We’ve shared lots of tile collections over the years but we’re extra excited (and probably slightly biased) to share this new range of encaustic tiles from Concrete Collaborative. In collaboration with Design Milk’s founder, Jaime Derringer, an artist in her own right, the new Strands collection features a range of modern, minimalist tiles created by the intentional merging of various lines and shapes. Jaime’s own sketchbooks served as inspiration in translating her art into tile art. The patterns are simple but can be mixed and matched in a variety of ways to create new designs. The monochromatic color palette makes the possibilities virtually endless!
We caught up with both Kate Balsis, partner at Concrete Collaborative and Jaime to learn more about how the collection came together.
How did this collaboration between Concrete Collaborative and Jaime come about?
Kate: It was really organic. We had started to make our first encaustic tiles, taking a traditional process of casting patterns in cement and modernizing the technology to make crisper lines in the patterns and have them be commercially durable tiles. I am a big fan of Jaime’s aesthetic and as I started developing patterns starting in black and white, I couldn’t help but think of her for inspiration. So I texted her some of what I started to make and we both started spit balling ideas and almost instantly came to the conclusion we had to collaborate together. It was really an extension of her art that then becomes a surface. She sent us really rough sketches and that’s what we worked off. We never formalized the design, and you can see that hand sketched nature in each piece. It’s not computer generated but yet the patterns that the lines form when placed together are really quite spectacular. Working together was a breeze. Neither of us had a preconception of what we wanted and it wasn’t done from a commercial or contractual perspective. It was truly two friends who found some common ground to bring what they do best together. We are so thrilled with what it’s become.
What was your inspiration in designing this collection?
Jaime: I draw a LOT, and often times, repetitive shapes and lines—they relax me. When Kate threw out the idea of working with them on some tile designs, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. There are endless striped tiles on the market, so I wanted to play on that and create hand-drawn lines that are a bit… off. Some of the lines are crooked, some don’t match up, and others are spaced unevenly. The organic, hand-drawn look isn’t for everyone, but I wanted people to see the heart of the artist—the human touch—in each tile. With so much available technology, sometimes we forget that people make things, not computers. I wanted these tiles to be a gentle reminder of that.
What do you look for when choosing an artist/designer to collaborate with?
Kate: This was our first artist collaboration. However we work with designers every day developing custom tiles. It really comes down to how unique the idea is. I’ll say yes if it hasn’t been done before. Also it comes down to the person, how well we work together, how free flowing that process is so it can feel aligned and win-win. Ultimately the product that is developed reflects that.
How did you approach designing on tiles and concrete? Was it any different from creating art on canvas or a blank piece of paper?
Jaime: Nope! It was super easy—the Concrete Collaborative team is so awesome and working with them was painless. I gave them my drawings and then we talked about the ways they could be done, the color options, and the different pattern options. We spent an entire morning just playing around with them!
What’s one misconception you think people have about tiles and/or concrete?
Kate: That it’s just coming off a big tile line. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although we make commercial grade tiles and concrete that are used architecturally, they are hand made. Each piece is meticulously hand cast. That’s a juxtaposition the designers we work with are still surprised about. They come to our Southern California factory or Vietnam factory and meet our small family team and can’t believe how hands on the process is. It’s truly artisan work.
What did you enjoy most about working on this collection with Concrete Collaborative?
Jaime: The ease of working with people who are professional, but also passionate and excited about design. I appreciated how much they respected my vision, and immediately got on board with it.