Archives for August 2010:
Aug. 30, 2010
San Jose Customers Come Out in Droves for Fireclay's Boneyard Sale!
By Amie Johnson - Fireclay's Design Specialist
At 10 to 10:00 I walked into the yard at work on the Saturday of our annual Boneyard Blowout which ends on September 4th. Carlos hadn't even had the door to the showroom open and there were already a few early birds in the boneyard. Within the hour there was a constant flow of 20 to 30 people. It was crazy. I've worked many Saturday's and I've never seen it like this. Our customers were so excited that some tiles were just $.13! They couldn't believe it.
We had one couple put designs together for a few different rooms in their house, after 3 hours, hungry bellies and only spending about $350.00 they had what they wanted! What a DEAL!!!! They couldn't believe they were getting tile normally selling for $25sqft for $2.50sqft. Others were artists looking for those perfect little pieces for a mirror or a mosaic design they were finishing. There was one lady literally there all day, she was full of conversation. She checked out a few different times and kept going back for more! She was great! One lady brought in her mother to help pick out tiles for the risers on her front porch, it was beautiful!!! She thanked her mother for her very talented eye and had a smile from ear to ear. It was a lot of fun sharing everyone's excitement.
Sunglasses on and running, Kate, Carlos and I never stopped. I think I was yelling for Carlos every 20 minutes to make, move or load up boxes for tile hungry customers! At 50% off boneyard tiles and 20% off all of our pavers, people were ecstatic. People actually came in with the Mercury News Paper and mapquest print outs. It was amusing. By 3:00 we had a line of people waiting outside to checkout. Some of the last customers just wanted to make sure they got on the emailing list. They didn't want to be the last customers next time. As I walked to my car and the gate was closed, there were still die hard customers wanting in. It was all in all a great, fun and exhausting day at the lovely Fireclay Tile.
Aug. 27, 2010
SF Chronicle: Mosaic artist Pippa Murray an intricate blend
Many thanks to Lisa Hix for publishing this article on local Bay Area mosaic artist Pippa Murray (article reposted below). In a strange coincidence for Fireclay Tile, we only recently learned of Pippa and her amazing work when she visited our tile showroom in San Jose earlier this week. Pippa came in to meet with Paul, our founder and Chief Ceramicist, to discuss a new spa project she is working on.
We admire Pippa's work and her commitment to embodying old world techniques to satisfy modern day clients. Like Fireclay Tile, Pippa embraces locally manufactured products and goes to great lengths to deliver solutions her clients adore. Though generally working with stone, Pippa has done work with ceramic tile, which is what her current project calls for. We look forward to working with Pippa and alwyas love meeting local artists!
August 26, 2010
In her workroom in a Sausalito studio, mosaic artist Pippa Murray picks up a strip of off-white marble, places it on a hardie, and strikes it with a hammer. She picks up the square and keeps chopping it until she has a little slither. When making a floor, a backsplash, or an artwork, she goes through this slow, deliberate process, cutting hundreds, sometimes thousands, of little pieces by hand.
"It's probably one of the most labor-intensive things I know," says Murray's "right-hand man," Daniel Purbrick, a fellow mosaicist who's been assisting her for four years. "I like that about it."
The pieces in most stone mosaics installed in homes today, like those offered by architect favorite Ann Sacks, are mass-produced in factories, cut by saws, lasers or water jets. Murray offers something unique: Personalized mosaics for floors, kitchens and bathrooms made using methods developed in ancient times. Of course, she doesn't make perfect little squares, but "that gives it soul," she says.
Her work, though, is often sleek and modern, with fluid lines and smooth finishes, the intricate stonework barely discernible from afar. For one client, Murray and her crew installed a tan stone floor with a sinewy line of greenish stones that ran through the entire house. For a bathroom in the 2009 San Francisco Decorator Showcase, she repeated the swirling-line motif, with the mosaic rocks curling up the wall in places, like a few blades of grass. In spiral patterns resembling nautilus shells, Murray has employed elaborate patterns of tiny stones that seem to wrap around and contain the larger tiles like a ribbon.
