When the sun of compassion arises, darkness evaporates and the singing birds come from nowhere.
I found this intensely orange art tile at the GoggleWorks gift shop in Reading, PA. My memory is that the tile was from a company called Blueberry Hill, but I haven’t been able to find them. The style reminds me of the animal tiles from the Moravian Tileworks.
There is a graceful potter’s mark on the back, so perhaps someday I will figure out who made it.
I started a Pinterest Board called Art Tile Awe for more tile goodness.
Sligo Creek Tile Company, Takoma Park, MD
Before Stratoz and I started making our own art, we were big fans and collectors of art tile. When we discovered the Handmade Tile Association Guide to Handmade Tile and Mosaic Mosaic Artists, we knew we wanted to be a part of it. A box of the glossy catalogs arrived!
The HTA is based in Minnesota, and many of the artists listed are in the midwest or pacific northwest, so it was cool to help fill out the northeast listings, in the company of two tile makers we love and own work from Moravian Pottery & Tile Works, and the Sligo Creek Tile Company.
Check our gig as the Featured Artists in the January Newsletter.
I featured our house numbers. I braved the learning curve of figuring out how to make an advertisement with photoshop. Part of my planning for the business is getting the point that I can hire other talented folks to do some of the things that take me a long time!
More tile images at my Art Tile Awe Pinterest Board.
Tell me about your favorite tile.
A little known fact about my biography is that I was a soda jerk for the 1986/87 school year at community college, at Kostas Drugstore in Bethlehem, PA, across the street from Liberty High School. I came across the book Sundae Best: A History of Soda Fountains by Anne Cooper Funderburg, which brought back memories of my tenure as preparer of sundaes, ice cream sodas, milkshakes and cherry, lemon, vanilla or chocolate cokes.
Two unique sundaes, of which I had never heard(and I’d never been to a soda fountain either) were the “CMP”(chocolate, marshmallow sauce and ground peanuts) and the “Dusty Road” which involved vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and a dusting of malted milk powder(my first one was just ice cream and malted milk, because I didn’t realize chocolate was included. My customer was amused). I had a long list of prep duties, including mixing fluff and simple syrup to make marshmallow sauce, chopping the peanuts in a meat grinder, refilling the syrups, cones, straws, and napkins. The best perk was being allowed to eat as much ice cream as I wanted.
Kostas was already archaic when I worked there, since soda fountains peaked in the 1950’s, and were done in by suburbia, but the location across from the high school insured we had a steady stream of students after school and football games descending upon the counter. Kostas lasted 10 more years after I left to transfer to a 4-year college. Stratoz suggested we find an authentic soda fountain for our anniversary in 2011, and a friend who knows about such things told us about the Franklin Fountain in Philadelphia. I had a fabulous “Cherry Bombe” soda, with cherry syrup, soda water and chocolate ice cream. I dived in before Stratoz could get a proper picture of it.
I was fascinated to discover in Sundae Best, that there was a genre of soda fountains at the turn of the 19th century which featured art tile, from companies like the Low Art Tile company. The fountain above is at Eagle’s in Yellowstone, and has delightful “pillow tiles” with rounded corners.
In a synchronicity of my love of soda fountains and quilts, I found a photo of the Needle Basket in Sutton, WV, which was formerly a soda fountain and is now a quilt store, and the owner keeps all sorts of notions in the old stainless steel drawers and dispensers. And even more cool was discovering the article Confessions of a Soda Jerk which lists some famous soda jerks, including one of my favorite jazz musicians, composer and pianist, Duke Ellington. The story goes that he wrote his first song, Soda Fountain Rag, while working as as soda jerk, at age 14 or 15.
Check out My Secret Life as a Soda Jerk on Pinterest.
