By TRACEY C. O’NEILL Sun Staff Writer
PAWCATUCK — Lilywork Tiles of Pawcatuck is growing and owners Paul and Esther Halferty hope to extend their family-run specialty tile business throughout New England.
“We ship out a lot, to California and Chicago,” Esther said in an interview in the couple’s Pawcatuck studio. “Locally, we work with Tile America in New London. Then there’s Mystic Coastal Flooring in Mystic, and we’ve been working with architects locally in Stonington. We’re reaching out to Rhode Island more.”
The Halfertys both graduated from art school, studying ceramics and art history. Esther attended Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford. Paul graduated from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.
“I decided I wanted to do something with art history, and I decided I wanted to do something more profitable with art, make it into a business,” said Esther. “I like how tile fits in with architecture. It’s kind of like a puzzle. It all fits together and continues on and completes the space.”
Sharing a love for the craft, the two forged a path back to Connecticut and chose Pawcatuck because of its proximity to the coast.
“We met at a place called Moravian Tile Works in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. There’s a historic pottery there. They make tile. I was a mold maker and Esther came as an apprentice,” said Paul. “That’s how we met. We knew we both liked tile and that we could build a business out of it.”
They have been together for nine years and have two small boys. The family moved to Pawcatuck two years ago, and the Halfertys set up a studio in their garage.
Working multiple jobs while building their own business, the Halfertys developed Lilywork Tile into what is now their sole focus.
Gradually growing their business, they now have 55 dealers who seek out their product. The tile is all made to order, whether it is sold by a designer, distributor or contractor.
“We have our own colors,” said Esther. “We have 20 colors. Then we can customize them into — some customers like mosaics — you can choose what colors you want.”
Lilywork offers unique textured tiles, too, displaying a subtle, raised design suitable for high-end projects.
“This is something that’s different,” said Esther. “It’s ours and it’s something that we market as our own design.”
Also unique is the handmade production aspect of Lilywork Tile. Paul Halferty cuts, carves, colors and glazes each tile, and every tile is fired on-site. The studio has two kilns.
Lilywork Tile recycles its manufacturing byproducts.
“We try to be eco-conscious,” said Esther. “We try to minimize waste. It comes with being small. We reuse all of our clay, all of our scraps, anything we have as far as our base ingredients.
Paul said, “The tile itself is really ecofriendly. It lasts a long time. It’s easy to clean. It’s not something that you replace, generally.”
In designing the tiles, the couple takes into consideration unique architectural styles and periods.
“You can have a versatile look with what we make,” said Esther. “You can have a contemporary look, but it’s also suited very well for historic homes. We do a lot of historic homes.”
“We are always looking at communicating with our designers,” said Paul. “We want to know what colors they are using, what they need, how the packages work together.”
Moving Lilywork Tile products into more showrooms across New England is the couple’s focus for the coming season, working with local designers, contractors, showrooms and property owners.
The boutique business is seeing more marketing attention with a feature to be shown on CPTV’s “Made in CT” program.
They can be found on the web at http://www.lilyworktile.com/ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/LilyworkTile.