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John Whitmarsh Tile Collection by clé


We are a collection of handmade tiles that can turn any mundane surface into a work of art.

Who are you?
We are a collection of handmade tiles that can turn any mundane surface into a work of art.

Where are you from?
We are created one at a time in the San Francisco studio of John Whitmarsh, but our ancestors come from the streets of San Francisco and the oceans of the world.

What one word best describes you?
Romantic. John, in his wisdom, doesn’t diminish the characteristics that give us our unique spirit. He takes a piece of wood and makes a casting of the end grain, the rough part—the one that everyone else wants to hide. Remember those utility poles where you would put up lost doggy signs? They are weathered and beaten and scruffy. Ever watch the huge cargo ships lumbering into the bay? Each container has arrived from somewhere else, corroded by the sea spray. John pays homage to the beauty of our imperfections. He loves us just the way we are.

What are your biggest turn-ons?
The sturdy, the authentic and the unique. We march to a different drummer.

Narrow-minded, silly folks who think that tile needs to be shiny in order to be beautiful.

How do you lessen your environmental impact?
When we can no longer carry the goods across oceans, John cuts us up by hand with a metal grinder. We retire in some pretty cool places where we are admired and fawned over. We are inspiring in that way, teaching others that material meant for a dumpster has inherent beauty in the hands of a creative designer. We foster a spirit of reuse and repurposing.

What inspires you?
Taking an existing raw material and using it in a new way. And we have a soft spot for asphalt.

What do you see when you look in the mirror?
Gentle gradations of warm hues painted in subtle underglazes, the fierce tattoos of international commerce, and an end grain that begins an adventure.

Describe the secret to your success.
Our ability to transform the anonymous and utilitarian into the provocative and memorable.