Purbrick works diligently, smoothing stone pieces in Murray's "dirty" workroom. He's surrounded by big crates of construction castoffs and rock recovered from slab yards, and jars full of shimmering colored glass, a special Italian glass made for mosaics called smalti.
"We like stone," says Murray, who rarely uses ceramic tile. "It's an honest material. It's the same thing all the way through, and it's nature made. It's what builds all those old buildings I like so much."
When a client suggested they try water-jet cuts, Murray had sample pieces made but "it just doesn't hit the heart strings."
"The design might be from hand, but then it's got to go into the program to get that line, and you lose something," Purbrick says. "It didn't look like our work, that sample. It just looked too cold or hard. We do a lot of finishing on the stone, rounding everything, and it becomes really tactile and smooth and has a really nice glow to it."
Murray's "clean studio," a few steps away, is an elegant space with endless eye candy. From her interior design work, she has mosaic samples, stunning watercolors made as a preview, and a bulletin board showing photos of her floor-installing process. There is art, too, like the intricate three-panel wall piece of a lush pomegranate tree, made of tiny hand-shaped brightly colored stone fit tightly together. Toward the ceiling, there's a real tree branch, with mosaic bubbles clinging to it like pearl-crusted wasp burrows. And on the ground, small square-like mosaic stones known as tesserae wrap themselves round small boulders and large rocks like scarves.
When she was growing up, Murray's art historian father, who specialized in French gothic architecture, took her all over Europe, where she gawked at cathedral steps and pieces hanging in museums.
But it wasn't until she was an art student at Columbia University that she found her calling. During the summer of 1993, she took a job on an archaeological dig in Crete, Greece, where she drew pictures of the pottery and small finds they unearthed. Since she was the resident artist, the archaeologists asked her to create a pebble mosaic for the dig house. Made from pebbles collected from the beach, the 9-foot-wide piece was Murray's first mosaic, incorporating motifs from the pots she was drawing.
"This really captured my imagination, because it was art, it was sculptural, it was ancient, it was haptic, it was heavy, it required skills," she says.
She got a master's degree in Greco-Roman mosaics at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where she studied the ancients' designs and process in depth. After that, she came to California to get a master's of fine arts at California College of the Arts. It wasn't long before her reputation as a mosaic expert grew, and she started getting commissions, from private clients and even the Bay Area Discovery Museum.
In 1999, the late Spanish designer Victor Carrasco flew her to his home to make pieces that looked like Roman artifacts. When she was done, Carrasco asked the curator at the Seville Museum to come over and date them. "He did," Murray says with a smile. "Second Century Eastern Empire."
This is what makes Murray so rare: She carries this deep knowledge of ancient traditions, she's got all the technical skills of a craftsperson, and she has the perspective of a fine artist, says Lillian Sizemore, a mosaic artist and art historian who works with Murray as a business consultant.
"What's unique about Pippa is that, yes, she has a classical background, but she can take that, work with a client and get something that's beautiful and fits well into a modern setting," Sizemore says. "For example, I live in a 1963 Eichler. It's very modern, very austere, and I could put a modern mosaic in here, and still, it would fit. And that's what Pippa is really good at seeing, how to use the medium and use her skill set."
While one might assume these custom mosaics would be pricey, Murray says she can work within a limited budget. Certainly, she can match the price of installing mass-produced stone tile work, which runs about $250-$400 a square foot.
"I do bring the whole gamut between being competitive with what you get at a tile place to much more, because I can do things that are much more intricate and special," Murray says. "In that price, we always include the whole thing from design to installation to sealing to maintenance."
Outside of private homes, her work can be seen at the Bay Area Discovery Museum's 800-square-foot octopus-wrapped compass. She also had art in last May's Decorator Showcase and she's working on pieces for the Global School Silicon Valley in San Jose and the Sonoma Horse Park in Petaluma.
