the clé tile guild: a vision realized

by clé tile | published: Sep 25, 2020

Like any good start-up, clé began in a garage. As a young business, very few knew the background. clé founder Deborah Osburn had been honing and refining her vision for decades prior, working with tile artisans around the world and modernizing the tile market by selling online – the first to do so without a brick and mortar presence.

While it was never in the plans to develop and produce our own line of tile, it became a mission.

the clé tile guild process: behind the scenes image of tile coming out of the kiln

clé Guild: Combining Old World tile Tradition with State-Of-The-Art Kilns

The Guild was an idea that Deborah had been mulling since clé first began. But, the mission has always been to create a space where the height of tile-making expertise and the most current technological ceramic advancements could come together.

The essence of the Guild is to recreate the old world in a modern ceramic studio.

The Guild, now housed in what was once a mid-century Sears repair center and warehouse in San Rafael, California, represents the intersection of tradition and technology. The Blaauw kiln, made in the Netherlands, is one of the most high-tech, accurate, controlled, and efficient kilns available. Our ceramicist, Eric VanderMolen, calls it the “Tesla” of kilns.

clé guild fundamentals after being fired in the kiln

What makes the Blaauw kiln so special, in comparison to so many other ceramic tiles?

This kiln is fired to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit, which gives these thin brick tiles much greater strength. One hesitation about using a thin brick tile is its potential of fragility. That concern is not without merit; however, lesser-quality tiles regularly encounter this issue. The firing process of the Blaauw kiln ensures a strength that withstands even high foot traffic.

Another benefit of the extreme temperature of the Blaauw kiln is that the chemistry in the glaze becomes much more active at this temperature, generating a beautiful glaze richness.

cle guild new california tiles, freshly fired

Introducing clé Guild Fundamentals

Our first step of the Guild rollout is the Fundamentals collection, featuring thin brick glazed tiles in small batches of white matte, white gloss, black matte, and black gloss. Each batch of glaze is formulated of natural minerals and pigments and applied by hand to the tiles, making them an artisan product from start to finish.

The clay for this line is locally sourced from the base of the Sierra Nevada foothills. It is minimally processed, and its natural mineral inclusions provide a rustic foundation that complements the glaze’s elegant expression. We like to think of the Fundamentals collection as an elevated glazed thin brick alternative to classic subway tiles.

The next installment of the collection, clé Guild New California, launched in September and features earthy tones. Think: cardoon, fennel, yarrow, dogwood, willow and more.

cle guild new california tiles, freshly fired

Fundamentals 411

Usage: The Fundamentals collection can be used for interior floor, interior wall, exterior wall, shower floor, shower wall, steam shower, residential low traffic, backsplash, kitchen, fireplace surround, pool and fountain waterline (non-freeze thaw locations only).

Size & Price: Each tile is ½” x 8” x ½”. We require a minimum two-box order (88 pieces) at $131.12 per box ($262.24 total). Industry standard suggests ordering at least 15% overage due to tile cuts, potential breakage, or future repairs.

Grout Size: We recommend a 3/8” grout joint for the fundamentals collection, which allows for 6.54 tiles per square foot. As always, we urge installers to only use Mapei Ultracolor Plus FA grout to reduce the risk of grout haze and staining.

Additional information is available on each product page.

A Tile to Complement Any Design

We couldn’t be more excited to launch this exclusive, limited edition artisan tile line. It has been a journey, but the vision of making our own glazed thin brick tile is finally a reality. Modern or classic, rustic or refined, the clé Guild Fundamentals collection will complement any design.