Since 2013, Clé has been at the forefront of tile, leading the market as the most prominent online-only tile source for design. Working with artisans around the world, their modus operandi has been to seek lost traditions of tile-making and give it a contemporary context. This May, they’ve opened up Clé Studio, their first physical space, in Marin, California, that will operate as both a showroom and a studio for their collections as a “playground to challenge and explore one’s ideas of architectural surfaces”.
With rotating exhibits, Clé will venture into creating unique displays of their tile, often putting unusual pairings together. “In our product development department we affectionately call this ‘ugly pairings,'” Deborah Osburn, the company’s founder, explained. “This came from a kind of challenge that we gave ourselves by seeing how far we could push unusual color pairings before they turned ‘ugly.’ We realized that the further we pushed an unusual pairing, the more we loved it. An example of this type of color pairing might be green and teal or a shell pink next to a lemon yellow. Five years ago, this type of pairing might be deemed a complete color miss but now the unexpected combination feels exciting.”
The showroom will also be a great place for designers to pick up on new trends. This time, the space’s conceptual focus will be on “The New Neutrals” – unglazed zellige and terracotta tiles with different patinas – and “The Gentleman’s Bar” – deep saturated tones, especially in the form of encaustic tiles. “Over the past couple of years, boldly-patterned encaustic tile has dominated design,” Deborah said. “Ahead we see a resurgence of 1970s references, matte tiles, and tiles as art – both in the form of large-scale murals created with tiles and smaller-format tile-based art installations.”
Finally, their headquarters will the location of ‘The Guild’ – a new initiative to cultivate the US’ next generation of tile-artisans. There, a selection of talented individuals will be given the resources and guidance to turn their innovative ideas into a fully-fledged business, reviving the artisanal tile industry in the US. Clé is also working with adept ceramicists such as Eric VanderMolen on developing their work into large scale production. Applications are still open for the Guild and will be decided in the Fall.
For those interested in visiting, Clé Studio is open to designers and the public by appointment.