As an artist, Murray, who lives on a teak sailboat with her husband and 4-year-old daughter, says she loves working with clients because they present her with challenges, like how to incorporate a dark-colored 50 million-year-old gar fish fossil with light-colored travertine tile or how to maintain a pattern in a piece of marble slab for a shower.
"Since it's a collaboration, there's their thoughts, what they want, what they need, their budget," she says. "Then there's what I'm coming with, what I think, what I like, what I can do with certain things. Instead of being in your studio alone, working on one thing, it takes you on paths you wouldn't expect.
"Every time I get us into doing something tricky again, and I'm in there putting it in I say, 'Daniel! The next time I talk us into doing something crazy, kick me!' But then we end up doing it again. It's fun to push yourself."
Aug. 26, 2010
By Mary Gottschalk
Artisans and do-it-yourselfers know that the boneyard of excess inventory and seconds at Fireclay Tile is a treasure trove of tiles in all shapes, sizes and colors at 80 percent off regular retail prices.
During the "Boneyard Blowout" in progress through Sept. 4 at Fireclay on W. Julian Street prices drop even lower.
Tiles that retail at $23 a square foot at regular boneyard prices are $2.50 a square foot during the sale.
The 6-by-6-inch and 4-by-4 inch decorative tiles, which retail at $28 and $24, are $10 during the sale.
And the popular Saltillo paving tiles from Mexico are 20 percent off retail, with prices differing by size and finish.
"We have more than 5,000 square feet of glazed boneyard tile which can be used for bathroom, kitchen backsplash and fireplace surrounds," says Paul Burns, owner of Fireclay.
In the boneyard, named for the common term used for an area where ceramics broken in the kiln are tossed, the staff groups tiles together by color to make it easier for people working on a specific project.
Others look at it as a treasure hunt, wanting to check out everything from the flat tiles to the bullnose, quarter round, cove base, sink caps and moldings to see where their artistic inclinations take them.
In addition to people wanting to remodel kitchens and baths, there are those who want to make tiled planters, tiled tabletops, tile trivets and tile coasters.
Many select larger,
solid-color tiles to cut and use in mosaics, while others prefer the small, embossed pieces for their mosaics.
It's not unusual to have happy hunters return to Fireclay with photos of their projects and the company website includes photos of some completed projects.
"There's a lot of creative things that people do," Burns says. "We often say that our best tile projects come out of the boneyard."
Eric Edelson, Fireclay manager, points out that 90 percent of their tiles use recycled materials in the manufacturing process.
He points to the Debris Series, developed by Burns, which contains 50 percent post-consumer and pre-consumer recycled materials and is available in more than 100 colors.
Edelson says that while some of the tiles in the boneyard are seconds, most are simply excess leftovers from the special orders the 24-year-old company is known for.
It manufactures more than one million tiles a year, each one made to order.
Fireclay Tile's "Boneyard Blowout" sale continues through Sept. 4 at its showroom, 495 W. Julian St., at Autumn Street, www.fireclaytile.com, 408.275.1182. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.
Aug. 23, 2010
Fireclay Tile San Jose Factory Showroom Boneyard Blowout
August 23 - September 4 (UPDATE: THE BONEYARD BLOWOUT IS NOW OVER. SIGN UP TO RECEIVE EMAIL UPDATES SO YOU DON"T MISS OUT NEXT YEAR)
Join us at our Annual Boneyard Blowout running from August 23 - Septemember 4. The Fireclay Tile Boneyard consists of our seconds and overstock, and for the first time ever all items are 50% off. Our Factory Showroom also has a wide selection of Pavers and Saltillos, each 20% off.
Tile starting at $2.50 per square foot for field tile and $.50 per piece for decorative - there is NO better deal for handmade, sustainable, high quality ceramic tile! Wide paver selection including Fireclay own material as well as Mexican Saltillo and other fine paving options!
We hope to see you there! For directions click here.
