Our online museum is designed to display and describe the many different tile designs, treatments, and glazes produced by Handcraft Tile over its nearly 100 years in business. This presentation is based on the current owner’s collection of old tiles and molds, and pictures and documents contained in old company records or provided by customers and tile enthusiasts.
Our goal is for this museum to be a comprehensive source of information about old Handcraft Tile, but we know that it does not include 100% of what the company has produced. Much of the company’s work over the years was one of-a-kind or custom made. We frequently receive calls asking if a tile installation in an old home is actually Handcraft Tile. Often it is and, just as often, it will include a decorative tile or a design that we have never seen before.
Most Handcraft Tile was not stamped with a name or identifier. Nevertheless, it is relatively easy to recognize based on its unique characteristics, which include:
Variation in size and shape. Handcraft Tile is pressed into plaster molds which produces slight variations from tile to tile. Handcraft Tile is not extruded. It does not have precisely square and straight edges.
Engobe and buffed glazes. Engobe glazes have been used by the company from its earliest days. They are colored slip, or liquid clay. Engobe glazes have a matte finish and a texture. Tiles were often buffed after firing to achieve a variety of different looks. After buffing, tiles are finished with a matte or shiny sealer.
Variation in glazes. Handcraft Tile introduced ceramic glazes into its product line in the 1960’s which included many unique colors and treatments. The combination of complex glaze formulas and hand spraying results in subtle and beautiful variation from tile to tile.
Decorative relief tiles. A distinctive characteristic of Handcraft Tile is that its decorative tiles are “relief.” These tiles are created by hand pressing into specially designed molds.
There are other sources of information about the products and history of Handcraft Tile. They include:
American Art Tile: 1876-1941. Norman Karlson describes and pictures tiles manufactured by over 150 American tile companies, including Handcraft Tile, page 150.
California Tile, The Golden Era 1910-1940, Acme to Handcraft, by The California Heritage Museum, Joseph A. Taylor, Editor, 2003. A Shiffer Book, Shiffer Publishing Ltd., pages 207-217.