Status Ceramics was founded in the summer of 1986 on Bainbridge Island, Washington, not far from our current location in Seattle. As a former serigraph printer, potter and leaded glass worker, Richard Scott was drawn to custom ceramic tile as a medium for enduring artistic expression. The primary inspiration was the American Art Tile movement: Batchelder and Grueby; Pewabic Pottery and other turn of the century art tile studios. At a time when mass produced tile was flooding the market, he was reverting to the techniques of the American Art Tile pioneers. Their handcrafted techniques in glazing, molding, and firing required patience and craftsmanship but produced one of a kind works of art. It turned out Richard was not alone in exploring handcrafted techniques. Status Ceramics was just one of dozens of art tile studios, such as Motawi Tile, Pratt and Larson, California Potteries and Clay Squared, that were popping up around the country. The result was a renaissance in American Art Tile.
Over the last two decades we have found the elements of our artistry that distinguish us. Our glazes are a unique palette of colors and textures that defy replication. To highlight our palette, we use white clay for the body of the tile, just as a painter applies gesso to the canvas as a substrate. In 1993, Zsusza Bansaghi joined Status Ceramics. Trained in glaze chemistry, her expertise has enabled us to expand our palette and to coordinate with today’s color trends. Over the years numerous artists have worked in our studio, all of whom have contributed to our vision of producing functional art tile.
In February 2009, Status Ceramics took the next major step. After many years of cooperation with the Calkins family, who have worked in tile distribution for three generations, we formalized the relationship by bringing them on as partners in Status Ceramics. Well regarded for their marketing and design, as well as a reputation for customer service and integrity, the Calkins share the values Status Ceramics was built on.
At each stage of growth, Status Ceramics has remained committed to craftsmanship, quality and timely delivery. Color continues to be the centerpiece of our design process. In this new era, we count on the design expertise of Susan Boyd and her two decades of product development in the ceramic tile industry. Susan is spearheading the design of our new collections, providing a road map for designers working with our limitless combinations of colors, shapes, and designs.
Making Handcrafted Tile
crafted artisan tile may seem like an anachronism in an era of mass production. Hand-finishing each trim piece, glazing every field tile individually, and inspecting every order to ensure the utmost quality require time and craftsmanship. The end result, however, is worth the effort.
From Raw Clay to Greenware
Every Status tile begins from our unique white talc clay composition. Since clay is the canvas for our glazes, we have found that a white body provides us with the greatest versatility in our glaze colors. We press or extrude the pieces, and then finish the edges of each tile. Drying the tile is not a passive process. As it dries we rotate and straighten it, checking for imperfections and warping by hand. Pieces that do not pass inspection are recycled back into the process as raw material for the next run. Depending on the weather, drying can take between four and ten days.
The bone dry greenware tile is then loaded into the bisque kiln for the first firing. The first firing precedes glazing and can take 48 to 50 hours, depending on the thickness of the ceramic and the total quantity we are firing. As we unload the kilns, we inspect the bisque once again before putting it into inventory.
Glazing is arguably the most fickle element of the process, as each glaze must be calibrated to the characteristics of the tile body. A slight change in how the tile body expands and contracts with heat can cause the glaze to craze or shear. We apply the glaze using a number of techniques, which allows us to create a range of effects. Spray glazes create depth and consistency. Sponge glazes have more variation and can incorporate multiple shades. And for the precise lines of our vitrine tiles, we apply the glaze with a syringe.
Final Fire and Inspection
The temperature and duration of the glaze firing determines the surface characteristics of each glaze type. The glaze firing melts the glaze to a glass-like state, blending the glaze components into a compound and adhering the glaze to the tile body. During the 24 hour process temperatures inside the kiln reach 2000 degrees, which burns out any remaining organic materials. The result is a work of art that can last millennia.
Inspections of the tile occur at eight stages, including the final stage of packing the tile for shipment. Aside from hand inspecting each tile, we also lay out the field tile and trim to verify that the variation between tiles is within an acceptable range. The goal is always to produce the highest quality handcrafted tile.