E-News Winter 2016

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Founded in July 1987 Tile Heritage celebrates its 29th anniversary this year. Supporters like YOU... members, major contributors, industry sponsors, generous grantors... everyone... have made possible the continued fulfillment of the Foundation’s mission to Document and Preserve tile history in the U.S., both past and present. THANK YOU!
E-News in Print


E-News for Winter 2016

Here’s What’s Below

A Tribute to California Faience:
A Triumph for Kirby Brown
What is the Tile Heritage Award
“Inordinate Fondness”: David Wilson
Tile Restoration at Villa Philmonte
Mobley & Company
Support Handmade Tiles
Made in America

E-News in Print

A Tribute to California Faience: A Triumph for Kirby Brown

On behalf of the board of directors of the Tile Heritage Foundation the 2015
Tile Heritage Award was presented to Dr. Kirby William Brown during a special luncheon at the Sainte Claire Hotel in San Jose, California last October. Those of us present celebrated Kirby’s historically important achievement: a tome on the California Faience Company accompanied by an exhibition at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento and currently at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, a thorough retrospective of the work of California Faience through April 3, 2016.

Tribute and Triumph... continued
Kirby Brown is the grandson of William Bragdon, co-founder and longtime owner of California Faience in Berkeley. Following his career as an entomologist, Kirby approached retirement and looked forward to having the freedom to pursue his personal research about desert beetles, an area of study that had long fascinated him. But fate intervened, and instead he spent the following 15 years applying his scientific training to systematic research on the subject of his grandfather’s pottery, California Faience.

Kirby’s book titled California Faience: Ceramics for Cottages and Castles will live on beyond the exhibitions. Visually the book captures the beauty and variety – the full range of ceramic artistry - of California Faience. The story is honest and complete. Kirby followed leads when they took him to unexpected places, and then organized the entire body of material creating a highly readable form. The subject matter includes the personal background and early experiences of the partners, Bragdon and Chauncey Thomas, their important mentors, their specific sources of inspiration for design, their interests and experimentations artistically, the twists and turns of the business enterprise, the surrounding social milieu, the changes in public taste, the evolution of both their pottery making and tile making, the vast project for William Randolph Hearst at San Simeon, the effects of the Great Depression and the ending of the partnership, followed by the 25 years when William Bragdon kept the company open as a teaching center and haven for ceramic artists and students of all types.

Kirby has a calm pleasant demeanor, but he was passionate and unflappable in meeting obstacles. He taught himself to use all the 21st century tech advances as they were developed - digital photography, PhotoShop, research on the internet, constant monitoring on eBay. He personally amassed the most complete collection ever assembled of California Faience products for study and show. But most of all he was a fantastic collaborator with so many people. He followed many leads, found and met with dozens of people. Kirby brought his enthusiasm to the fore and shared the enjoyment of discovery with everyone from discerning collectors to individuals who had worked at the factory. When it came time to borrow pieces for the exhibition and to photograph for the book, he had won the respect of everyone he touched. The result is a personal triumph for Kirby as well as a lasting tribute to California Faience.


What is the Tile Heritage Award?

In 1993 the board of directors of the Tile Heritage Foundation wished to acknowledge those individuals who embodied the Tile Heritage mission in some exemplary way: promoting an awareness and appreciation of ceramic surfaces in the United States. Since its inception, thirteen individuals have received the Tile Heritage Award: Kenneth Trapp (’93); Donato Grosser (’94); Frank Giorgini (’95); Carolyna Marks (’96); Susan Tunick (’97); Norman Karlson (’98); Barbara White Morse (’99); Jane Larson (’01); Eric Astrachan (’06); Robert Winter (’09); Joe Koons (’10); Vance Koehler (’13) and Kirby Brown (’15). 

The THF board also decided that the award itself should be a tile designed by a tile maker of their choosing whose aesthetic related significantly to the award recipient. The tile makers chosen: Dale Wiley (’93); Karen Koblitz (’94); Lynda Curtis and Libby Donahoe (’95); Pat Custer Denison (’96); Anne Currier and Gretchen Krouse (’97); David Ellison (’98); Linda Ellett (’99); Kenyon Lewis (’01); Don Schreckengost (’06); Marie and Delia Tapp and Steve Moon (’09); Frank Giorgini (’10); Joan Gardiner (’13); and David Wilson (’15). 

