Ceramic Tile Studio in the Arts and Crafts TraditionAt the end of the nineteenth century, the first world expositions exposed designers to the art of many other cultures. Encyclopedias of ornament were published, vastly expanding the motifs available to the decorative artist. Rather than using this new found knowledge for reproductions or revivals, the artist of the time absorbed it and used it in fresh new ways. At the same time, a rising tide of industrialization threatened to sweep away traditional hand craftsmanship. The American Arts and Crafts Movement and similar movements in Europe tied the new creativity to craftsmanship and the continuity of vernacular traditions. British Arts and Crafts looked to the medieval past. Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Glascow School connected to Celtic roots. French and Belgian Art Nouveau used nature as a sourcebook. German Jugendstil used folk art. The Viennese Secession adopted geometric, architectonic motifs. Spanish Modernismo built on the Moorish tradition. Frank Lloyd Wright and Greene and Greene were inspired by Japanese art and architecture.
Islamic art incorporates influences from all parts of the vast Islamic world. Motifs and techniques from Celtic and Visigothic Spain in the west, Byzantium in the middle east, China and India in the east, and Arabian nomadic art are combined using a rigorous set of design principles. Architectural decoration is given a coherence with the use of the "never ending line," the "ever expanding field," and the "arabesque." We find these principles extremely useful in our own work, whether we're using typically Islamic elements or not. Tile design has been taken to the highest state of development by artists working in the Islamic world. The references to the nomad tent in Islamic architecture also resonate with us. Our tile is often conceived in a way that invokes a "textile" feel. Totten Tileworks' original designs combine these wide ranging influences with the complex, variegated glazes that began to be developed during the American Arts and Crafts Movement. Wherever our tile is installed it invariably looks as if it has always been there.