Tile making seems a profession of years gone by but one husband-and-wife team is reinvigorating the lost art form at their Stonington-based home studio. Esther and Paul Halferty started Lilywork Artisan Tile eight years ago after both attending art school— Esther at Hartford Art School and Paul in his native Pennsylvania. They wanted to mesh their creative passions with their entrepreneurial spirit.
“We wanted to do something productive in the art field,” says Esther Halferty. “We both had ceramics classes in art school so we knew the basics of glaze formation [et cetera], but there wasn’t a big emphasis.”
Paul worked in production and mold making at the well-known Moravian Pottery & Tile Works in Doylestown, Pa., for 10 years and Esther apprenticed there. It’s where the two met. They launched Lilywork Artisan Tile there before moving to Stonington to be closer to family.
Each Lilywork tile is made in traditional fashion—a block of clay is thinly sliced and pressed, a hand-carved mold is placed onto the clay and stamped to desired thickness. Any excess clay is trimmed and used for the next tile. All tiles are dried for a week before they’re fired to 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit in one of the company’s kilns.
“A handmade process, it’s a little bit of a trend,” says Esther. “We’re going back to the natural process.”
The Halfertys work their love of travel and their interest in diff erent countries into the design of tiles.
“We do a lot of patterning from countries around the world, from Morocco and the cathedrals in Italy,” says Esther. “We do a lot of historical referencing with contemporary colors.”
The results are meticulously patterned tessellations, intricate textures and sturdy tiles in a variety of tones and colors that can be placed together to enhance a backsplash, fireplace or bathroom.
Though every tile may not be perfect, the Halfertys are all right with that.
The handmade irregularities are what set Lilywork apart. The company has a quote from a 1905 issue of Good Housekeeping on its website to explain the philosophy: “For the purposes of decoration it is not always essential or even desirable that tiles be mechanically perfect: a little irregularity of shape and glaze which will give a variety of color tone is valuable . . . and relieves what might otherwise be a mechanical and uninteresting surface.”
All tiles are made on a per-order basis, and there is a four- to six-week waiting period for any order. Esther and Paul work with customers across the country, so the business is largely virtual, but on a local level they like to partner with shops to showcase their tiles. It is best to go see tile samples in person so the ideal choice can be made for every project.
Locally, Lilywork Artisan Tile are availabe through Tile America, which has a number of show rooms around the state. (860) 599-6050, lilyworktile.com