Aug. 23, 2010
How to Engage Your Local Community
By Fairfax Scoops
This weekend we came across a fantastic community sign in one of the best locally made ice cream stores in Northern California - Fairfax Scoops. The sign was simple, displayed next to one of the inside tables, and for a little sign it has a tremendously lasting impact. Given Fireclay Tile's interest in supporting our local community and on manufacturing locally, we thought these tips for engaging with your local community are fantastic!
In case you have trouble reading the photo, here is the text:
Turn off your TV
Leave your House
Know your neighbors
Look up when you are walking
Sit on your stoop
Use your Library
Buy from local merchants
Share what you have
Help a lost dog
Take children to the park
Support neighborhood schools
Fit it even if you didn’t break it
Have pot lucks
Pick up litter
Read stories aloud
Dance in the street
Talk to the mail carrier
Listen to the birds
Put up a swing
Help carry something heavy
Barter for your goods
Start a Tradition
Ask a question
Hire young people for odd jobs
Organize a block party
Bake extra and share
Ask for help when you need it
Open your shades
Share your skills
Take back the night
Turn up the music
Turn down the music
Listen before you react to anger
Mediate a conflict
Seek to understand
Learn from new and uncomfortable angles
Know that no one is silent though many are not hear work to change this
Aug. 16, 2010
How Fireclay Tile saved over $5,000 annually!
In 2009 Fireclay Tile realized that while we make sustainable ceramic tile, as a company we could do things to be more sustainable ourselves. We quickly identified our lighting as being very out of date and ready for an upgrade. We’d owned our San Jose location since 1986, and our Aromas factory since the mid-90’s, and neither had seen an up-grade in lighting since.
Unfortunately we had no money. Remember the recession? Yeah, well, 2009 was tough for Fireclay financially, and while we invested every dollar we had in our product and our customers, internal upgrades were put on hold.
After doing some research and exchanging some emails with members of the Bay Area Green Business Program, they pointed us to PG&E, our utility provider, as being able to help. Since we paid PG&E over $7k per month, we thought, “about time!” PG&E responded immediately, and after surveying our locations informed us that we were eligible for significant “lighting retrofit credits.” See, from PG&E’s point of view, if they can invest in other companies decreasing their energy use, then PG&E won’t need to invest as much in fulfilling peak demand. PG&E then put us in touch with RightLights.
From its website, “The RightLights Program provides subsidized energy efficiency upgrades of lighting and refrigeration systems, with free professional assistance to help you lower your energy bills and boost your cash flow.” Just three weeks after first contacting the Bay Area Green Business Program, RightLights was on site, surveying our lighting and taking notes. By November 30, 2009, we had a quote for our San Jose location and RightLights specialist Ryan Mack. His proposal identified the “total installed cost”, the “total rebate” and my “final cost” all with an estimated annual savings in energy use and a payback period.
For just our San Jose location, our final cost was only $1,325 with an estimated annual savings of $2,000, meaning our payback was in only 7 months!!! This amounted to a savings of almost 10,000 kWh saved annually, or roughly the equivalent of electricity for two normal homes or 8,500 lbs of CO2 reduced! To see a sample report click here.
RightLights contracts out the work to certified installers, in this case Lumenature. Lumenature was a first-class operator, and their team communicated well and did a great job installing the retrofitted lighting. Once they were done, Ryan came back out for a final inspection to sign off on the project.
The success of San Jose convinced us to do a similar program in Aromas, and in March RightLights’ Jeremy Jackson provided a similar quote and returns analysis. This time the result was staggering! The “total installed cost” was $5,530, but our “rebate” would be $4,125, meaning our “total cost” was only $1,405. Our estimate annual savings were $3,876, meaning we would see a payback in only 3 months!
A quick summary of thwat they did was as follows:
- Replaced incandescent lighting with Energy Star® compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).
- Replaced “T12” lamps with “T8,” which are smaller and more energy-efficient.
