THF: Tile of the Month ~ February 2006

Hans Sumpf Company
Madera, California

In architectural specifications it’s referred to as “sculptured ceramic wall surfacing”; in layman’s terms we call it “textured” tile. Although always a part of a continuous pattern or design, each individual tile is unique. Unlike most conventional art forms, a Hans Sumpf Company sculpture is a structural part of its environment. It becomes as much the architecture as the wall or building itself.

Every artistic, scientific and structural consideration is carefully studied, from design phase to pre-production, to forming, drying, cutting, glazing and firing. And then, piece by piece, each tile is numbered, shipped and assembled on site. Soon, the creative beginning has a fitting end.

There are no molds for this procedure or product. The importance of standardization in today’s world has no place. Whether the tile is cut to a typical 12” x 12” or randomly is determined only by the importance of creativity. Otherwise, this could not be the sculpture of the Hans Sumpf Company.

Founded in the mid-1930s by Hans Sumpf, a Stanford-educated engineer who devised a means of waterproofing adobe bricks, the company began producing textured wall surfaces in the mid-sixties when ceramic artist Stan Bitters was invited to join the firm. A succession of artists followed Stan’s exemplary work, each adding his own particular talent to the process. For many years the company has also specialized in the custom reproduction of historic floor and roof tiles.

After 70 years the Hans Sumpf Company closed its doors in early 2006.

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