Here's What's Below:Mystery Tile
Can it be True?
Patrick’s Shelter Island
AE in Peoria
Tiles on the I-5, Part 1
News Flash! Can it be True?
Laurel True of True Mosaics Studio in Oakland, California has written that her “Sun Spheres” have been a long time in coming. She contracted for the job with the San Francisco Arts Commission in 2004, and the spheres were installed and dedicated on September 27, 2008. “I love these!”
The three mosaic sculptures are located at the intersection of Ocean and Granada Avenues in San Francisco. Ranging in size from three to five feet in diameter, and collectively weighing in at almost 2000 pounds, the spheres rest on short steel poles bolted to the sidewalk. Their bright oranges, reds and yellows serve the dual purpose of referencing the sun and bringing warmth to an area renowned for its fog. Swirling waves of mirrored tile interrupt the colored tile, a reminder of the nearby Pacific Ocean. The surface of the spheres will constantly change as morning passes into night, reflecting the changing light.
Laurel True is a mosaic artist and educator. In addition to her personal business, True Mosaics Studio , she is the founder and executive director of the Institute of Mosaic Art in Oakland where she has taught and mentored hundreds of students at all skill levels.
“Tribute” in Clay: Central Insurance Company
“Tribute,” a series of six tile murals by artist/designer/sculptor Nancy McCroskey, honors the values and history of the Central Insurance Company in Van Wert, Ohio , a town just east of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Words expressing corporate values of integrity, relationships and excellence are integrated with historical images and subjects such as the “Fidelity Medal,” the “Pumper,” the “Van Wert Courthouse,” the “1876 Founding Date” and the “Purmort Family Crest.”
The Central Collection of Fire Marks provided inspiration for the other images. Fire marks, relief sculptures dating from the early days of the insurance industry, use imagery and text to identify an insurance company. For example, an early fire mark, the “Fireman’s Grip,” was used by an insurance contributorship founded by Ben Franklin in 1752. This fire mark image has been reinterpreted by sculptors at different times and places for a variety of insurance companies.
When the overall design concept for the murals was completed, Nancy proceeded with the sculpting phase of the project. She worked with two assistants, John Hrehov and Deborah Miller , using oil clay to sculpt all of the images. Metal letters and other materials were used for the geometric framing devices. Once the prototypes were completed, plaster molds were made of the original sculptures. Next, ceramic water clay was pressed into the plaster molds, creating a hollow form with interior walls, much like architectural terra cotta. After drying and bisque firing the ceramic tiles, she sprayed glaze on them and fired them to stoneware temperatures.
The tiles in the murals are designed and arranged to allow the relief, color, images and text to play off of one another. Themes of trust, courage, and service—beauty, mercy and truth—emerge from the broad theme of a tribute to Central Insurance Company. The project was completed in June 2008.
Jurs/Stout: Resonance & Dispersion
Artists Robert Stout and Stephanie Jurs created the spectacular 28-foot ceramic mosaic that adorns the floor of the entrance rotunda to the new Southern Oregon University Hannon Library in Ashland, Oregon. The colorful piece, an abstract swirl with shades of blues, pinks, yellows and browns, is titled “Resonance & Dispersion.”
The artists are an American husband and wife team with their own business, Twin Dolphins Mosaics, based in Ravenna, Italy. Robert and Stephanie have been designing and creating broken-tile mosaics since 1990. In 1998 they moved from their home in Albuquerque, New Mexico to Ravenna, Italy, an internationally known center of Byzantine mosaics,
To document the creation of the new mosaic in the library’s rotunda for historic, artistic and educational purposes, a production team comprised of the faculty and selected students from SOU’s new Media Arts concentration videotaped the process of assembling the ceramic in Italy and installing it at SOU. To access the video you will need to download a player from Real Media, which requires a special application/plugin to play. If you go to http://www.realplayer.com you can download the player for free. After you have the download, you will be able to access the video at http://rvtv.roguedatavault.net/ramgen/sou/videos/mosaic.rm. It’s well worth it!
Research included sourcing 19th century copperplate border and font details as well as melding together a variety of modern maps and satellite imagery for the underlying framework. Only about 25% of the overall panel, the central area in particular, was generated directly from the original map.
The artwork was expertly transferred and fired on Spanish bisque tile by a trusted tile artisan, Dennis Caffrey at Tile Guild in Los Angeles, with whom David has worked for over 15 years. The finished mural measures 10 by 15 feet, a site-specific period piece in a rather contemporary setting. All of the added landmasses are accurate—you could practically sail using this map. David added the thick border to contain the piece by giving it visual structure and acknowledged that he was a little dazed by the whole process.
Shelter Island Mapped in Tile
David Patrick , a veteran in tile sales and design currently working out of Chelsea Arts Tile + Stone in New York City, wrote that he had just completed an installation he thought might be of interest to Tile Heritage. He was approached by an architect who had a fragment of a historical map of Shelter Island (at the eastern end of Long Island) circa 1846 and who was interested in translating it into a large tile panel for a residential kitchen on the island.
The project involved a lot of graphic work on David’s part in building a context around a low resolution scan of the map fragment, basically drawing the surrounding areas in matching detail and with geographical/nautical accuracy.
American Encaustic in Peoria
Jerry Hawksworth from Peoria, Illinois was referred to Tile Heritage by Suzanne Blackburn of the new Rookwood Pottery Company in Cincinnati. Finding that he must sell his historic home, Mr. Hawksworth sent a CD of images of his three fireplace mantels hoping that we could identify the tiles and determine their value. Of course, the value of a tiled mantel in a historic home is in the existing installation; and although the tiles themselves would have a market value, to remove them from the mantel would seriously diminish the value of the real property.