- Many of our older magnetic fluorescent ballasts contained polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a toxic chemical. Fireclay's facility had quite a few PCB ballasts removed and recycled, which were replaced with energy-saving electronic ballasts (which contain no PCBs). Electronic ballasts also eliminate the “flickering” and “buzz” that may cause headaches and eyestrain.
T8 Energy Efficient Lights
Energy Star CFLs
If it sounds too good to be true, well, it is. Beyond the simple environmental and financial savings, our lighting got a significant overhaul and each employee is far happier with better lighting. Even our Quality Control improved!
The other day I looked at my online PG&E billing statement to really see just how substantiall Fireclay’s energy use has been impacted. In San Jose, over the last several our electricity usage was on average down over 40% compared to similar periods last year! Given we used to have a $500+ bill in San Jose, that’s awesome!
If you haven’t yet checked out the RightLights program or PG&E’s rebates do it now. The savings are real and the environmental impact is obvious! Any questions, drop me a line at email@example.com.
Aug. 15, 2010
How I learned to make ceramic tile
Here at Fireclay Tile, every new employee gets the opportunity to visit the Fireclay factory and see just how our tiles are made. Since I'm new to Fireclay's team, I got to experience this opportunity- and let me tell you, it's quite a production. From raw clay to a beautifully crafted Fireclay tile- there are a lot of steps involved! When I first arrived at the factory, our production office manager, Mayra, showed me around and introduced me to the team. I was shown everything, from the extruding machines, to the glazing stations, to the packaging station, to even the kilns which fire the tile using natural gas. I was able to do deco pressing, help unload the kiln, and even paint my own tile- note, don't drink coffee before this one- you need a really steady hand! I even met the "Glaze Master," Mushtaque, who truly is a glaze master once you witness what he does; it's truly magic. To me, it seemed as if he just mixed all these different bins of dust together and poof! There's your glaze color. I was also introduced to the Ramiros. Ramiro P. is the production manager at the factory, and Ramiro L. is the glaze department manager who oversees well, all that has to do with glazing. I met many more very talented people and saw firsthand that every member of the factory team is important to the production process. It was a really great experience.
Hand scultping tiles
Hand painting tiles
Hand spraying tiles
I walked in as the new kid on the block and felt right at home. Not only are the factory members hardworking, but they're also some of the nicest people I've every met (who know how to have a good time too, go soccer break!) I was able to see all the hard work that goes into making our beautiful tile and meet the members of our team that make it all happen. To all the team members of the Fireclay factory, great job!
Kate Fox Day at Fireclay Tile Slideshow
Aug. 11, 2010
Organic Interior Design Style Maven Kelly LaPlante Checks out Fireclay Tile
We were thrilled to recently spend a Friday with the lovely interior designer and style maven Kelly LaPlante! Fireclay Tile has worked with Kelly on several custom tile installations over the years, and we’ve even developed custom shapes for some of her interior spaces which have turned out beautiful. A Los Angeles native, Kelly happened to be in the Bay Area recently working on her new online magazine, Standard, and after finding this out via twitter we invited her down for a visit and some of Martin’s infamous tacos. We figure it was the tacos that got her attention!
Kelly LaPlante Custom Kitchen Backsplash
Custom Tile Design
We love hosting visitors and showing them around (if interested just email us), and after seeing our San Jose Factory Tile Showroom for only a few minutes, Kelly informed me that she was canceling the rest of the day (including a Belly Dancing class!) to hang with us and tour the headquarters and factory.
We showed Kelly around the showroom, introducing her to our various products and showing her some of our beautiful cuerda seca decorative tile. She definitely loved the Boneyard, and was stoked to see us supporting our community with discounted overstock and seconds. And then she feasted on our overstock cuerda seca section, where we had her make some of her very own coasters and trivets! At that point Martin let us know that the tacos were ready, and while Kelly had thought we might be kidding, after trying one chicken and one beef taco, she was hooked! A touch of wine made for a great welcome lunch.
