Shapes: Encaustic Tiles from clé

Leave it to clé, the San Francisco-based artisanal tile aficionados, to throw us a 21st-century curve ball.

Just when we thought there was nothing new under the sun when it comes to cement tiles, they’ve come up with some new patterns and sizes.

They call the new line “Shapes” – and that pretty much sums up the new approach.

“It’s a spotlight to call attention the different shapes we offer – triangles, hexagons, scallops, diamonds and arabesques,” says Margaret O’Mahony, who’s in charge of product development at the firm.

In stock are tiles in basic colors like black, white, gray and blue. But all the “Shapes” tiles are available in any of the 55 muted colors in clé’s rich palette.

The idea is to give the creative class a little room to experiment. “We enjoy seeing what people do with our surfaces,” she says. “It’s another fun tool for homeowners, designers and architects to play with.”

In addition to a variety of shapes and sizes, these cement tiles are encaustic. That is, patterns are not printed upon their surfaces. Instead, their colors run all the way through their depths.

“Makers use a metal mold and pour the cement colors into it to produce the pattern,” she says. “There’s never any bleeding between the colors.”

Some the designs are by clé’s own in-house designers in-house and some are collaborations with 12 artists and textile designers the studio has partnered with to develop the artwork. “Some are classics,” she says. “You’ll find them in France and Portugal, from 100 years back – so some are old patterns.”

But they’re all inspired by light, geometry and travels. “Some of the shapes – like the scallops and arabesques – are Moroccan,” she says. “The triangle is an exaggerated size of something we see all the time.”

No matter their size or shape, though. These cement tiles are loaded with 21st-century charm.

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