Lilywork Artisan Tile Studio opens in Old Lyme


OLD LYME – “In King Solomon’s temple the lily was the lily carved on top of the columns… it was decorative ornamentation, high up in the temple… and they say only God could see it,” explained Esther Halferty , co- Owner of Lilywork Handcrafted Tile, which stood in the partially finished studio space at 56 Lyme St. Tuesday morning.

“[The name] has a good flow and we also have a lot of behind-the-scenes work that nobody sees the details of [of] and working hours – but that’s what we do and we’re passionate about making things by hand, ”Esther said.

Halferty and her husband, co-owner Paul Halferty, recently moved from Pawcatuck where they had a small studio in their garage. They said they wanted a space with more visibility on a main street – and they had always loved Old Lyme.

The move allowed them to set up a studio space open to clients by appointment.

“A lot of our business – due to our previous setup – was done in bulk, but we love meeting people and learning what their plans are, that’s why we wanted to set up the showroom,” a Paul said.

The showroom is in front of the two-story barn-like building – an exhibition space with tile display panels in various patterns, colors, shapes and sizes that can be used for fireplaces. , bathrooms, backsplashes and any other creative project a client has in mind.

In the middle room of the studio, set on a large wooden table, was an almost finished mosaic of the port of Saint-Tropez in France, done in light blues and grays – a custom kitchen backsplash for a Newport couple. .

“They have a fairly large light blue stove. This couple are sailors… and they actually sailed to this port, ”said Paul.

An interior designer saw Lilywork’s mosaic patterns – which include a crab and a number of species of fish and birds – in an exhibition hall.

“The showroom put us in touch with the designer who just wanted something unique for his client,” said Paul.

In the back room of the studio are three electric ovens. One of them was lit and had tiles drying on it. The ovens heat up to 2,200 degrees and the glazed tiles undergo two fires.

Paul said the process of making the tiles begins with wedging the clay over and over again – a process similar to kneading that removes air bubbles – until it is formed into blocks which are cut into thin plates.

“Then we use plaster molds – these are hand carved,” he said after opening a cabinet filled with many molds, each about 6 inches square and 2 inches thick. . “You take a piece of clay, put the mold on top and hammer them into place. We make the molds. All the designs are things we have collected from travels and just things that have inspired [us]. “

Courtesy of Lilywork Artisan Tile

Esther and Paul started Lilywork 15 years ago. They both graduated from an art school – he from the Tyler School of Art and Architecture at Temple University and she from the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford – and met at the Morovian Pottery and Tile Works, now known as Floor tile, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

“I did an apprenticeship and he was a mold maker there and we got together and started our own business about a year later,” Esther said.

Esther, from Southington, said she always wanted to make tiles, which stemmed from her interest in two-dimensional and historical architecture and patterns. Paul, from Bucks County, Pa., Always loved ceramics and pottery, but his interest took off after a teacher suggested he work at Morovian Pottery and Tile Works.

The couple normally attend a trade show each year where they meet showroom owners – but between the pandemic and their desire to connect with interior designers and local clients, they’ll wait until this year.

“We contact interior designers and [designers]. We often work with commerce, but we only hope for walk-in people and a few owners, ”said Paul. “That’s what I also like is that sometimes we set up the project and you just have kind of a relationship with people, at the end of the day you’re kind of friends with each other and that. is just nice. ”

Courtesy of Lilywork Artisan Tile

The pandemic prompted the company to work more directly with customers, Esther said, because customers found the website directly but also because showrooms were closing.

“We had a lot of dealers in New York and Los Angeles and things in cities and Colorado were closing, showrooms were closing, it was very difficult to work with them, so we worked more directly,” a- she declared. “It’s double at the moment, we’re doing both. “

With more people renovating their homes during the pandemic, tile trends have become more personal, with more texture, color and pattern, Esther said.

Paul said color trends have shifted from predominantly neutral tones to a wider range of hues.

“There was this white and gray thing and now people are putting on green and blue – and I think that’s why people are reexamining what we do, and also just the feeling of doing something by hand,” did he declare. “Because it’s handmade, it looks different, you see the irregularities. ”

Plans for the studio – in addition to adding heat, which had not yet been turned on – are to offer clay workshops for adults and older teens, possibly starting in February.

“We have ideas for short-lived one-day workshops, but also longer-term workshops of four to six weeks for adults or older teens. [to learn about] the clay, the glazing process and even setting up a few mosaics and ultimately learning how to make the molds themselves for some advanced potters or ceramists, ”Esther said.

At city events, the studio could also offer hands-on workshops to give people a feel for working with clay, Paul said.

“We would love to have little popup things where people come and do a tile,” Paul said.


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