Tilemaker Gordon Bryan
Material matters when it comes to gorgeous tile—especially if the creator boasts an artist’s pedigree.
Humble Beginnings While he was trained in fine arts at the University of California, Berkeley, Gordon Bryan pursued the craft of tilemaking; a specialty he explains is no far cry from his college studies. “Tile is like a sculpture when it’s installed,” he says. “It’s a three-dimensional painting on the wall.” Gordon, who also studied ceramics at the College of the Redwoods in Eureka, California, developed his skills with clay as an apprentice at L’ Esperance Tile in New York. Opposed to the self-promotion that often accompanies a gallery artist’s career, Gordon resolved to integrate his work within a more intimate setting—the home. In 1982, he founded Blue Slide Art Tile with his wife Pamela Bridges. Once a best-kept secret among close acquaintances, the business has since blossomed into a national enterprise.
Behind the Scenes There is no factory line in the Point Reyes, California, studio where Gordon creates designs for tile showrooms and commissioned projects. And while his business has grown considerably since he was making tile-topped tables for friends, his hands-on approach hasn’t changed a bit. He still cuts and glazes by hand to produce a slightly variegated finish, and estimates that each tile is touched more than 30 times from creation to installation.
Material Matters It all begins with pencil and paper. After Gordon casts a plaster mold of his sketch, tiles are cut from a flattened sheet of clay, embossed with floral, fish or wildlife designs, and then dried. Twenty-four hours later, the kiln-fired tiles are covered with one of 90 colored glazes in every imaginable hue, from watery blues and greens to earthy reds and gold.
Inspiration Point Surrounded by the majestic hills and royal-blue Pacific waters, inspiration is never in short supply. A self-proclaimed nature lover, Gordon takes notes from the outdoors. Spirited fish, languid cows and winding willows have all made cameo appearances in his finished tile. “Right now I’m working on florals,” says Gordon. “I always try to create tile that’s never been done before. I strive for something that’s mine—an original.”
Buy It Blue Slide tiles vary in price: Decorative tiles range from $10 to $30 per tile; field tile (plain tiles usually used for large expanses of floors and walls) starts at $30 per square foot. Visit blueslidearttile.com for more information and a list of distributors.