Tile You Were Sleeping…

July 16, 2018

I saw a lot of France while posing as an antiques dealer for much of the 80s and 90s. No matter how often I came across it, the beauty and history of the local heritage buildings – from old churches to the entry halls of homes constructed centuries ago – were always impressive.

One of the common themes I came across was encaustic tile, an artistic display of salvaged tiles that create gorgeous visuals to entryways and open spaces. Occasionally, I would find encaustic tile that was large enough to resell in the Austin community. One of my best discoveries during this time found its eventual home in a building near the Best Buy off MoPac in South Austin. The artistry behind these patterns begins well before the tile hits the floor. Because the pattern or imagery on the surface of encaustic tiles comes from different colors of mortar, and not the product of a glaze, making encaustic tiles is extremely labor-intensive. The process starts with a mold that separates each color and hand-poured into its corresponding cavity. These molds are then pressed together with a base layer of clay or concrete and– like magic – a beautiful tile finally emerges.

The strong French colonial influence in Vietnam has created a wealth of local artists, masons, and encaustic tiling wizardry.

With help from my son Roger, who at the time was living in Hanoi with his family, I was able to design and produce an intricate pattern to use for our French colonial-style restaurant at Camp Lucy, Tillie’s.

We had a clear vision for the restaurant floor’s design and color pattern, but of course, none of the factory’s stock designs would work for our very creative design team. Thankfully, Roger was able to work closely with a Vietnamese factory to produce tiles that would create the unique patterns and colors we wanted on Tillie’s dining room floor, it’s bathrooms, and our banquet room, Mr. Kiem’s house.

After much back and forth, we eventually receive a shipping container full of customized encaustic tiles – 19 pallets in total – that contained the 16 color patterns that would come together as one stunningly elegant showpiece.

While I am confident the finished product will be gorgeous, watching the tiles fit together perfectly has been equally delightful.

We set up a time lapse camera to record the installation process (which you can see below).

Lastly, I encourage you to view our drawing of the original design we used for creating our beautiful restaurant floor. Let me know – how did we do?