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minnesota tile conference

updated sun 29 sep 02


Stephani Stephenson on sat 28 sep 02

Just returned from the Tile Heritage Conference/symposium in the Twin
Am just now realizing how many wonderful sites I saw and how many
great people I talked with.
THF is a history based organization but the membership now is about 75%
tilemakers and makers of architectural ceramics, rather than collectors
and historians.

This was a small but very mobile conference. One day one we went on a
tour of architectural ceramics , guided by architectural historian Paul
Larson . Saw many fabulous, sweet buildings adorned with ceramic. during
the week we also visited private homes with fireplaces from grueby and
rookwood and moravian tile, public sites with tiles of distinction,
contemporary tile exhibits, local tile studios and clay centers, the
minneapolis institute of the arts, etc.
The minneapolis institute of arts has a wonderful Asian collection of
Also, of the various art centers I saw, the most impressive was the
Minnetonka Arts Center, which our mayor has had a guiding hand in. this
is a center with the working artist and student in mind, built to handle
the flow of real work. This place quietly booms with potential and
has a great feeling about it, so I know now why the mayor has a great
sense of pride, seeing the work that is being done there and knowing
what will is yet to come in the years ahead.

Anyway, because of the small conference size , people were able to have
in depth discussions, instead of the fast and furious connections that
happen at larger conferences. There were people from every level of
experience from beginners to gift tile makers to experienced pros,
studio tilemakers, authors, historians, people from the larger
industrial and commercial sides of the tile world, etc. Though we saw a
lot of sites there was ample time to swap information on business,
inspiration, technical issues, public art commissions, strategy, etc.
We also had sessions where we were able to show slides, and talk about
business and technical issues.
on saturday a sale was held at the American Swedish institute, and the
sale was quite well attended by vendors as well as buyers.The Swedish
institute is located in the Turnblade mansion which contains 14
traditional Swedish ceramic stoves. If you are interested in these, this
is the place to see them. Quite ornate.
mosaic lovers must see the Lakewood Cemetery chapel, built in 1909. The
building is modeled after the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul . inside is what
is called 'one of the most perfect examples of byzantine mosaic art in
the US". the interior is based on the interior of the San Marco
cathedral, but it is a smaller more intimate space, with elements of art
nouveau and arts and crafts period as well. the color palette is
breathtaking and endlessly pleasing. it think they said there are
roughly 5 million pieces of mosaic in the interior. the tesserae are of
glass and stone. it is one of the most beautiful spaces i have ever

Also of note was a presentation by Eric Astrachan of the TIle Council of
America. The Tile Council offers testing services for your tile..and
is working to address the needs of smaller studios as well as the larger
players in the industry. they can do many many tests , including for
freeze /thaw, etc., and also publish guidelines and specs for tile
makers and installers.
I will post more detailed info about the TIle Council in the next week.

Also, THF and the Minnesota Handmade Tile Association have collaborated
on and have printed a fabulous map of historic and contemporary tiles
of minnesota...very high quality, full color map with numerous sites and
great info...if you visit the twin cities this is a great guide. it
think it is available for purchase, $3.75 or $4.00
For more info, contact Josh Blanc, or email him at

finally i found the twin cities to be quite beautiful and a wonderful
place to visit.

Stephani Stephenson
Carlsbad CA