Art Deco, Art Nouveau, mission, prairie, craftsman, arts & crafts, these are the design schools that make my heart go pitter-pat, and decorative relief tile is one of my most favorite expressions of these styles.
Very often, the subject of these designs is nature, and I have long thought that even though they employ varying degrees of abstraction, their depictions of flora and fauna are some of the most evocative of any era. It was all designed to be very accessible and relatable. Really, the Art Nouveau movement in Paris was the first time art – in the form of advertising (and also the new Metro) – was created for the benefit of everyone, not just for the wealthy and privileged. Paris-based Czech painter Alphonse Mucha was credited with giving the movement its first real start. After a series of very successful advertising posters for Sarah Bernhardt, he published the style guide which later informed much of the movement, called the Documents Décoratifs.
Since I spend a lot of time thinking about tile (not a joke), I thought in addition to these beautiful examples of relief tiles, I’d also share some of the better sources for reproduction tiles. The first is my favorite, wherein I’ve spent countless hours (and dollars). The rest are in no particular order.
Villa Lagoon Tile
Golem (wins the award for best name!)
Carreaux du Nord
Snow Hill Tileworks
Derby Pottery & Tile
Motawi Tile (If you like Motawi, you can buy many of their tiles on clearance on ArtsAndCraftsman.com)