I would like to think that my art tile creations are one-of-a-kind and completely unique. While the methods I employ are not common today due to the intensity of the labor involved, I did find some historical roots and some very interesting similarities in the work of Henry Chapman Mercer. I had been using the “wet cut” technique for a few years before stumbling upon Mercer in a book about the Arts and Crafts period. Not only did Mercer cut his tiles from wet clay in a free form manner, he also depicted many of the same natural subjects I choose to use in my work.
Sea Serpents (Morovian Tile c. early 1900’s)
Hippocampus & Mermaid Floor (Pacific Art Tile c. 2006)
As it turns out, Mercer was a very interesting man indeed! Mercer founded the Morovian Pottery and Tile Works in 1898 and went on to create tiles that were installed in many famous buildings, including the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg. Mercer built three buildings that are now a part of the National Historic Register: Fonthill, The Mercer Museum and the Morovian Pottery. Tiles are still made at the studio to this day, however Mercer eventually simplified the process to allow the use of molds that were supplemented with handiwork, rather than entirely made from hand.
I am fascinated by the fact that Mercer and I share similar techniques and subject matter, we were both born in Pennsylvania, albeit 100 years apart and get this….. we even look alike! Check it out.