Megan and Jason Coleman, the husband and wife founders and designers of Clayhaus Ceramics, were among the 21 artists interviewed by Sarah Miller for Objects Made. Based in Portland, Oregon, Clayhaus Ceramics is a homegrown American company that cares deeply about the beauty and quality of its tile products while also taking significant measures to reduce its environmental impact. Artisans first and foremost, Jason and his team make 100 percent of their products from the handcraft style, and all are made to order. In this blog, Jason provides more insight on his company and its approach to design.
Q. Tell us about the Clayhaus design aesthetic and how it originated.
Our name is derived from the Bauhaus movement and its impact on modernist architecture and modern design. The Bauhaus philosophy is in alignment with the Clayhaus principle that production methods can evolve without the loss of the craft ethic. I am personally attracted to simple combinations of bold color and minimal geometric shapes and the emotional responses they evoke in me and in others. To me, there is nothing more visually striking than a large field of mosaic tile with undulating color and texture. This is what Clayhaus is all about.
Q. What is Clayhaus’s philosophy about color and color trends? Does your company follow them, or are your color decisions more internally driven?
Although it is important to be aware of the current color trends, our decisions about what glazes we choose to create and add to our color palette are internally driven. We are a color-based tile company geared toward modern and mid-century design. What we are inspired by as artisans does play a significant role into what we develop and offer, not necessarily what is “trending” because we all know trends come and go.
Q. What is Clayhaus’s creative process for developing new tile patterns? What inspires the concepts for new patterns?
Most tile companies offer a line of “basic” field sizes that are commonly used in residential applications. i.e., subway tile. Creating something original and new in the tile industry is always a challenge since it often seems like everything has already been done. You can say the same thing about movies, music or pottery, but the true artist rises to this challenge to find a way to be innovative and unique. Bottom line, manufacturers often need to collaborate with designers to diversify and expand on their product line offerings and collections. Clayhaus welcomes these types of partnerships to make the creative process more interesting.
Q. Do you have any external sources of inspiration (books, media, movies, artists, musicians, etc.) that influence your philosophy about design and ultimately the work that your company produces?
I am particularly fascinated with the pop art movement that emerged in the mid-1950’s and am influenced by artists such as Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. A source of inspiration that we refer to as our “Bible” is a book by Lesley Jackson called, “The Sixties-Decade of Design Revolution.” It is a fabulous reference with a broad overview with everything from clothing, textiles, lighting to furniture, ceramics and home decor, all with an emphasis on simple geometric form and bold colors.
Q. What is the most gratifying component of being a creative entrepreneur?
Nothing is more rewarding to an artist than exploring the creative process and having the end result bring joy and happiness to someone else. In our case, the tile we make from scratch becomes a permanent fixture in someone’s home or commercial space that lasts forever. How cool is that?
Q. How long does it take you to make a batch of tiles from beginning to the end?
This totally depends on the quantity amounts of the order and the complexity of the size/shape. Our standard lead time is 4-6 weeks since all our tiles are custom made-to-order.
Q. Is there a particular geographic market that is your biggest customer base and if so what where is that market located?
Mostly the West Coast (Bay Area, Seattle, Portland) and Austin, Texas.