The New Craftsmen & Inigo Present: Tile Making With Rich Miller of Froyle Tiles
The tiles produced by Froyle have a tactility more often associated with sculpture, dinnerware and other carefully crafted objects. It is this emphasis on the hand-made, and Rich’s artistic approach, which has enabled them to not only survive, but to also thrive, in an industry heavily impacted by mechanisation.
As well as the popular Rustication Collection, designed by ceramicist Matthew Raw, Rich has produced the Studio Pottery Tile Collection. Both series are sold exclusively through The New Craftsmen; the hand-cut, coarse clay setting a perfect backdrop to transparent fluid glazes that pool into the surface textures on each tile. No two tiles are ever the same, adding a uniqueness unavailable by mechanised production methods.
We asked Rich to tell us about his motivations and inspirations, and what drives the creative process at Froyle, a company that has been making their beautiful handmade tiles for 40 years.
What motivates you to make?
The motivation behind what I make takes many forms, as do the objects I produce. My own work is a means of catharsis for me; the clay allows an exploration of ideas with immediacy and freedom. I thrive in a production environment, as I particularly enjoy the process of repeat production. There’s an understanding of the material that forms over a prolonged period of repeating certain processes, learning in a tacit way. The rhythm of tile production is almost meditative and it provides structure and discipline to my practice. I thoroughly enjoy making objects which ultimately become a part of our clients’ domestic or commercial space.
What and/or who are you most inspired or influenced by?
I’m extremely inspired by many of the pioneers in early architectural ceramics production within the UK. Brick and tile making has always been considered a very humble craft, with many companies being unable to survive mechanisation of the industry, despite the businesses having people with important and valuable skills gained over generations of production. Companies such as Darwen Terracotta and Craven Dunnill Jackfield have adapted to a contemporary environment and are preserving some of these skills, which I find hugely inspirational. My continual exploration of Stoneware tile production is led partly by my passion for architectural ceramics, but also the myriad of different applications and the importance of promoting skill in this area.
What is your unique approach to your craft and how have you honed your skills?
At Froyle Tiles we produce high fired stoneware tiles, applying a range of traditional and contemporary production methods. We differ from many tile producers in that we have a small team of knowledgeable craftspeople, with the flexibility to respond to the requirements of any given project. This means we regularly collaborate with other makers, designers and architects, to produce site specific bespoke tiles. Over my 16 years in tile production, I’ve learnt where I can confidently push the process in order to further my own learning, while also maintaining the integrity of our production and satisfying the briefs set by our clients.
What is your defining or proudest moment as a maker so far?
I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some interesting projects with architects, designers and craftspeople who are leaders within their field. Some particular highlights include creating bespoke glazed tiles for the façade of the pavilion at the Tate gallery in St Ives; and working in collaboration with Kate Malone and EPR Architects to create 11,000 crystal glazed tiles for the façade of a 6 story building on Savile Row. I’ve also been fortunate enough to recreate tiles for a number of Lutyens properties, a process which is always special, as our tiles become part of the fabric of historically important buildings.
In 2020 I was asked to be a judge on the Great Pottery Throwdown. The show has a broad reach and is responsible for a great number of people taking up ceramics, or simply developing a new found respect for what it takes to make in clay. Television is not something I had considered when pursuing a career in ceramics, but I feel grateful to have been a part of it.
What is your dream project?
I’ve been lucky enough to work on a number of projects that were beyond my wildest dreams! I would say my greatest aspiration for the future is for Froyle to be approached for more collaborative architectural or design-led projects, where our tile production can be integrated into the scheme from the outset. Perhaps turning the idea of tile making on its head by incorporating architectural ceramics into the fabric of the building (beyond the conventional brick). A creative opportunity such as this would allow us to explore the potential of our traditional making processes and would cement the idea that handmade tiles really do have a place in our ‘modern’ world.
Ceramics (as an industry) requires a lot of energy and heavily processed raw materials. I’m acutely aware of the damage this causes to our environment. A goal for Froyle Tiles longer term is to do as much as possible to ensure that we are able to work efficiently and reduce our environmental impact.
Photography by Mark Anthony Fox
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