I recently came across an article in Elle Decor, written by Sarah C. Rich, titled “Covering the Territory”. The article highlighted Deborah Osburn’s company, Clé Tile.  She has basically “carved out a sweet spot where the age-old art of tile meets the brand-new digital world.”¹ “The endeavor is an outgrowth of her blog, Tile Envy.”¹ Deborah started her blog as an inspirational antidote to the burnout she’d developed over several decades spent running industrial tile operations. “There are people out there making amazing tiles and no one will ever see them,” Osborn laments, “because our industry just wants one thing.” She began blogging about artists who use ceramic, porcelain, or concrete as their medium, and before long, her readers began asking how to buy what they were seeing. Osburn became a matchmaker between makers and seekers of art-driven tile.¹


Delft, utter this word and the world swoons with visions of an imperial era of refined sensibilities. It’s the “dress-up” version of tile; all Marie Antoinette-like and certain to conjure thoughts of high tea and fanciful things. Macaroons anyone? The designs formed from delicate translations of nature originating from ancient China, and realized on plates, vessels and tiles, were popularized in the 17th century and made their way across Europe for centuries.²


Fast forward today, and the Delft trend is hotter than ever. Clé honors these classic combinations of blue and white painted floral inspirations and expands them with traditional Delft color palettes including yellow and magenta. They have also included a color palette with a decidely modern vibe, including; pink, grey, green, teal and persimmon. Finely hand painted, Deborah Osburn’s Delft collection for Clé aptly title “17th Century”, is a joyous nod to the everlasting designs of Delft tiles and Delft ware.²


In addition to Deborah Osburn’s Delft line, she takes inspiration from nature as well. Her Malachite line features lithographed swirls that elegantly mimic the emerald-green stone.¹

cle tiles watermark

One of her most risky designs, called Watermark, has also turned out to be her most celebrated: a series of unglazed porcelain slabs dipped in indigo or verdigris-tinted gold dye. She starts with unglazed, hand formed and slow-fired porcelain, the color of new paper. It is then dipped, stroked, stained and washed with authentic indigo and gold verdigris pigments. Deborah Osburn then takes all of this tile goodness and converts two tactile and mutually enriching materials (porcelain and pigment) into her latest series ~ Watermark. It is dreamy, meditative, and wildly dissimilar and, every one of the tiles from this series invokes the unique individuality of its namesake ~ Watermark

The effect echoes the dreamy view of San Francisco Bay from her home studio in the hills above Sausalito, California ~~ an abstract landscape of color receding toward a foggy white.¹ This pattern now adorns the walls of a Bay Area home belonging to one of the titans of the tech world, and it appears in Osburn’s new book, Tile Envy, which chronicles the small but mighty movement of artists inciting a renaissance in clay.¹

¹. Elle Decor.  “Covering the Territory”. Written by Sarah C. Rich.

². Clé Tile. Deborah Osburn.

All images via Clé Tile.


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