I was walking down Sansom Street in Philadelphia, looking for Capogiro Gelato, and this tile caught my eye. Then I turned further toward the courtyard beyond the tiles, and there in an oasis of peace within the buzz of Philly was a statue of the Virgin Mary. I was intrigued by this building, with textured walls, with bricks standing proud every foot or so, and ram’s head gargoyles. The bronze plaque named the place “Kate’s Place,” and later I discovered it was affordable housing in the heart of Rittenhouse Square. If you’ve ever been to the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, you will know that there isn’t much that is affordable, and to have a building of such beauty renovated for this purpose is a wonderful thing.
Originally, it was Warburton House built in 1926 by Arthur Loomis Harmon, and run by the Emergency Aid of Philadelphia, and the latter’s name is carved in Gothic lettering. The Dominican Sisters of Elkins Park bought it in 1952 and turned it into a refuge for single women who needed a place to live. When they could no longer keep it running, they approached Project H.O.M.E. about taking it over. Kramer + Marks Architects led the renovation, and completed it in 2004.
As I walked on, the very next thing was Capogiro Gelato, which is actually part of the Kate’s Place building. Later, Stratoz and I stopped in for some delicious pineapple mint and orange cardamom gelato, and he took photos of the courtyard, and of course of the gelato:
As soon as I heard about Walls Speak: The Narrative Art of Hildreth Meiere, I knew I had to make a pilgrimage. As I have written, Meiere’s mosaics at the Wernersville Jesuit Spiritual Center were the first mosaics to catch my eye, and set the desire in my heart to make them. Because mosaic and murals are often part of architecture, it’s a challenge to do an exhibit in a museum.
St. Bonaventure University’s Regina Quick Center for the Arts is the host of this first major retrospective of Meiere’s work. To develop as full a representation as is possible, the exhibit ranges from photographs of her installations at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, the Prudential Building in Newark, NJ, and the Nebraska State Capitol Dome, plus sketches, a smalti sample board, and Triptychs for the Armed Services, and sample mosaics from the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis project.
I was fascinated by the Triptychs which were from World War II. Meiere organized a group of artists to paint over 500 Triptychs for Catholic, Protestant and Jewish worship in the field during the war, painting 70 of them herself. The portable altars are like a morsel of the church in the midst of destruction, and I can’t even imagine what the experience might be like to worship in a war zone.
St. Bonaventure University’s buildings is are a tile lover’s dream, with “Italian Transitional” architecture with red roof tiles, and bas relief plaques. And Olean, NY was also home to the American Olean Tile Company, which coincidentally had a factory here in Lansdale as well. In addition there was a sculpture of St. Francis by Beniamino Bufano at the Regina Quick Center, the artist I discovered while writing about Martin Luther King Day.
If you have the chance, go check it out before June 13th, when the Meiere exhibit ends.
I had a few minutes before my train in Philly, and I was walking down Chestnut Street, and suddenly my eyes fell upon this building. I looked up at the graceful arched doorway, and there were mosaics! I recognized the work of Mercer’s Moravian Tileworks, and wondered how they got to this street. The building houses a CVS, but when I went across the street, I could make out an original sign for Reed’s, set into mosaic medallions at the the top of the building. Mosaic spotting is one of my favorite activities.
When I got home, I did a search, and discovered it was the Jacob Reed’s Sons Building, built for a clothier in 1903 by local architect William Lightfoot Price. The tiles are indeed by Mercer, and the ones inside the arch represent crafts related to clothing, including spinning and weaving. Mercer was a great reviver of handmade tile in the United States, and visiting his home, Fonthill, for the first time was quite an experience. Picture a cement castle, lined with tiles from all over the world, plus samples of just about every tile line Moravian Tileworks produced.
Then I looked up William Price, and discovered that he was the founder of the Rose Valley Association, just outside of Media, PA. I had heard of this utopian community, but didn’t expect to stumble across a connection while among the many athletic shoe stores of Chestnut Street. Rose Valley was modeled after William Morris’s Arts & Crafts Movement ideals. The houses are still there, and someday I want to see them.