clé guild fundamentals work study: a study in neutrals, an homage to workmanship

by clé tile | published: May 02, 2024


introducing the latest collection from the clé guild

he clé Guild's latest is Indispensable, versatile, quietly luxurious: an homage to deep craft, workmanship, and a paean to the enduring enchantment of neutral tones...brought together in that most storied yet humble of materials: the brick.

Crafted by clé's in-house team of artisans at the Guild, this new edition of refined glazed thin brick––the second chapter in the clé Guild's acclaimed Fundamentals Collection — bears the name Work Study.  It's a name that holds a double resonance for us, a tip o’ the cap to the intensive artisan process that gave birth to the collection, and the workwear traditions that helped inform it.

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clé guild | work study | calendered cloth

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Rethinking Neutral

Even as we launched clé Guild Fundamentals in 2020, we began to explore the creation of the collection, we wanted to reconsider the meanoing of "neutral" — a term we, at clé, watch like a barometer of the times. For us, it was a challenge, and we felt there was a deep vein of  rich, untapped inspiration in the way different generations of designers and artists had gravitated towards different neutrals, finding new ways to keep things fresh, relevant.

Over several years as we developed the collection, we wanted to bring out the kind of graceful beauty and richness in the “neutral” interiors of Axel Vervoordt and Vincent van Duysen.

We think "work study" achieves that with a character that's very elevated and current while also holding on to tradition.


clé guild | work study | carpenter's canvas


Reinventing “Work” Wear

In Work Study, inspiration became process, which in turn, became inspiration.

As we embarked on our painstaking, deliberate glaze explorations of what a new neutral could be, some initial experiments began to remind us of the colors and feel of “work” wear: utility gear, and uniforms from the military to Carhartt, durable clothing in rugged textiles and muted tones. Those textiles — even the ultra-traditional, often handmade versions of them — are protective and hard-wearing and designed for their particular use: witness the endurance of the waxed cotton coat or the tight weaves of work jackets that provide both insulation and strength.

But they also reminded us of some of the refined, elevated...and subversive... versions of "work wear" we'd seen on the fashion runway.  Mining our deep well of fashion references, we recalled the elevated “staples” of vintage Martin Margiela...and more recently the SS24 collections of Hermes, Saint Laurent, and Dries van Noten. We were drawn to the way these different generations of fashion designers turned the notion of “work” wear on its head, elevating the form through construction and workmanship. What also resonated was the way these designers introducd unlikely juxtapositions, topping a silk voile dress with a Carharrt-esque work jacket, or a fine cotton tee with a worn carpenter vest in a trimph of high-low, hard-soft, structured-sensual.

We also reveled in the way their definitions of “neutral” went far beyond beige, khaki, brown, and grey to include our favorite neutral: pink. (For the record, we’ve long considered a pink a neutral, and even dubbed this tile the ultimate neutral.) Talk about subversion.


clé guild | work study | black wool


A continuous conversation

These were some of the touchstones. But the real essence of the collection was that continuous conversation between art and practice that took the inspirations to a higher — and deeper — level. These inspired the Guild team of artisans (led by Eric VanderMolen) to keep pushing the glazes in terms of shade and texture, to keep refining it without sacrificing integrity, humility, and honesty.

One other factor became a touchstone in the journey: the character of the Guild Fundamentals collection, of which Work Study is the latest member.

Guild Fundamentals began as a collection of the best black and white glazes available on thin glazed brick, where the humble brick is transformed with into something luminous with an inner glow...a touch silken, yet still exuding the character of the clay itself. Guild Fundamentals are nuanced with just the right variation and iron spotting: these have become cherished attributes that we're proud to pass along to Work Study. 


clé guild | work study | doekcloth

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Meet the collection

From light beiges to charcoals, taupes to dark pink-browns, the nine members of the Work Study family, together and individually, reinvent the whole idea of neutral. What makes the collection — and each of the component shades — so compelling is the sophistication of the colors: there are shades upon shades within one glaze, making it difficult to call out a specific color.



is a heathered medium grey with slight brown undertones that evokes the gentle variegation of a natural wool


is a variegated warm charcoal grey: the natural color of black sheep with brown and caramel undertones.


the lightest beige reminiscent of carpenter's dungarees. warm with dark brown speckles, inviting creativity.


inspired by textiles used in sail making, this is a medium beige with slightly grey/green tones.


a medium taupe that draws from heavy flaxen work gear required for hard labor such as farmers and fisherman's wear that also manages to evoke a warm, creamy caramel.


think of this as is your midday coffee pick me up with a heavy helping of milk.


this color refers to this dark shade of a warm, burnished, pink-brown that would develop when fabric such as cambric grege was waxed. this finished cotton was used for work gear such as motorcycle jackets and other type work gear that needed to withstand rain and elements.


this is a medium brown with hints of pink named for a tightly woven work cotton (like cambric grege) that was "hammered" and steam-pressed in order to further close the gaps in the weave, creating a particularly water and weather resistant cloth due to this process.


is a light pink/brown named after a style of waxed cotton that’s a lighter pink — softened by age, use, and time.


clé guild | work study | black wool

Taking our cue from designers, one of the things we’re most excited about is seeing these gloriously glazed bricks come to life in context: seeing how the ruddy, worn shades of glaze and soulful iron-spotting play off other materials like wood, glass and steel.

All about the texture

The texture of the glaze and the way it interacts with the clay body elevates the collection but also brings it down to earth… literally.

The collection features satin to semi-gloss glazes that look like velvet (or mohair) because of the quality of variation. Smooth, seductive, they have an undeniable allure, inviting (demanding) touch, contemplation, and assuring that someone — everyone — seeing Work Study will look at the glaze and say some variant of: “It’s not quite brown, is that pink I see…maybe a hint of…”

And maybe that is what makes these neutrals, well, neutral. Just not the kind of neutral we’ve come to expect.

Work Study joins our collection of neutrals, whether it’s our zellige family of neo-neutrals, clé Grand Place limestone, the classic earth tones of clé Forage Terrazzo, or the delights and depths of our signature cement tile.


clé guild | work study | carpenter's canvas

Work study in design

Of course, clé Guild’s Work Study collection of neutrals can be used, well, neutrally. Always beautiful, calming, harmonious, working with design from traditional to ultra-modern, from rustically Japanese to the refinement and elegance of a Parisian flat.

It’s time to get to work: shop Work Study

color studies + tile

Color studies are crucial for interiors where lighting can change throughout the day. materials, texture, and finish can all play a part in how a color “reads” in a room. tile is especially complicated for this very reason. variegation and variation can soften the intensity of a color — but also magnify the differences between adjacent colors.

but fear not, we’ve got you covered! we believe that redesigning your space shouldn’t be arduous. successful color pairings shouldn’t feel like a code to be deciphered, but an opportunity to tap into emotions and tell your story. you can’t do this by following trends. instead you need to find the story that you want to tell.