Exploring Paris and its tile treasures

Travels with Tile

Exploring Paris and its tile treasures

Twenty two years ago my wife and I  traveled to Paris and Spain on our first trip to Europe. We spent a month looking for tiles, art, and pastries. We have been back to Europe multiple times with the same mission, a scavenger hunt to find tiles and photograph them and to find out more information about each installation and draw inspirations from the tiles.

Paris And The Legacy Of French Architectural Ceramics

Published by Friends of Terra Cotta

This past February we were on a mission to document the tiles with videos telling a more modern story with historical information about each installation.  Also I have been recreating tiles from my travels to bring them back to life in the Clay Squared tile lines. We had a great tool at our disposal, the Paris and the Legacy of French Architectural Ceramics by Friends of Terra Cotta, published in 1997. The book describes and identifies 130 historic tile installations throughout Paris and has a map to find the installations. 

The cover of the Paris and the Legacy of French Architectural Ceramics has always been an inspiring image of a tile installation. When we first arrived in Paris in 2002 we were having breakfast in our hotel and I asked the waiter if he knew about this tile installation. My French was bad and still is. He looked at the image and asked is that Chocolate? We laughed and realized we were on our own to figure out how to find these tile gems, but thanks to this waiter we always referred to the project on the cover as the “chocolate tiles.” 

This tile installation is actually the Campagne Premiere facade and is probably one of my favorites. It was created by prolific tile maker Alexandre Bigot in 1911.  Located at 31 rue Campagne Premiere, Paris this installation has it all including high relief floral roses projecting out around 9" from the facade. There are many low relief florals and ceramic balls that are 2" - 4" projecting out. When you walk up to the building you will feel invited by all caramel chocolate tones of the textured impressed designs that make more floral patterns when connected together, that also showcase a full range of color variations in the square and scallop like shape tiles. It is a feast for the eyes.  What is striking for me is both the complexity of the art tiles that are clearly handmade as they are not perfectly rectified but they are very well organized and designed. The tile setting craftsmanship is excellent making the installation look like a chocolate store where you can come and pick out your favorite treat. Amazingly enough all the tiles are in excellent condition. No chips or broken tiles anywhere. Fun Fact: the famous American artist Man Ray had lived in this building back in the 1920s

Architect Mural On 185 Building

185 rue Belliard by architect Henri Deneux

In my research we cannot find specific names to the buildings other than the street names so we usually create names for them. Another building we found on this trip we called this one the Paris Alhambra. We had never found this installation in our other two hunts. This tile facade that wraps the building at 185 rue Belliard by architect Henri Deneux built in 1913. It features dynamic tile design patterns that are reminiscent of Islamic tile designs you would see at the Alhambra in Spain but in super large scale. Using only a couple sizes of tiles. The main tiles used are made up of 5” x 5" tiles and are placed in an unusual pattern where they leave large grout lines of many inches. The tile facade leaves you with more questions of how they achieved this unique tile facade. My main question goes out to the  tile setters. Traditional grout lines max out at 1/4" and a 1/2" is a huge grout line. This one had spacing of over 8” in many places. We are looking for our tile setter friends to chime in and tell us your thoughts on how this was installed. The tile patterns are amazingly equally spaced out and line up from horizontal to vertical throughout the facade. This seems like it would have taken an amazing feat of skill and patiences to install this tile design. There are many optical illusions because of the tile design that give the viewer multiple shapes to view; from stars to circles. There are dimensional cone tiles protruding from the wall that look like they are metallic but they are definitely made of clay. This installation was off on an unassuming street but it was just a sparkling display of creativity and craftsmanship.

It is always fun to relive a great experience. The Choisy showroom of the earthenware tile factory back in 1890 is a time capsule gem of the Paris Art Nouveau tile world. It includes over a dozen large scale handmade painted tile murals and over 20 tile floor rugs featuring encaustic tiles and mosaics. When we first found this tile location in 2002 it was our last day of our month-long trip, needless to say we were a little scraggly from our travels. We were outside the gate looking into the space and were in awe of the murals from what we could see, when a very well dressed woman was leaving and she asked in French what we were doing. I told her I was a tile maker and she realized we were Americans and she was too. She said there were many more inside and let us in. She said she had to ask her boss to see if it was alright if we could come in. As we went up to the second floor we could see on the back left corner a group of super models and their Go-see. Our new friend went to ask her if we could see the tiles in the building. We could see the Go-see glare at us and look us up and down. I could read her lips from across the room clearly saying Noooo!! Our new friend in her stilettos clipped as fast as she could across the tiled floors and told us we had to leave immediately. I started taking photos and running to get out of the building. We laughed so much from that experience being chased out by Parisian supermodels. 

