Up-Close with Historic Batchelder Tiles
Living in Southern California has its perks. Aside from the beautiful weather, mountain ranges and of course, the Pacific Ocean within reach, Southern California offers so much for tile lovers and enthusiasts.
Case in point was the recently held presentation “Out of the Blue,” Creating Beauty from the Earth: Decorative Tiles of Southern California, 1910-1930.” Presented by Joseph A. Taylor, co-founder and president of the Tile Heritage Foundation.
Taylor showcased the revolutionary development of decorative tile making in Southern California during the first quarter of the 20th century. His lecture compared tiles and installations of major manufacturers, including California Potteries, Vernon Kilns, and more.
With his deep knowledge of the tile industry, he shared his years of research on the evolution of tile manufacturing in California, focusing on the works and designs of Ernest A. Batchelder.
It was quite enlightening to learn Batchelder’s preference of using a soft finish on his tile designs rather than a glossy glaze, according to Taylor. The soft finish, called engobe, was perfectly suited for the Arts & Crafts architecture prevalent in the Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Alta Dena, Los Feliz and surrounding areas of Los Angeles.
Engobe is the process where liquefied, colored clay (pale blue was a favorite) was applied to the tile’s surface prior to its firing. This caused the pooling found in the recesses of the design. The excess was wiped off and the tile was fired. Fascinating, right?
Now, here are some detailed views of the Batchelder tile fireplace and surround showcased in The Pasadena Playhouse’s library, where Taylor’s lecture was held. Notice the faintly-colored details of the engraved tiles.
Also, if you’re in the area, do visit the Pasadena Museum of History from now until February, 12, 2017, for the Batchelder: Tilemaker and Cast & Fired tile exhibits.
I hope you enjoyed this installation of historical Batchelder tiles! I would love to hear your experience with Batchelder, and his time-tested creations!