The beauty of handmade tiles

When it comes time to remodel your home, and you're thinking about fine, handmade tile, you don't have to order from Italy or France. You can chat face-to-face with a ceramic artist right here in the Rogue Valley who will create tiles specifically for your home.

Janet Fergus of Envision Ceramics in Ashland has been a ceramic artist for 30 years. She is also a talented sketch artist and watercolorist, which comes in handy when she sits down with a homeowner to produce custom renderings of ideas they would like to see translated into tile for their kitchen, bath, entryway, fireplace or anyplace else you can use tile.

Fergus produces several different lines of tile, all handmade in her Ashland studio, all of it made to order. Give her a lead time of six to eight weeks and she'll produce a shipment from existing designs. Give her three or four months and she'll create entirely new molds, based on her interpretation of your vision.

A 4 by 4-inch tile (she does other sizes, as well) with a single color glaze will cost roughly $15 to $20, while tile with a multi-colored glaze may run $35 to $40. Because her tiles are made of earthenware clay, they are recommended for interior and light countertop use only — not outdoors in freezing temperatures.

Sue Springer is also a talented, hands-on artist with a long background in the ceramic arts. She began making tile in 1978 and now operates two Ashland locations, a ceramics studio called Illahe Tileworks and Illahe Design Studio and Gallery.

At Illahe Tileworks, Springer and a crew of four to six artists produce a wide variety of decorative handcrafted tile. Her tiles can be used indoors or out, on floors or walls. She can create simple or elaborate murals, and can work from old photographs or pieces of broken tile to do custom restoration work.

Illahe Design Studio and Gallery is a combination of a tile showroom and fine arts gallery that provides a changing display of functional-to-fanciful art for the home.

Through her production facility, Springer wholesales tile to 50 outlets nationwide, but it's the custom work with individual homeowners that keeps her artistic juices flowing.

"For me that's the interesting part, to listen to people, understand what they want, and then pull it off," she says. "I had someone tell me, 'Whenever I walk into my kitchen, it makes me happy.' That's what I want. To create something for a homeowner that has more meaning to them than stock tile."

Tile prices at Illahe vary according to complexity, but you can expect to pay in the neighborhood of $18 to $38 per square foot for primary ceramic tile used to cover a floor or wall. Design tiles, such as borders or accents, will run a bit more, while a custom mural can cost around $100 per square foot. Delivery is three to four weeks for tiles from Illahe's existing lines. Custom designs and glaze colors take six to eight weeks to ship.

If you're interested in ordering custom tiles, first decide on the scope of the project. Do you want murals or panels? Or do you want just a few strategically placed tiles?

Next, decide on a theme or concept. Books, magazines, fabrics or photos can be helpful, Fergus says.

The artist will use your input to create sketches or watercolor renderings, usually offering several options. Once you settle on a design, you'll see a tile sample of the style and colors of the final project. If you approve, it's time to order.

Fergus says it is important to order enough tile to meet your project needs, and she advises people to order extra tile if they are unsure about the exact square footage needed.

"When a customer works directly with an artist, we can create something that really adds value to their house," Springer says.


 


 


 


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