Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bringing a well preserved antique fireplace back to perfection!

We create many fireplaces using our large inventory of moulds that have been created to reproduce antique tiles. New design are being added constantly, due to the many requests we have to help customers bring their antique fireplace back to it's original splendor. Following is a current project that highlights the steps that we take to "make it so".

Inquiries begin with either an e-mail through our website,  L'esperance Tile Works, or a phone conversation requesting information and pricing. If the pattern that needs to be reproduced isn't already in our catalogue, then we'll need a really good photograph with a straight on perspective, or most preferably, an actual tile. Cost ranges from $500.00 - $1200.00 to create a reproduction, depending on the depth of caving and intricacy of the pattern.

The reproduction that I'll highlight in this and the following posts, is a tile originally from the JG Low Art Tile Company, border # X23 on page 4. The fireplace in question needed only a few pieces of the border, but the process is the same whether it's a few pieces, or a full fireplace border.

The fireplace is situated in a bedroom in a condo in Portland, Maine.

All tiles are original from the JGLow Art Tile company, circa 1904.

Amazing how well preserved this gorgeous fireplace is!

You can see a full tour of the house here

The customer sent us some closeup photos of the tiles, along with a small fragment of one of the originals that had broken. The mission was to recreate the tile and match the glaze.

This photo is a clear, straight on view of the border tiles.

Original tile fragment

To match the glaze as closely as possible an original tile is needed. Images sent via e-mail or from the web aren't true enough due to the variations in monitors and camera settings.

Glaze library with some blues

After I receive the original tile I go to my glaze library which has accumulated tests over the last 35 years! I can usually find a very close match from there, however, that is just the starting point. I'll mix 2-3 small batches of the glaze formulas and test them on some decorative and field tiles - usually seconds that are warped or cracked. After confirming that the recipe is still in the range, I'll then mix a batch large enough to glaze the entire order. That batch also gets tested, and altered if need be.

Two of the closest glazes mixed

I'll then send my closest matches to the customer for approval. In this case I had 2 that were very close, but sometimes the tone of the glaze will change when set next to the originals on site. Since the glaze match usually happens while the carving is in process, I'll use another border to show how the glaze will sit on the details. My glaze flows away from the high points and settles darker in the recessed areas - very similar to the glazes I'm attempting to match.

We got and overwhelming approval of glaze "B" - the one on the bottom.

I'll show the carving process in the next post,  so stay tuned!

Thanks so much and please contact me directly at if you have any questions about the process, or if you have a tile you would like reproduced.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

L'esperance Tile Works - 35 years ago in Troy, NY

Since we're celebrating 35 years in business, Don suggested that we play hooky last Saturday and take a drive past some old haunts of the first few years of L'esperance Tile Works in downtown Troy, NY.

Me, Dennis, and Don at Northeast Ceramic Supply

 We had to stop by our ceramic materials supplier, Northeast Ceramic Supply, to pick up supplies for some current projects, so we were headed to Troy anyway. When I started my business 35 years ago, Dennis Smith was an employee of Northeast Ceramics - he's now the owner (for many years!), and has recently located to a great new space on Monroe Street in Troy.

The Canon Building

My very first studio space was located in the Canon Building, in downtown Troy, on the corner of Broadway and Second Street. We were on the third floor, which previously housed law offices, and was a large open space, full of light from the corner windows. Troy didn't have an active arts community way back in 1979 when I was there, but it's changed and grown a lot since then. An amazing farmer's market was in full swing when we visited, and we ran into a number of people we knew. They sang the praises of the energy and artistic activity happening in downtown Troy these days. It made me want to move back!!

#2 Washington Place - my apartment for 5 years

At the same time I started the business, I moved to an apartment on the fourth floor of a beautiful old brownstone on historic Washington Park, about 6 blocks south of my studio space in the Canon Building - a beautiful walk away, rain or shine. It was the old servant's quarters for the building, and had the largest and best lit bathroom I've ever  had - fully tiled with what would become our bread and butter production tile. I didn't know that at the time, because I was using local terra cotta clay for all the tiles I was making, but this bathroom was tiled floor to wainscot with white crackle field, mudbase and mudcap. The 4 flights of walk-up kept me in quite good shape!

My windows on the 4th floor.

Washington Park

Laid out in 1840, the Park is one of only two privately owned urban ornamental parks in the United States. The gates were locked and owning a key was one of the privileges of being a tenant on the park.

Entrance to #2 Washington Place

I always loved the carved details of the building and seeing it again after so many years brought back a surge of great memories.

Cobbled streets of Washing Place

Parking was never a problem, but I remember many times getting stuck in ruts of deep winter snow on this street!

Troy is so full of amazing buildings that are decorated with historically significant ceramic tile, and I'll show a few in my next post.

Please visit my Etsy shop and view some of our lovely decorative tiles here -

L'esperance Tile on Etsy

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Glazed 35th Anniversary tile!

It's very exciting to work in clay - from idea, to creation, then drying the piece, firing it for the first time (bisque), glazing, and glaze firing....a long road to get to the finished piece. And some pieces get many glaze firings after the first. Whenever I make custom pieces I always make at least two extras to make sure that I get one that is perfect. So when I got the original tile that I made for our 35th Anniversary commemorative piece out of the glaze kiln.....perfect....I was very very pleased!!

Brushing glaze onto the tile - I chose one of my favorite glazes - our Azure blue gloss crackle.

The glaze has a touch of periwinkle tone to it.

Our glaze is a high boron glaze and the blue comes from adding a Mason stain at 1/2% to it. The stain has cobalt oxide as the colorant.

The finished, glazed tile

It measures about 5 11/16" square - a non-standard size...which makes sense to me......

A  long haul....but now we're headed towards 40 years!!

I had originally thought I'd add a detail of silver luster to the edge, but now that I see the glazed tile, I don't think that detail is needed.

What do you think??

I'll be posting sales of 35% off on particular items in my Etsy shop. Today's special is on my Roman Soldier Panel. Originally priced at $325.00, use coupon code 35YEARS to make it $211.25!!

Find the listing here -

You can find my tiles for sale on etsy here -
You can find my other social networking links here -

I'm making just 35 pieces of our Anniversary tile, all numbered on the back. Most of them will be going to family, friends, and honored customers...but I will save one for a give-away for one lucky person. Hey, it might be worth something someday!! :>)

Stay tuned for that contest before the end of next week.

Are you interested in having us create a commemorative tile for you? Please contact us at to talk!!

XX Linda@L'esperance Tile Works OO

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