Choisy Showroom Tile Murals In Atrium

Choisy Showroom Tile Murals In Atrium

Now 20 years later it has been transformed into a business school and the gate was open and we got right in and were able to make a video of all these amazing Art Nouveau tile mural  installations. All were in mint condition. What is great to realize is I have seen many of the designed floors and similar murals all over Paris in the entryways and some of the buildings we had been hunting for. Many must have come from this tile showroom. 

Tile exploring a city has been a great way for us to discover Paris and many other cities. We crisscross the neighborhoods and streets that locals only travel. We get to see how Parisians live and enjoy their city without the hustle and bustle of the tourist trade. On our walks through the streets we discover dozens of pastry shops and restaurants to pop in and get needed substance for our trek around the city. We have learned to have really good shoes and be prepared for quick weather changes. All the walking 10 -15 miles a day (we estimate over 3 weeks 200 miles) allows us to offset our pastry intake. It is a fabulous way to travel.


Blackware Firing in Duluth MN


Putting On The ChimneyOn a chilly Sunday October day up in Duluth my  long time friend and fellow collaborator Karin Kraemer of Duluth Pottery and Tile decided to do a Blackware firing. Her crew at her shop which included my daughter Elliot who is interning for her set up a site in her yard to cook up some pots using organic material like leaves, pine needles, salt and sawdust to create smoke flashings. Plus some metals like copper wire and copper carbonate to get some colors to shine through. Karin a master of this Blackware technique who used to fire three times a week when she was a tech back in the day.

Starting The FireShe was the grand master working the fire and giving everyone tips on how to get the best marks on their pieces. There were traditional pots and lots of little creatures and some small sculptures being fired up. The Blackware firing sometimes called a pit fire both are similar with the effect on the clay surfaces but different tools to make them. Karin used a 50 gallon barrel as the outside of the kiln. Which has the bottom cut out of it. Then there is a smaller 30 gallon metal barrel with holes punched in it to allow heat to be regulated more evenly. She said usually there are three barrels all together so slow down the fire from get too hot to fast. But she said she has had a hard time finding that middle size barrel lately.

The key she said was to slowly get the clay warmed up. As the clay was not bisque fired already. It was raw dried clay pieces and you have to always go slow so not cause the clay to crack or explode from the heat. If any water or trapped air bubble are in the clay pieces a rapid heat can cause them to explode. So while we are waiting for the fire to warm up the clay and us luckily my daughter baked some chocolate chip cookies to keep us warm and happier!

One of the great things about ceramics is there are so many ways to play with heat and fire to create amazing effects in the clay.  A day like this  gives me a chance to get outside of my own way of making and firing my tiles and learn new techniques to consider and just have fun. There are many workshops like this around the country that offer for anyone to take part in.


Holy Fun
The Crew With Thier New Pieces
Greek Pot

Greek urn with Greeks enjoying life

Blackware firing has been around for thousands of years. It is used by artisans of most every culture. One of the most famous 20th century Blackware ceramic artists in the Americas has been Maria Martinez 1887-1980). She was a r Pueblo, and is a well-known ceramicist celebrated for her blackware pottery. It is featured in museums across the globe.

In Minnesota in 2019 the Wiesman Art Museum did an exhibition of The Tewa married couple, Maria and Julian Martinez, of the San Ildefonso Pueblo in present-day New Mexico, are among the most widely recognized twentieth-century potters. 

When Layl and Josh visited Greece earlier this year we saw a great many pots from the ancient Greeks who were well know for their black and redware pottery.