An “Inordinate Fondness”: David Wilson

David Wilson met Kirby Brown while Kirby was doing research for his book on California Faience. David serves as Restoration Work Specialist at Hearst Castle, which features many strikingly beautiful installations of California Faience tiles. Tile Heritage chose David Wilson to design and produce the Tile Heritage Award tile for Kirby because of their fondness for one another and because of David’s expertise in reproducing California Faience tiles. As David describes Kirby: “He's an easy person to like.

The youngest son of wildlife painter Bryan Wilson, David claims that his artistic sensibility and focus on wildlife is inherited from his father. David received both B.S. and M.S. degrees from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and taught for eight years at Cuesta College in the same city. “I've painted, sculpted in both bronze and ceramics, studied functional ceramics with some time spent in Japan, and then combined this background into tile making. I've done a wide variety of projects at Hearst Castle over the 16 or so years I’ve worked there, much of it masonry, or related. I've evolved into the mold shop person for all cast stone reproductions as well as the in house reproduction tile maker.”

About the
Tile Heritage Award tile, David wrote: “It incorporates some California Faience style with some entomology. The reference to the J.S. Haldane's quote, "the Creator has an inordinate fondness for beetles" would not be lost on Kirby. Yet it can also refer to our fondness for tile, and furthermore our fondness for Kirby.” The tile itself is 8" x 8".

E-News in Print

Tile Restoration at Villa Philmonte
From Larry Mobley

Villa Philmonte was the summer home of
Waite Phillips (1883-1964), a petroleum magnate and philanthropist, and his wife Genevieve. Designed by Edward Delk in the Spanish Mediterranean style in 1926, the house consisted of 28,400 square feet. Villa Philmonte is a house museum today and is part of the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. Restored to the period when the Phillips owned the ranch, the estate now serves as a memorial to Waite and Genevieve and their generosity to the Boy Scouts of America. Guided tours are offered during the spring, summer, and fall. A wide variety of tiles adorn both the exterior and interior.


In July 2013 Nancy Klein, curator of the Villa Philmonte at the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico, contacted me. She stated that there were “della Robbia” tiles in the courtyard that were cracking and falling off the wall and Mexican tiles on the stairs that were breaking apart. Nancy wanted to know how they could be repaired. I emailed her the process that I would use to remove the tiles, but Dave Werhane, Museum Director, did not feel that there was anyone on the ranch that could do the job.

 1-2 steps post
Because there were other tiles that needed to be fixed, I submitted a price for a week’s worth of work. In May 2014 we set the date for September 7th when the scouts’ summer camping season had ended. Nancy also needed someone to replace the broken Mexican tiles. I contacted the Tile Heritage Foundation for recommendations and decided to contact Diana Mausser at Native Tile & Ceramics. Nancy then ordered the tile we needed. Not knowing exactly what I might need for tools I loaded everything in my truck. On September 5th Karen and I set out from our home in Cohoctah, Michigan for Cimarron. We stayed at the ranch while working on the tiles. First, with the maintenance men at the ranch having removed the broken tiles on the steps. I cleaned the areas on the steps and cemented in the tiles from Native Tile & Ceramics.
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There are seven “della Robbia” plaques made in Italy on different exterior wall areas of the villa, of which six needed repairs. Three were coming away from the wall and cracking. I removed these from the wall, glued them back together, and touched up with porcelain paint. The backs of the plaques were glazed, which is why they were coming away from the wall. I used a crack membrane and thinset to adhere them to the wall. I then caulked and painted around the plaques with the color of the wall. The others had minor cracks. These I repaired, painted, and caulked.
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Support Handmade Tiles Made in America


Artisan Tile Northwest (ATNW) has published its Volume IV of Guide to Handmade Tile Artists of the Northwest, a 40-page booklet illustrating in full color the work and credentials of over 50 artists, exclusively from the Pacific Northwest from Oregon to Alaska. ATNW is a nonprofit organization advocating artistic excellence, innovation and awareness of handmade tile.

The ATNW Guide to Handmade Tile Artists is available for free by writing to ATNW, P. O. Box 84872, Seattle, WA 98124 or by emailing:


The Handmade Tile Association (HTA) based in Minneapolis has just published its 2016 Directory, Guide to Handmade Tile and Mosaic Artists. The booklet features the work of 28 artists with studios coast to coast, all in full color. In addition, short informative articles are offered.
The Handmade Tile Association, LLC, is a union of independent artisans who design and create tile and artwork incorporating tile. The association works to broaden awareness of tile as a medium with limitless applications and provides a common entry point for consumers to access a wide array of artisan-made tiles.

The 2016 Directory is free for the asking. Contact HTA at 612 781-6409 or email:

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