Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rhapsody in Tile

The story of the tile that's going up in the meat and seafood, deli, and café departments bears repeating. Steven Crocker, our project manager, is the kind of guy who might sit with a cappuccino on a Saturday morning and cypher out a tile pattern. He's collaborated on a number of projects with Paul Burns, of Fireclay Tile, whom he introduced to me as the Willy Wonka of Tile.
And Steven did remind me of a kid in a candy shop when we went out to Paul's factory in Aromas to look at what he had in his yard. Steven had his heart set on Claymonde tile: Fireclay Tile's futuristic large format lightweight wall tile. A unique mixture of white clay and ceramic fiber is rolled into 3/16" thick sheets. Large ceramic sheets are bisque fired and then cut to size before being glazed in rich crackle glazes.

12" x 36" Claymonde in Kiwi

Paul Burns designs the spectacularly colorful and delicious glazes for these tiles....and we couldn't afford any of it. We were like orphans looking in at Christmas dinner.... and then Steven noticed a MOUNTAIN of Claymonde tile, fractured and shining in the sun, stacked in crates. About 10 pallets worth, we estimated. It was variegated, dirty, and within minutes, it was all ours!
So, we've lived with this huge boneyard of tile for months now. We had it kept in a cage in the middle of the Downtown New Leaf parking lot while we tamed and sorted it, culling the healthy vibrant tile from the overly neutral or too strongly colored tile. We covered the walls of the deli and meat department at the downtown store with it, picking from the cream of the crop and biting our nails while we got a vision together and our awesome hero of a tile contractor, Keith Schuler from Elegant Tile Works and his crew Brendan and Eric, made it stick to the wall. We were happy with how that came out — ecstatic, to tell you the truth.

There is some huge irony in that Steven, this guy who ENJOYS organizing tile patterns, chose the only tile in the world that could never, ever be fully tamed, and for which no pattern could ever be devised ahead of time except as it happened through its application.... That's how it is with these things I suppose... you just get a concept going, and you start pushing things that direction.... and then... if you are lucky or good, something takes over, and all you can do is channel it. Keith Schuler made it look easy. And it wasn't! Need tiling? Call Keith. And I might have some tile you can buy too!

Have a look at what we have going on on the walls now at the Westside store before we cover them with counters, equipment, and menu boards.... as I mentioned, the tile is 100% reused, it was left over from other big projects and we bought it locally from Fireclay Tile. Here is a picture of Paul Burns with Steven Crocker.

Meat and Seafood...

The Deli! The sandwich case will be to your left just in front of the door and the case with the éntrees and salads curves around that corner toward the hot bar.

I think the pizza oven is going somewhere in here....

And oh, stand back baby. The Café tile.
Steven lost a week of sleep while Keith was working on this!

I think its hot. I only lost like one night of sleep.

Whatever else you may have to say about it, I am fairly confident that you will have to admit you've never seen anything quite like it before! Thanks Keith!!

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