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

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

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, on Instagram @claysquared, and contact them by phone 612-781-6409, or by email

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.”

Clay Squared to Infinity


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 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

Click here to read the rest of the newsletter

July 2021 Clay Squared

Most summers, and throughout the year, Josh looks for interns to join us and learn the Clay Squared tile making process. This summer we are taking on two interns at the same time — Emily and Oliver!
Emily is a student at Minnesota State University of Moorhead.  She is majoring in Studio Arts Drawing & Illustration, and minoring in art therapy. Emily has been learning how to be a kiln master by unloading and loading the kilns and learning how to glaze tiles. You can see her work on Instagram at.@skhellatonart 

Click here to read more

July 2021 Layl Newsletter

Owatonna Arts CenterHealing Arts Gallery  Show
July 1st to October 31st
Owatonna, MN

Pictured: “There were even Windows in the Clouds- Chapters of Childhood”

Click here to read the rest of the newsletter

June 2021 Clay Squared Newsletter

We have created downloadable and printable drawing versions of our most popular projects. This is a great way to see all the aspects that make up a kitchen or fireplace. We have many customers write in there own measurements and scan them back to us so we have figure out the amount of tile you need. Click here to read more