Wrapping pots

Elliot Wrapping Pots

Pots wrapped

Pieces Ready For Fire

Wood in kiln

Wood In Kiln

Luke watching over fire


The fire started

Pieces Getting Hot

Big fire

Big fire

Pots before firing

Pots Before Firing

Pots turning black in firing

Pots Turning Black

Karin dumping sawdust

Karin Dumping Sawdust

Putting a lid on it

Put A Lid On It

Ash remains of firing

Ash Remains

Viceroy guarding the sawdust

Viceroy Guarding The Sawdust

Barrel removed

Barrel Removed

Vase with leaves smoked In

Vase With Leaves Smoked In

Pots and clay on the table

Pots And Clay On The Table

Karin's history

Karin  learned primitive/pit firing techniques at Pigeon Lake aArt Camp in1986. At an art camp that took place (with credit earning classes for artists, students and art teachers) for many years.  The university of Wisconsin ran it.  Many teachers from many disciplines in the UW system taught there or years.  Clay, glass blowing, blacksmithing, painting, watercolr, printmaking, fiber arts, etc.

Curt Horde and Doyug Johnson , from River Falls campus ran the clay parts.  Karin learned kiln building, primitive , gas, salt, and wood firing there.
What she loved the most, is learning to build kilns, and source inexpensive, creative ways of making clay art.
She  was a glassblower, and ended up in West Virginia, with no way to blow glass.  She started firing dug clay in her yard, and developed a body of work that was primarily Black ware fired, in a modified barrel kiln.   Just like the plains tribes and folks in the southwest did for centuries.

Karin Kraemer is an artist, entrepreneur and owner of Duluth Pottery, Tile & Gallery.  Her show is located in the heart of the Lincoln Park Crafts District of Duluth, MN.  

She make pottery and tile as these items have everyday uses – and they bring art to your table, desk, coffee table or wherever you choose to display them. Her main work is Maiolica, an in-glaze, hand painted, tin glaze technique. She make functional pots and tiles that are meant to celebrate the day, drawing from everyday scenes and objects for my imagery. Capturing the color and movement of the moment is my aim – like when the flowers in her garden tremble in a slight breeze, and the sun glows through them.

She has been a potter her entire adult life. Growing up in Minneapolis and in 1986 received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in glass working from St. Cloud State University. After graduation, she was blowing glass in Colorado, Minnesota and Wisconsin. When I moved to West Virginia, I began to use clay and pit fired it in my yard. I also worked in the Clay Center at the West Virginia University and learned a variety of clay techniques. To further my career, Tom and Karin moved to Carbondale, Illinois and did graduate work at Southern Illinois University – receiving a Master in Fine Arts in Ceramics. In 1996, they moved to Victoria, British Columbia and spent two years making pots, gardening and traveling. In 1998, Duluth became my new home. 

Today, I teach at local colleges and workshops around the country – and you can find my work at Duluth Pottery, at galleries and at fine art fairs. Duluth Pottery, Tile & Gallery is a place to showcase my artwork and that of other talented artist from our region, and across the country. Located in the Lincoln Parks Crafts District, so the next time you’re nearby, drop on by and say “hello!”  



Cleaning Up Pottery Pieces
IMG 2849

Terra Cotta in Sioux City

Treasure hunting for tiled buildings is a hobby for  Layl and Josh as they travel. On our recent trip to Sioux City, Iowa Josh was riding his bike around the city and found the Woodbury County courthouse built in 1916 by W L Steele Architect and Purcell and Elmslie Associate Architect. It was a stunning terra cotta facade building.  Purcell and Elmslie are very famous for their use of terra cotta in many of their buildings.  One was the Merchants National Bank Winona, Minnesota in 1912


Street View Of Bulding

You can find these amazing architectural gems in cities all across the country and around the world.   They are great historical symbols of what community builders, businesses and governments were trying to project to their patrons and passers-by of their buildings. The craftsmanship is unparalleled. What is stunning is how big they are at the same time are hiding in plain sight as most of us pass by them everyday in our cars, bikes and walking. 


From Wikipedia - William Gray Purcell (July 2, 1880 – April 11, 1965) was a Prairie School architect in the Midwestern United States. He partnered with George Grant Elmslie, and briefly with George Feick. The firm of Purcell & Elmslie produced designs for buildings in twenty-two states, Australia, and China. The firm had offices in MinneapolisMinnesotaChicagoIllinoisPhiladelphiaPennsylvania; and Portland, Oregon.


