Terracotta Tile from Provence + China

People / Places / Products / November 10, 2016

Sausalito-based Deborah Osburn, tile diva for the 21st century, has nailed it again.

This time, she’s all about the terracotta tiles. Some of them are antique and from the farmhouses of Provence. Others are from China – new, but handmade in the traditional French manner.

She calls the latter Belgian Black. “It’s a blackened clay using the old methods of terracotta, slapped into molds,” the owner of clé says. “They let it dry and then fire it – it’s the way the French terracotta was made, and a wonderfully rich baked clay.”

So now she’s bringing in shipping containers of the stuff for both her Terracotta collections of Belgian Black French Reproduction and Antique Terracotta Provincial Red.

Except the red is not always red. “It ranges and changes batch to batch – some are more a buttery gray tone,” she says. “It depends on what comes out of old structures at that time – all of 2015’s was grayish.”

The Antique Terracotta tiles come in a square or hex, and are salvaged from antique structures in France, much like barn wood salvaged here in the U.S. The Belgian Black French Reproduction tiles are hand crafted in square, hex, star, and cross shapes by artisans in China.

“You can use in the bath or kitchen – somebody just did their library wall in it because they were looking for texture and age,” she says. “Both are very thick – at least an inch. They’re good for the patio or around the barbecue area – since they’re really robust, they can be used anywhere.”

For the antique collection, clients are essentially buying a century’s worth of French dirt, but she’s got a solution for that. “When you put them in your house you don’t want somebody else’s dirt, so we use an impregnating sealant like we do on cement tiles,” she says. “It waterproofs them and oil proofs them.”

She’s nailed another trend, it seems. “It’s crazy – this whole terracotta thing is going through the roof,” she says. “It’s going wild – and it’s fascinating.”

But we’ve kind of come to expect that of Deborah Osburn and clé over the years.

For more, go here.

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Michael Welton




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