Guy Mitchell Art Tiles – More than a man in a shed
Despite my affinity and affection for textiles, I’ve always had a ‘thing’ for ceramics; they get me excited, giddy even. Whether in the form of a thrown pot with delicious hand formed ridges and ripples that undulate under the touch of a finger or the crispness of a precision cut hand or machine made tile, ceramics have sex appeal.
Whilst working on an interiors project I called into my local tile shop, Harp Ceramics, my eye was caught by something that stood out amongst the Italian and Spanish super stones… The work of Guy Mitchell. I’ve spent a good hour or more now trawling through Guy’s instagram feed to get a feel for his work, to explore his product offering and to see a craftsman at work. Guy Mitchell Art produces hand cut tiles in limited bespoke batches decorated with the most exquisite glazes that leave colour hungry fans wanting for nothing. Like an artist may mix paint on canvas, Guy mixes glaze on tile and the results are always hypnotic. I am put in mind of something eastern with jade colouring but mixed with luscious blues and the darkest browns that balance the whole effect.
If the colours were all that mattered then we would be happy with what is on offer but the tiles themselves are born out of a tradition of tessellation and whether consciously or not the shapes are inspired by the Moorish and the traditional Muslim artworks of Northern Africa with strict geometry and angles enough to make a modernist feel at home.
I got in touch with Guy Mitchell to have a chat about his work and to find out the deal with the shed!
What inspires you?
I take inspiration from many sources. I love everything from the colours and complex patterns of Islamic tiles to the simple but beautiful Victorian English pub and subway tiles. British and Scandinavian midcentury design is a big influence, particularly the studio pottery, textile and furniture design. I also keep an eye on current trends and themes, personally preferring “dark and moody” to “white and minimal”.
Where do you produce your work? ie home, studio, office?
In my garden I have what could be described as a ceramics studio, but it could also be described as a big shed!It’s quite convenient to be around when the kiln is on overnight or at the weekend for example. For the amount of work I am producing it is good sized space but I can foresee a time in the future where I may need to find somewhere bigger.
How is your work produced? ie the process, traditional or modern construction techniques?
Aside from the firing of the tiles, every aspect of the process is carried out by hand. If a customer was to order 50 tiles, then a bag of clay would be divided up, prepared and rolled out with a rolling Pin. These would then be left to dry a while before being cut out and left to dry completely. The tiles would then be fired in the kiln for the first firing.All of the glazes are mixed by hand from raw materials and oxides. The tiles are usually dipped into the glaze before being refired to a higher temperature.I think the skill in what I do is using traditional methods to create something new. l layer glazes on top of each other to interesting effect. I love experimenting with the surface of the tiles, making a feature out of perceived imperfections such as crackles and cratering.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve been working on making a couple of prototype coffee tables. I’m designing and making the table tops, whilst a metal worker Is making the bases. We will see if people like them, then go from there!
What advice would you give to new designers just starting out?
It sounds like a cliché but follow your dream! Make a loose plan of what you want to do but don’t be afraid to deviate from it. I knew I wanted to design and make tiles but I couldn’t have told you what they would look like. That has come about through seeing what works for me as a designer.
I would also remind new designers about how useful social media is as a promotional tool. If it wasn’t for instagram and hashtags nobody would be aware of my work, I would just be a man in a shed!