clé, an online portal offering inventive design products, has a question for you: how do you Rorschach? If you haven’t in a while, you might want to bring the psychedelic 60s back into your life in the most surprising way. You can now give a nod to the era of free love and tie-dyed casualness (along with the age of the Rorschach Inkblot test) with tile. Yes, you heard us right: tile! clé founder and creative director Deborah Osburn has teamed up with the duo behind the design studio Timorous Beasties to bring about the Rorschach Tile Collection. She simply knew it was time for Timorous Beasties to bring their captivating point of view to bear on the material she loves so much; and wow, oh, wow, was she right on the mark!
Alistair Mcauley and Paul Simmons, the duo behind the TB brand, used traditional damask motifs that originated in the ninth century as the jumping-off point for these designs. Taking it one step beyond the beyond, they integrated their damask drawings with Rorschach conceptual imagery. If you think there’s a fabric-like dexterity to the designs, I’ll give you extra points for your insightfulness because Mcauley and Simmons met while studying textile design at Glasgow School of Art; then founded their studio, which has since achieved international acclaim, in Glasgow in 1990.
So how did they do it? They brought these brilliant tiles into being by employing hand-drawing and marbling techniques, which they combined with strategically placed puddles of ink. Voilá! Five new compositions were born and then hand lithographed onto 12″ x 12″ limestone or Thassos marble tiles. They are fully aware that blotches, splats and drips are normally regarded as disordered accidents, but by re-contextualizing the damask and using it as a vehicle to carry Rorschach-esque symmetrical imagery, they made beauty out of something normally considered repellent.
The new products are a testament to Osburn’s think-outside-the-box attitude, as she does not confine her collaborations to existing tile makers. Along with working with some of the world’s top tile designers, she enjoys tapping artists and designers who haven’t thought to consider their creations within a tile concept. Seeing products like rugs, textiles, or artworks like paintings and sculptures always makes her wonder how the motifs would look on tile. That’s some serious vision behind the unique selection of products she offers online.
Refusing to do anything less than undertake a complete exploration of every aspect of tile each time she creates a new line, she’s built a thriving community of artisans she’s thrilled to work with. “I have a profound love for tile and my endeavors are all about broadening everyone’s concept of the material so that they become less about a clinical and functional ‘backdrop’ to our lives and more about an artful, provocative and interactive facet of our surroundings,” she remarks. “If fashion can be a form of everyday art we coordinate and wear, I believe that tile can also be an everyday encounter with art through a material that protects and decorates the surfaces of our most important investments—our homes and architecture.”
Wouldn’t you rather live surrounded by artful beauty than the status quo? That’s Productrazzi’s idea of free love, baby—adoring your surroundings the ultimate attachment! And we’re not alone in seeing the genius behind clé’s products: Interior Design magazine’s editorial board tapped their Watermark collection for a BoY Award for Wallcovering: Treatments/Tile and Stone. Congratulations, Deborah!
Text of Clé Asks How Do You Rorschach? © Saxon Henry, all rights reserved. Saxon Henry is an author, poet and journalist based in New York City. Books include Anywhere But Here and Stranded on the Road to Promise. She also produces The Diary of an Improvateur and is a columnist on Architizer.