The house was built in 1890 for Jokichi Takamine , who developed a phosphate fertilizer in Japan and later a revolutionary distilling process used in the production of whiskey, which he put to good use in the Chicago area where he worked in conjunction with several different distilleries.
The tile surround in the parlor (pictured here) was produced by the American Encaustic Tiling Company in Zanesville, Ohio, a company that was one of the largest in the United States at that time. The pattern of the actual surround is No. 1013 F; the hearth is composed of a linear rose pattern No. 370 (3x3) and No. 374 (6x3) and a dual linear strip of No. 359 (6 x 1 ½) and No. 369 (1 ½ sq.) at the corners. A second fireplace has Providential tiles from Trenton in the hearth and currently unidentified tiles in the surround (see Mystery Tile above). The third is composed of green slate.
Pete Johnson, Jr. of Architectural Ceramic Products in Canfield, Ohio called recently having heard about a house in nearby Akron with a curious fireplace mantel in the parlor. The house, designed by Harpster and Bliss in 1919, was originally owned by Bryon Barder, who ran a boiler company in downtown Akron. Currently occupied by Braun & Steidl Architects, the house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Tile Heritage was able to identify the tiles on the mantel as a rare installation of Unitile made in Uhrichsville, Ohio. The small company (1917–1927) was not founded by people from the ceramics industry but by three brothers: James Harrison Donahey , a cartoonist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer; William , who illustrated children's books and was well known for the “Teenie Weenies”; and Alvin Victor Donahey , who became Governor of Ohio.
If you have historic tiles or know of same and wish to have them identified, email digital images of the individual tiles or installations to Tile Heritage (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will do our best!
Tiles on the I-5, Part I: A Southland Sojourn
I-5 is the major thoroughfare that runs north and south through California, Oregon and Washington, between the Mexican and Canadian borders, approximating 1500 miles. It is not surprising that so much tile is produced and sold along this well traveled corridor as it passes through or adjacent to most of the largest cities in the west from San Diego to Seattle. Tile Heritage founders, Sheila Menzies and Joe Taylor, made two road trips on I-5 in the late summer and early fall of 2008, first to the south and then to the north; and although we couldn’t see it all, what we did experience is definitely worth sharing.
Our initial stop wasn’t that far away, as THF board member Riley Doty was giving a terra cotta walking tour in downtown Oakland for the Oakland Heritage Alliance. Only Riley can draw the kind of numbers that make our heads swim—there were about 70 enthusiasts who ended up parading around with us, including quite a number of Tile Heritage members, past and present.
Between Grand Avenue to the north and 14th Street to the south, and between Broadway and Telegraph to the east and west, one discovers a marvelous selection of buildings clad in either tiles or architectural terra cotta, the
Walking west on 19th Street to the corner of Telegraph, the Floral Depot (Albert J. Evers, 1931) is newly restored; the Fox Oakland Theatre across the street (Weeks & Day, 1928) sports Indian-Hindu design featuring both tiles and terra cotta; the Mary Bowles Building (Douglas Stone, 1931) is next followed by the old Dufwin Theater (Weeks & Day, 1929) a half block west on 17th Street with three dramatic tile murals by Gladding, McBean. Capping off the route is the remarkable Cathedral Building (Benjamin Geer
The Howden Building (McWethy & Greenleaf, 1925) at 17th and Webster served as the rendezvous
Another stop on our tour found us in the neighborhood of long time friend and consummate tile artist Karen Patterson of K.J. Patterson Ceramics in Baldwin Park, north and east of Los Angeles.
Karen, together with her husband John Blenkinship, has been producing fine tile art to a discerning community for over 20 years, much of it in the historic context of early tiles reflective of the medieval period as well as a portfolio of Arts & Crafts styles. She is a master ceramist and glaze artist, superbly conscious of the grand scale
For a final tile studio tour we visited Malibu Ceramic Works. We were greeted warmly by Bob Harris, who started the company twenty-eight years ago, his wife Roz and son Matthew who, together with his father, run the design and production studio in the hills of Topanga as well as their larger factory facility in Long Beach where Handcraft Tile is produced.
A bit of history: Bob purchased a collection of Malibu Potteries tiles in 1979 before much, if anything, was known about what today is considered to be one of the most important tile companies in California's history. Intrigued by his collection and spurred on by an exhibition of Malibu tile at the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum in 1980, he teamed up with ceramist Jim Sullivan to reproduce the now famous tiles that were produced on the beach in Malibu from 1926 to 1932.
The new company was named Malibu Ceramic Works, founded in response to a growing demand for ceramic tiles with designs and colors that reflected the vitality and brilliance of the 1920s and 1930s when the Malibu Potteries and other tile manufacturers flourished in Southern California. Rather than the company attempting to reproduce these famous tiles exactly, the goal at Malibu Ceramics was to provide architects, designers and their clients with a striking alternative to what was then offered in tile showrooms, tiles that reflected the ceramic traditions of California and provided the finest craftsmanship available at that time.
Over the years the company has continued to specialize in custom work in addition to offering many of the historic Malibu patterns and designs as well as standard field tiles and trim shapes. What distinguishes Malibu Ceramic Works, and differentiates it from others, is that it was the first in the modern era to reproduce the now famous Malibu and Catalina tiles; and importantly, the company has served as a training ground—unintentionally—for many ceramic
We had a most enjoyable tour of MCW amidst all of the California colors prevalent in the glazed clay as well as in the rugged, rural landscape of Topanga sparkling above the Pacific. To further explore Malibu Ceramic Works visit: http://www.malibuceramicworks.com/
It was then time to head home, driving north well satisfied with our weeklong sojourn amidst so many talented tile people in Southern California - sponsors, members and friends of the Tile Heritage Foundation.
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