After hanging in San Jose, Kelly got in her pick up (Yup, she drives a super awesome heavy duty pick up, which is amazing considering she is all of 5’3”) and followed me to our factory in Aromas. Seeing our product made really drives home our commitment to using recycled materials and sustainable practices, as well as seeing a fully operating U.S. factory when so many other ceramics come from abroad. Kelly spent the next two hours in Aromas, hanging out, watching production, taking photos of the guys playing soccer on their break, and just soaking it all in.
Kelly in front of Fireclay Tile Factory
Decorative Handpainted Cuerda Seca Tiles
While Kelly had used Fireclay Tile several times before, seeing everything first hand helped really drive home not just the beauty of the products but the story behind it all. For Fireclay, we got to hang with one of the coolest designers out there and spend time talking about what we love most – tile!
Thanks for stopping by, Kelly. We can’t wait for Standard to launch and look forward to continuing to follow your success!
Aug. 3, 2010
5 Mosaic Tile ideas For the San Jose Boneyard
by Delaine Hackney, guest mosaic artist/teacher
Here are 5 magical and mosaical ideas of what you can do with tile from Fireclay Tile’s Boneyard, featuring seconds and overstock from many of Fireclay's past orders. If you are new to mosaic tiling, you may want to consult with a mosaic how-to book for details on which tools to use, proper adhesives and basic techniques. Or jump in on a mosaic class at Fireclay Tile and get a comprehensive base of mosaic knowledge. Whatever your mosaic projects, discount tile from the Fireclay Tile Boneyard will make it sweet!
Mosaic Stepping Stone
Concrete stepping-stones can be purchased from Home Depot for around $1. They come in square or round and are ready for mosaicing onto. Whether a simple design or a random abstract mosaic, either is easily doable in a weekend, including grouting.
Garden Gazing Sphere
Old bowling balls make a great substrate for mosaic gazing spheres that add intense color and sparkle in the garden. The bowling ball first needs to be sanded and then primed with either Kilz2 or Bonderizer so that the surface will be mosaic ready. Glass gems (marbles that are flat on one side) are great for filling in between the ceramic Fireclay tile pieces.
Mosaic Bird Bath
The terra cotta saucer from under the large terra cotta pot may be purchased separately ($4 - $15 depending on size) and used as a substrate for a mosaic birdbath. Mirror pieces mixed in here and there with the ceramic tile will add that special sparkle that birds love.
House Number Sign
Either Hardibacker or Wonderboard would be an ideal substrate for a mosaic house number sign. Ready for mosaic, these cement boards may be purchased in 3’x5’ sheets at Home Depot and later at home, easily cut down to your preferred size. The numbers, created with broken pieces of beautiful tile from Fireclay’s bone yard, can be as detailed or simple as you choose. Trimmed with a mosaic frame and complimentary background colors, before you know it, you’ll be mosaicing your whole house!
Mosaic Retaining Wall
This is a great project where the whole family can be involved. A concrete wall is a great “canvas” for mosaicing a mural. Mosaics are forgiving by their nature, and pretty much whatever gets glued onto the wall, as long as it is tile from the Fireclay bone yard, will be a whimsical, colorful and lively masterpiece!
Aug. 2, 2010
Fun with Mosaic Tile in the Boneyard
The Fireclay Tile team is always amazed at the creations that come out of our Boneyard. Many times we find creative scavengers searching for inexpensive beautiful tile, and other times high end designers who know their clients are willing to push the limits. But for many, the experience can be overwhelming, especially with how vast the tile selection is. Thus, we called in the experts to help teach some of these folks how to best find tile in our Boneyard, and then what to do with that tile.
For the past several months guest mosaic tile teacher Delaine Hackney (www.delainemosaic.com) has been offering pet portraiture and garden mosaic classes on weekends at our San Jose Factory Showroom...specifically our boneyard.
Here are some wonderful pictures of some of the students creations at the most recent class:
For more information on classes check out Delaine's website at www.delainemosaic.com. More classes are being offered over the next few months so sign up while there is still space!