One of the key components of American architecture and the use of ceramic tile in the early 20th century was the glorification of working man, woman and child. They were projecting common people not royalty and high society. Scenes depicting symbolizing regular people and the American myths they wanted to project. One of the Arts & Crafts period design elements was allowing the natural materials to be showcased, stylized flora and fauna were very common.  It was one way to break away from European design and create an American aesthetic.


Woman Terra Cotta
Man Terra Cotta

Close ups

The details are stunning. These tiles have been in the elements for over a hundred years and look like they were just installed.

Don't forget to look up. Architects of the early 20th century made lots of amazing detailed tiles on the upper floors of skyscrapers all the time.

George Elmslie. had worked with Louis Sullivan on The National Farmers' Bank of Owatonna, Minnesota, United States, is a historic bank building designed by Louis Sullivan, Mr. Elmsie created the decorative elements.

From Wikipedia - George Grant Elmslie (February 20, 1869 – April 23, 1952) was a Scottish-born American Prairie School architect whose works are is mostly found in the Midwestern United States. He worked with Louis Sullivan and later with William Gray Purcell as a partner in the firm Purcell & Elmslie.[1]


Corner Tile Trim

Building Plaque

Purcell And Associate Elmslie Architects

Side Entrance

2 Large Figures

Main Entrance

Street View Of Bulding

Anatomy of a custom kitchen design

Josh knew it was going to be a very unique project and wanted to document it from the beginning to the end.


Swirl Vine Full

The Swirl Vine Kitchen

When your kitchen is the center of your home, it's appropriate to have a stunning piece of tile art for your backsplash. The homeowners were inspired by the Tile Mural Kitchen Backsplash that Josh custom-made. They loved the swirls and wanted to simplify the background and accentuate the vines to flow throughout the tiled backsplash.


The Layout

It started with a series of drawings to be approved. The homeowners selected 3x8" field tiles in Coco Moon.

Sketch of the mural
drawing of swirl

Josh made strips of wet clay and placed them according to the drawing, making sure everything worked together. To attach the vines, Josh scored and used clay slip and then a wooden tool to burnish each vine to the leather hard clay field tiles. Because the vines are connected through this process to each individual tile, the tiles needed to be separated by cutting the vines from each 3x8" tile to become a single tile again.


The tiles were covered for the night to let the clay dry slowly and evenly, periodically being checked on to make sure that all of the vines were properly connecting. Once dried, each tile is numbered on the back with an underglaze pencil and reassembled for Josh to glaze them.

The tiles need to reassembled and glazed one by one. Josh usually glazes the relief part in this case the swirl in Marigold. Then he glazes the background in the Coco Moon. It is important not to go to fast and make sure everything is evenly glazed.

The tiles need to reassembled and glazed one by one. Josh usually glazes the relief part in this case the swirl in Marigold. Then he glazes the background in the Coco Moon. It is important not to go to fast and make sure everything is evenly glazed.

Glazing Mural
Glazing Mural Full Shot

Going into the Kiln

One more night, the tiles go into the kiln and are fired for 24 hours. We fire at cone 05 - 1886 degrees. This is considered low temperature for ceramics. We let the kiln cools down to let the tiles pass through Quartz inversion, which happens at 573 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, quartz crystals rearrange themselves into a slightly different order. A slight and temporary increase in volume occurs at this point. The kiln is cracked open in the 500's and usually by around 300 we open up the kiln top to let it complete cool to take them out of the kiln. Once they are pulled out of the kilns they are reassembled to make sure they all fit together. The magic of the kiln brings smiles and happiness to the studio every time.




For this section of the mural behind the stove, Josh had to account for the vent and not add the bas-relief section where the vent would be attached to the wall. You can see the gap in the beginning and middle images. The final installation shot shows how it all came together. 

Vine Swirl Full Kitchen

New York Times Features Clay Squared to Infinity

Try something handmade for a little more character

As an artist, you always hope to get mentioned in the New York Times. On November 10th the article The Ceramics Obsession Has Moved to Our Walls came out on NYT online in the Style Section and printed in the Sunday edition. With the tagline “Sick of that ubiquitous subway tile?

Try something handmade for a little more character.”
NYT Article
They interview interior designers, ceramist Charlotte Smith, trendsetter Julie Muñiz and @Amyleigh_1902victorian scored an article on their restoration of her home. Here Amy is featuring our tile.

