Friday, July 31, 2009


Minton Hollins & Co 1870

While a repeat pattern is an easy enough option to reproduce within a ceramic tile scenario, it was not necessarily extensively used over a long period, and if so, was often relegated to less prestigious areas of a domestic home, like a kitchen or hall for example. However, it was used effectively within large commercial and public buildings to cover vast areas of wall and floor with complex pattern work that has often outlasted the initial use of the building and outlived its occupiers.

Minton & Co 1871

The tiles shown here were all produced in the 1870s and are typical examples of repeat pattern that was intended for either large or small scale coverage of a wall or floor. Often the tile was non-directional which meant that any straight edge of a tile could be placed next to another without having to allow for the direction or progression of the pattern. However, some tiles were directional though still part of a repeat pattern, as can be seen in the William Morris Daisy design, these had to be placed in a certain direction for the repeat pattern to work.

Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co Daisy 1870s

Also included is a border ceramic tile which was repeatable only on two sides rather than the four. The tiles were usually designed with thick borders on the two unrepeatable sides so as not to allow the repeat to follow both vertically and horizontally, thus creating a thin line. These border tiles tended to form the same function as a border wallpaper and very often lined, contained or seperated extensive repeat pattern areas and on the whole, when applied to a wall, tended to be set horizontally, rather than vertically.

The repeat tile very often followed a strict geometric pattern, usually because of its simplicity and ease with which to create a large scale covering that was still interesting as a large pattern and did not become bland, unattractive and indistinctive the larger it got. Medieval inspired Gothic patterns proved to be particularly popular for this very reason.

The Campbell Tile Co 1875

As the century progressed, repeat pattern ceramic tiles, while not disappearing entirely, did diminish in popularity at least in the domestic market. This was largely due to a combination in the rise of fashionable wallpapers and painted walls, and also the replacement of generally company designed tiles with that of the individual ceramic tile, very often with a reproduction of a piece of artwork. These individual 'art tiles' were sometimes framed, and more often placed within an area of plain tiles, or set as a small series around a fireplace or even placed into furniture, they very often had literary themes, such as scenes from Shakespeare or Tennyson.

By commissioning or at least buying the rights of a particular artist or artwork, a company could then attach a popular and fashionable artists name to the tile, thus securing its sale. Ceramic tiles were hugely popular within the nineteenth century and it has been said that Britain produced more tiles within the Victorian era than all other eras put together. Most were industrially produced, often on a massive scale, though some were hand produced and these tend to be thicker and more substantial than the mass produced ones.

Morris, Marshall, Falukner & Co Daisy 1870s
Posted by John hopper at 17:13
Labels: 1870s, artist, ceramics, design, designer, pattern, tile, victorian

Blue said...

The Foreign office has brilliant floors of patterned and inlaid tile, I think. Palace of Westminster, too.
31 July 2009 02:06
John hopper said...

Yes they do. Also, most Victorian city and town halls up and down the country have some form of repeat tile work, as do many public libraries, colleges etc.
31 July 2009 10:20
Margo said...

I'm glad tile is making a comeback in domestic design. It makes such a wonderful focal point in a room when designed and placed skillfully.
31 July 2009 19:23

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