with creative, alternative concepts about everything including taxation and education at the turn of the last century. Today it still retains this sensibility, especially in the arts. It has a vibrant, active Arts Center and is home to sculptors, painters, potters and numerous art galleries. We roamed through them all.

Of special interest was Sheldon’s Castle, a fantastical cluster of buildings in organic shapes, faced in stone and fired clay. It was the home and studio of artist Craig Sheldon, who died some years ago but his legend continues through the labors of his daughter and son-in-law who are continuing to build and complete the castle.

Other highlights of our Gulf Coast trip included both Ocean Springs and Biloxi, Mississippi. The Shearwater Pottery in Ocean Springs was founded in 1928 by Peter Anderson, soon assisted by his two brothers, Walter (“Bob”) and James McConnell (“Mac”); it continues to this day with Peter’s sons Jim and Michael along with Jim’s son, Peter, among other family members. In 1933 during the Depression, the WPA commissioned the three Anderson brothers to provide murals for the Ocean Springs Public School, and today this splendid artwork is open to the public. At the pottery we met Jim Anderson, engaged at his wheel in one of the original buildings. Apparently his brother Michael is in charge of the tile making in an adjacent structure. The tiles, all about 8” x 8”, are hand-pressed in plaster molds. Before leaving Ocean Springs we stopped at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art that houses a notable collection of paintings, tiles, and pottery created by Peter Anderson and decorated by Walter. The local Community Center, attached to the museum, features Walter’s “Walls of Light” painted from end to end, ceiling to floor in 1951, with fanciful, naturalistic murals representing the flora and fauna of the Mississippi coast.

In Biloxi we visited the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum currently housed in the public library awaiting completion of its new site, a series of off-beat, giddy and curvaceous buildings designed by architect Frank Gehry to reflect the spirit and work of the mad potter, George Ohr. We had a wonderful time in the collections contemplating all the shapes and sizes of these tilted, twisted, precarious pots and fanciful preoccupations in clay. The outside of the library is adorned with a large mosaic mural celebrating the city’s tricentennial, 1699-1999. This mosaic was created under the direction of Elizabeth Veglia, assisted by Mary Wager, with the participation of the citizens of Biloxi.

Before we left the Gulf Coast we stopped in Pensacola, today a city of more than 40,000 “blue roofs,” compliments of Hurricane Ivan. Stonehaus Pottery was our destination, and we had the pleasure of sipping freshly-ground Costa Rican coffee with Peter King and Xinia Marin, two of the most accomplished and generous ceramists in the country. The couple has gained worldwide recognition with their incomparable workshops and monumental architectural ceramics.

Our stop in Dallas and Fort Worth proved to be both informative and great fun. We spent our first day at Dal-Tile, meeting briefly with company president Chris Wellborn; Matt Kahny, Senior Vice President-Marketing; and Silver Cornia, Vice President, Technical Development; and then spending most of the day with Silver reviewing the archival materials that had been transferred to Dal-Tile headquarters from American Olean in Lansdale, Pennsylvania in 1996. Joe Flaherty, Director of Fast Fire Wall Operations, took us on a lengthy tour of the factory in the afternoon where, amazingly, glazed tiles are produced from start to finish in 30 minutes! We’ve seen automation before, but not like this.

Dal-Tile has opened a magnificent showroom and gallery northwest of downtown Dallas, where highways 35E and 635 meet (2320 LBJ Freeway, Suite 100). Welcoming visitors as they enter are two display cases of historic tiles and related ephemera from the company’s archival collection. We were warmly greeted by manager Laura Skeeters, who is personally responsible for the displays.

The following day we met our friends Dianne and Mark Wallace at Dimar & Associates in Fort Worth, a tile importing company. Dianne grew up in Zanesville where her father, Don Quick, worked for many years as a ceramic engineer at Mosaic Tile Company after serving in Korea. Today at 73 he works full-time with Dianne and Mark, and is like a walking encyclopedia of tile history.

The highlight of the day was visiting the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth where the facades of both the Auditorium and Coliseum are adorned with tile murals depicting the history and products of Texas. The tile work was designed by Kenneth Gale, who in 1936 was the head of the art department at Mosaic Tile Company in Zanesville. This complex of buildings has numerous, large tile murals, many of the older ones in serious need of conservation. It’s a tile treasure nonetheless, a “must-see” when you’re in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

That evening we met with Mike Kuhn, who drove us to an obscure location in Arlington, Texas where a massive collection of Batchelder tiles is being stored (see www.batcheldertile.com). The tiles were literally unearthed in a nearby field some years ago and have since been cleaned and prepared for sale. Three complete fireplace mantels from this collection have been auctioned through Bonhams & Butterfields in LA, ranging in price from $4500 to $7800 each. If you have $60,000 in spare change, the balance can all be yours along with an equivalent amount of less impressive American Encaustic tiles.

Happy Holidays!