How a Small Tile Shop Stays Relevant 95 Years Later


Tiling can add life and character to a project unlike other surfaces. From its inception in 1920, during what is often referred to as the Golden Era of Tile, tile makers Solon & Schemmel (S&S Tile), embodied a steady sense of ritual in their expertise as tilemakers. The original company eventually evolved to Stonelight Tile, which is one of the last remaining California tile companies from this era of manufacturing. With the incorporation of the same age-old tiling manufacturing processes that the founders established over 95 years ago, the small company is a model example of what it means to embed character, tradition, and genuine aptitude into handcrafted tiling. 

In a recent episode of The Modern Architect radio show and podcast, Tom Dioro was joined by David Anson, Owner and Principal of Stonelight Tile, for an illuminative discussion about the industry's transitions and how the mom and pop shop stays relevant amongst constantly changing trends.

Listen to the interview here

How a Small Tile Shop Stays Relevant 95 Years Later

Courtesy of Mercury News; David Anson picking up tile after the cooling process.

Stonelight Tile specialized in a glazed clay tile with an unconventionally sturdy body. Traditionally known as faience tile, this type of craftsmanship has been circulating through Europe for centuries. The framework is primarily molded from natural clays baked to completion at intensive temperatures often exceeding 1,830 °F. Ultimately, this makes for a surface of acute density and very limited absorption. 

Regardless of which end of the spectrum a glaze falls on, all can be classified as pure glass melted onto the surface of the tile's body. 

Art Deco Designs

How a Small Tile Shop Stays Relevant 95 Years Later

These Art Deco designs are reproduced from the original bronze plates and can be used as a wainscot, fireplace surround or another area where bold, heavy relief, architectural shapes are required.

Decorative Tiles and Liners

How a Small Tile Shop Stays Relevant 95 Years Later

The fusion of ornate design with vivid colors makes for a vibrant or more subtle, monochromatic finish. 

Custom Tiles: Architectural Relief Tiles

How a Small Tile Shop Stays Relevant 95 Years Later

With decades of history under its surface, these relief patterns were reissued from S&S 1930s Brass Plates. The unique pattern can be adjusted to fit any type of space. 

"With many developers requiring an art component be present in their buildings, we try to carry on that tradition through our tiles."

How a Small Tile Shop Stays Relevant 95 Years Later

Courtesy of Mercury News

Anson briefly takes us through the history of tile from the original S&S craftsmanship to the more contemporary work of Stonelight. Exemplary pieces of S&S work still remain standing today throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. From the Hotel Sainte Claire in downtown San Jose, to the Stanford Shopping Center, to the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose and in homes all over San Jose's Rose Garden neighborhood, their excellent craftsmanship is still intact. 

With tile being so prevalent in the structural surface of monuments such as the Hearst Castle to the multitude of murals throughout the Bay Area, its continuation as a key aspect of art will likely live on for years to come. 

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