Peacock Fireplaces NYT



Three Rivers Art Festival

Saturday, November 12, 2022, 10:00 AM-Sunday, November 13, 2022, 5:00 PM
Covington, LA

Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival

Fri, Nov 4, 2022 10:00 AM – Sun, Nov 6, 2022 4:00 PM

Seville Drive

Pensacola, FL 32503

Layl will be at booth “Rockwell 14”

Location: Seville Square, Pensacola, Florida

Festival Hours: 9 am – 5 pm on Friday and Saturday, 9 am – 4 pm on Sunday
Children’s Festival: Saturday & Sunday 10am – 4pm.

Admission to the festival is free

Color Never Had it So Good

Sunday, October 23, 2022

10:00 AM  1:00 PM


Unity Unitarian Church

733 Portland Avenue

Saint Paul, MN, 55104


Color Never Had it So Good is the title of an exhibition featuring the polymer clay works of Layl McDill and the ink and acrylic paintings of Anna Karena.

McDill creates sculptures from polymer clay and found objects.  She uses the magical technique of millefiori, a process developed by the Egyptians to place tiny images into rods of glass called canes, creating a virtual palette of pictures that cover all of her pieces.  Stories have been a theme in McDill’s work since she began her career in 1993. Her pieces carry elements of life’s narratives, and she has also explored storytelling as a performer and as a way to engage with others.  McDill hopes to create art that leads others to come up with their own stories.  She recently completed a commission for the Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain at the University of Minnesota.

Karena paints with a vibrant palette of acrylics and inks. She approaches the canvas with no plan or idea in mind, working intuitively by making marks or spreading paint randomly.  She describes her process as a dance, in which she moves and responds to each new mark and color until she begins to see a direction emerge.  This keeps her art honest, true, and authentic. The resulting work leads to self-acceptance and inner peace.  She invites us to view her paintings with an open heart and mind, allowing the work to fill us, as we too find our steps in a dance of self-discovery and acceptance.

Interview: Tile Letter

Josh was recently featured in the Spring 2022 issue of Tile Letter: Artisan. He had a great time discussing the different aspects of Clay Squared from history to today! You can read the article on their website or below.

Clay Squared to Infinity

Savoring the organic relationship among clay, glaze, and inspiration

By Lesley Goddin

April 30, 2022

There are lots of ways to make tile. There is the commercial, precision, factory approach that minimizes imperfections and variations and provides a tile with predictable edges, minimal warpage, and glazes that can be easily and frequently replicated for volume production.

And then there is the approach taken by Josh Blanc, and Clay Squared to Infinity, the 26-year-old handmade tile studio in Minneapolis. Blanc frankly glories in the surprises and serendipity offered by the clay and glazes he and his six employees transform into original works of art – and the resulting installations that feel native to their clients’ space. The tiles are distinctive, original and offer an organic, living feel to them, whether they are installed in a Victorian Craftsman, Mid-Century, or contemporary home.

From attic to internet

Tiles from the Cosmic Cloud series illustrate the almost magical relationship between clay and glaze adorning this blue bathroom[/caption]

Blanc started Clay Squared to Infinity in his tiny 11′ x 11′ attic studio in November 1996. During the intervening years, Clay Squared was housed in an old bar, and then the Keg House in the Historic Grain Belt Brewery where it resided for 14 years. Five years ago, it purchased a 12,000 sq. ft. building on NE Howard Street in Minneapolis. Three years ago it began developing its showroom and studio in a 3,200 sq. ft. portion of the space, renting out other parts of the building.

The main equipment Clay Squared uses to make tile is a Northstar extruder and rolling pin, though it has added a CNC machine and Peter Pugger over the years.

Also, key to the company’s growth has been Blanc’s own investment in hiring quality people, promoting tiles through quality photography, and developing full-color brochures and planning guides. He also is well established on the internet with a feature-rich website and online shopping experience.

