A Grants Pass company called Encore Ceramics is blazing new trails in the realm of ceramic tile — both artistically and environmentally.
Encore Ceramics was started by Debbie and Barry Russell in their two-car garage in Santa Rosa. They moved to Grants Pass in 2002, and today employ 60 artists in a venture that has gained national notoriety.
Their distinctive tile lines are based on Old World artistry, such as their first line, the Vecchio series, which is based on tile from the Duomo in Florence, Italy, a part of the San Maria del Fiore Cathedral. Their most recent line, called San Marco, was inspired by 12th Century mosaics the Russells saw on a visit to San Marco Basilica in Venice.
“One of Debbie’s passions is preserving and honoring ancient architectural treasures,” says Encore marketing director Ashley Sinclair. The company’s Rhapsody line of tile, for instance, was inspired by neo-classical buildings in Paris.
While Debbie is mixing and perfecting glazes to match Old World treasures, Russell is busy making a name as a pioneer in the realm of environmentally friendly production.
Encore has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the only ceramics production facility in the United States powered entirely by green energy. Their solar array, which powers much of the operation, is one of the 10 largest in the Pacific Northwest. The rest of their power comes from green sources through Bonneville Power.
The investments have paid dividends, Sinclair says. The company has increased production 22 percent in the last year while reducing imported energy consumption seven percent.
Every aspect of the operation at Encore is carefully thought out to eliminate waste. The facility contains no floor drains. Every ounce of raw material is either used in a product or recycled, including scrap clay, glazes, rejected tiles and clean-up water.
The company buys only 100-percent post consumer content paper and biodegradable cleaners, they avoid products that contain phosphates or emit fluorocarbons, install only energy-efficient electric motors in the factory, and all employees are trained in energy conservation. Even the company’s three cars are partial zero emission hybrid vehicles.
Encore’s ceramics lines are sold through tile showrooms around the country. In the Rogue Valley, Encore’s tiles can be viewed and purchased through DesignWise Studio on 4th Street in Ashland.