That internet presence was a sensation during the pandemic, resulting in a “massive influx of work,” he said. “We have doubled in size mainly due to our internet presence, with all the tools we created to help clients answer their questions and solve their tile challenges to create the tile installation they are looking for.”

bathroom subway tile little blue gem
White Marshmallow Arts And Crafts Floral Cottage Kitchen Medieval Stove Straight On

Low-tech methods, inspired design

Blanc has an intuitive way of designing his tiles, informed by architecture, art, and historical designs. He decorates tiles with Medieval Floral carvings or antique stamps that he’s purchased or made on the CNC machine. Blanc uses low-tech, manual techniques and tools like pizza cutters, X-Acto blades, rolling pins, extruder and sheetrock boards.

“I like to work very fast and I like expressive ways clay and glazes work together,” he said. “I don’t seek to control the clay and glazes, as I am more interested in finding anomalies and one-of–a-kind glazing blends to see what they create. The Cosmic Cloud series shows this process best. When I have seen my tiles installed, it informs me that making tiles that show the materials, the kiln’s magic and the handmade nature of the tiles are a process to creating a mural for a specific space.”

Clay Squared creates tile for many clients with circa 1890s-1950s homes. The team explores the client’s goal for their space and offers tools like planning guides and free samples to take home or order from the website to determine what works in the home. It even offers a design service to help clients visualize the tile design in their space.

“They then can see their vision come to life and customize the design to personalize it for their home,” he said. “The goal is to help make our tiles feel like they were original to the home.” Turnaround time on orders currently is between six – 10 weeks.

Further explore the process of making tiles at https://youtu.be/-Rn34NF29pY.

Star Hex Thumbmail

Historic restoration

Clay Squared got requests to match tiles for repair almost from the beginning. But clients were often unhappy – the color might be right, but not the sheen or vice versa, Blanc said. So he partnered with companies that were original makers or had mastered reproductions like Heritage Tile, B&W Tile, and Tile Restoration Center.

Blanc and Clay Squared have also forged a close relationship with the Tile Heritage Foundation over the last 20 years, chiefly with Blanc’s development of the Handmade Tile Association that he founded and ran from 1999-2016.

“We produced 17 annual directories, 16 Minnesota Tile Festivals, two national tile conferences and two tile maps in Minneapolis with Tile Heritage Foundation (THF) as the main sponsor,” he said. “The THF was a main collaborator on the annual Handmade Tile Association Directories with the use of a historic tile for the cover every year. Joe (Taylor) and Sheila (Menzies) would write articles on historic tiles to coincide with the contemporary tile makers to connect the two worlds. I have been a member of the Tile Heritage Board since 2015 as well.”

Jade Moss Victorian Fireplace

Building relationships

Clay Squared is a friend to the trades, designers and dealers. It offers trade discounts to dealers, and provides all the finishing touches that make a designer’s job easy and imbue a complete look to a project: bullnoses, mudcaps, base coves, and end caps. “We minimize the need to cut tiles and have great options for transitions,” Blanc said. “The finishing pieces are what make tile installation look fabulous.”

Blanc credits “the amazing people” around him that helped him succeed. “I was lucky enough to have some of the best tile contractors like Jan Hohn and Kerber Tile (both NTCA Five-Star Members) along with others to install my work,” he said. “I work in the Northeast Minneapolis Arts District with 1,200 artists and resources around me that have made our tile adventure so much more exciting. Tile making for me is not an individual business; it is a community-driven process. It has been all about relationships and learning how to continually make better tiles and enjoying the ride it takes me on.”

Pesto Green Arts And Crafts Fireplace Tile Hawthorn Hero

Tile Road Tripping

Over the holidays, Layl, Josh, and our daughter Elliot took a road trip. We drove from Minneapolis to Vancouver, BC, to see our oldest daughter. Along the way we stopped at several pottery, tile, and art places. One highlight was stopping at Medalta Pottery, where Elliot was an artist in residence in 2019. It was an amazing place with original beehive kilns — now used as a museum.
Traveling through rural Canada by car was a wonderful experience. We were able to pack our car with all of our necessities, so we had little contact with others.  (OK, we did stop for Tim Horton donuts three times — it was a must!)  When the border guard asked where we were going — knowing where we came from — he was shocked at our idea to drive 2000 miles across the Canadian tundra. The mountains, prairies, and badlands were all amazing to take in. There was an incredible amount of wildlife to enjoy:  eagles, coyotes, hawks, big horn sheep, antelope, and deer.  It always kept our interest.
This trip was a great refresher of ideas, and fuel for the soul.

25 Years Of Clay Squared

For our 25th anniversary we wanted to revisit some older projects and special tiles. These were from a time when the internet had just begun! Josh created his first decorative tile in 1996 at Cary Esser Architectural Tile Making Workshop at Anderson Ranch in Colorado.


Josh's First Decorative Tile

Some of Josh's earliest work included variations on our popular Medieval Floral Tiles. He started making them alongside other hand-carved tiles which he sold at home show at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Tile Show

Josh's first commission came from the Minneapolis/St.Paul Home Tour that Layl and Josh that featured their house and studio on the 3rd floor. The client was inspired by the work of Gustav Klimt. She wanted a mosaic that was full of rich colors and lots of sizes and shapes.

While we have done lot of amazing projects over the years we did not do it alone. We have been lucky to have great employees and interns that have helped make Clay Squared what it is today. Here are photos of the 20 employees we  have had since 1998!

ClaySquared Employees

Practical Preservation podcast

On this week’s episode of the Practical Preservation Podcast, Danielle spoke with Josh Blanc of Clay Squared to Infinity in Minneapolis Minnesota.  From their website, “Clay Squared crafts handmade tiles in many shapes and colors for kitchens, bathrooms, fireplaces, and as art tile. We feature tile by local and national artists and offer the largest selection of historic reproduction tile lines in the US.”

Danielle and Josh discussed matching historic materials and why it is better to preserve and restore than renovate and redesign historic properties and homes. They also discuss why buying from small businesses is better for your historic home.

You can find Clay Squared online at www.claysquared.com, on Instagram @claysquared, and contact them by phone 612-781-6409, or by email josh@claysquared.com

Diary of a Tile Addict

Clay Squared was featured by the Diary of a Tile Addict in September. Here is what they said about us.

“There is no end to the amount of incredible tiles out there. It seems as if each day we are finding something or someone new, and its almost always worth sharing. And today we’ve got our eye on another company… Based in Minneapolis, Clay Squared‘s artist hub creates a range of handmade tiles in all sorts of shapes and sizes, patterns and glazes, as well as made to match authentic reproductions of period pieces.”



October 2021 Layl

Airbnb Experience: Play with Clay in a Fanciful Studio
Layl is now running her intro classes through Airbnb Experience.  Multiple dates available including:
Saturday, October 16th 1:00 to 3:00If you have an expired Groupon you can still use it at one of these classes. Just email layl@claysquared.com to let her know you plan to attend.

Sign up for a class and studio tour with Airbnb Experiences. Layl will give you a tour of Clay Squared which is a working studio in two types of clay- Ceramic and Polymer clay. You’ll be surrounded by Layl’s sculptures and Josh’s tiles. Then you’ll learn a few easy techniques in polymer clay that even the non-artistic can pick up right away. You will need an Airbnb account to sign up.

September 2021 Clay Squared Newsletter

Believe it or not, Clay Squared is turning 25 years old on November 5th! It is almost unfathomable that we have been able to play with clay for so long. It all started in our attic studio, an 11’x 11′ foot space. We blasted off (very slowly at first), occupying four studios over the course of 25 years. Now Josh’s and Layl’s studio is 3000 square feet, and we own an arts building!  The adventure has had many stories of success and failure, experiments and big ideas, and it has been a wonderful time. None of it could have been done without all the great people who worked for us and helped us over the years, and all the people who purchased our work, helping us achieve our dreams of being full time artists.

Click here to read the whole story

September 2021 Layl Newsletter

Fall seemed to arrive exactly on September 1st this year!  I have been canning lots of tomatoes and we are starting to think about cooler days. For now we’ll enjoy one of the best months in Minnesota.  With all the challenges in the world we hope you and your family are safe and also enjoying some perfect fall weather.

Click here to read more

August 2021 Clay Squared Newsletter

The Cosmic Rain Bathroom

For those who want a immersive tile experience this tiled bathroom design provides a sublime experience.

August 2021 Layl Newsletter

Arts District Palette Party

Art to Change the World presents
A Pop Up Palette Party hosted by
Sociable Ciderwerks
August 8th, 12-8pm
Minneapolis, MN

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