I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge lover of colour, tactile surfaces and textural elements within a design scheme. I’m also a lover of designing spaces which can ignite our imaginations and inspire us to be creative… but how do we incorporate these unique ideas within our spaces at home? I’ve constantly got my finger on the pulse for up-and-coming designers and creative innovators who can help us realise our most artful intentions. I believe in the beauty of bespoke and in the value of the handmade for crafting unique, colourful and authentic interiors… well, what can I say… I just love this stuff!🤓
It wasn’t so long ago that I came across a designer whose bespoke ceramic tile creations totally blew me away; subtle nuances of colour gradually bleeding from one hue to the next, sapphire blues, blending into emerald greens, gorgeous coppers touches and eye-catching metallic finishes. Circles, squares, kites and even diamonds with raw textural surfaces and glazed lacquered finishes! Sounds magical doesn’t it? Well really we are not far from the truth here!
The designer that I speak of is Guy Mitchell… a man whose love for his work inspires him to continually create. I wanted to find out more about the ‘guy’ behind the tiles… to discover the story behind these wonderful bejewelled creations. So I did. 😆
Q: So Guy, How did you start out doing what you’re doing, did you always know that you would become a creator of these gorgeous bespoke ceramic tiles?
A: I was working a regular 9-5 job in something completely different, which was wearing me down. I decided to take voluntary redundancy when I got the chance. I saw it as a positive opportunity and used the opportunity to dive head first into self-employment. I bought a kiln and started designing and making tiles for a living. I wanted to break away from the daily grind of working for someone else and to have a chance to use my creative energy and passion. I had previously studied three-dimensional design at university, which is where I focused on ceramics (glazes in particular) and I’m thrilled to have the chance to be putting my skills to good use now.
Q: What are the inspirations behind your work?
A: Being a bit of an obvious tile-geek, (believe me, there are many of us!) I take inspiration from a variety of sources. I love everything from the glorious complexities of Islamic patterned tile designs, to the simple but beautiful Victorian-era English pub and subway tiles. In terms of other inspiration; I’d say that British and Scandinavian mid-century design is a big influence, particularly the studio pottery, textile and furniture design. I also keep an eye on current interior design trends. I definitely prefer ‘dark & moody’ decor to ‘white and minimal’.
Q: My interpretation of some of your designs really resonates with ideas around travel; are some of your designs influenced by your own travels?
A: I think certain cultures worldwide have a strong tile tradition, and that influence comes through in my work. I’m thinking of North Africa, Portugal and Spain in particular. I love Barcelona. Gaudi was an early influence and his use (and re-use) of ceramic tiles on different surfaces is fantastic to see. Even the paving slabs he designed are great
In recent years, I’ve been to a couple of places that have really influenced my designs. I travelled to Lisbon and loved the tiles found at their underground stations. They were designed by Maria Keil. Her use of colour, pattern and repetition in what would otherwise be quite mundane public areas is quite remarkable. More recently, I visited Marrakesh and admired the geometry of the tile work found there; especially against the chalky pink hue of many of the buildings.
Q: What’s your biggest motivator, describe the one thing that keeps you going?
A: I’d have to say that my biggest motivator is my creative drive. I’m extremely passionate about what I do and couldn’t ever imagine doing anything else now. I wake up every day feeling excited about the projects I’m working on. Honestly, if I could put that feeling in a bottle and give it out to everyone, the world would be a happier place!
Q: What sort of experiences do you intend to create through your work.
A: What I would like is to make beautiful and desirable tiles that people want to (and can) touch and feel. I envision my tile creations not just in peoples homes, but also in their work spaces and places of leisure. I currently make a lot of glazes that are very glossy, but I also do matt and crater-glaze finishes that not only look but feel different too. I want my clients to feel special in their surroundings. I love to create artful & unique experience’s which portray an air of opulence and sophistication.
Q: Your tiles in themselves really do possess a beautiful art-like quality. Do you envision them on a larger scale (covering whole walls) or do you prefer to keep the area small-scale?
A: I love to see my tiles on huge walls! I think the beauty in the subtle differences in colour of the glazes and the repetition of shapes would be even more fantastic over a larger scale. My tiles do look great on a small-scale too – such as adding a pop of colour in an otherwise neutral or monochrome bathroom or kitchen.
Q: From start to finish…how would you describe the design processes for creating these intricate little tile pieces?
A: I usually have an idea of how the shapes will go together, using the tiles I’ve already made, to develop the patterns which form my pieces. I’m a very visual thinker and find that designing in this way is quicker and easier for me than drawing intricate sketches. I plan the pattern based on the area that needs to be covered. Clay shrinks during firing so measuring is never straightforward! The clay is rolled, dried a little, then cut by hand and dried completely before being fired (this may take between 1 and 2 weeks). Glazes are mixed entirely by hand using raw materials and oxides, before being applied to the tiles then re-fired. Patterns can then be arranged on mesh sheets before dispatch.
Q: Are you inspired by any other artists or designers?
A: I love the work of all sorts of artists and designers but usually because they don’t do what I do! There are designers such as William Morris whose design principles I can closely relate to but I also love the works of Gaudi, Picasso, Lucie Rie, Christopher Dresser, Sebastião Rodrigues, Bruno Munari, Roger Capron, Harold Hollingsworth, John Maltby, Rut Bryk, Auguste Herbin, William de Morgan, Hans Coper, Barney Reid, Maria Keil, Lucienne Day, Buckminster Fuller, Holger Lippmann, Lygia Clark, Anni Albers, Angelo Testa, André Borderie, Anne Kjaersgaard, Afro Basaldella, Athos Bulcão, Peggy Angus, Louis Reith, Cecil Touchon, Friedlinde di Colbertaldo Dinzl and Jill Ricci. The opportunities for inspiration are limitless!
Q: What’s been your biggest success to date… which moment are you most proud of?
A: I am extremely proud that my work seems to be quite popular across the world. I honestly never thought my tiles would be seen as “inspirational” to people in America, the Middle East, Russia or Australia. I was pleased to see the finished installation of the bespoke dome-shaped tiles I made for Margot restaurant in Convent Garden, London.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of starting their own business?
A: Go for it! Seize the opportunity with both hands and embrace it. Life is too short and too precious to look back with regrets. It is what you make it and working for yourself, doing what you love, is totally possible. Make good use of your social media. I have found this to be particularly useful as it has enabled me to find clients and customers from all over the world!
Q: So, tell us Guy, what is the process for getting our hands on these babies?
A: In the UK Guy Mitchell Design tiles can be bought from Artisans of Devizes, who have my samples in their Chelsea Harbour Design Centre Showroom.
In the US, you can purchase from Country Floors
I also take commissions. I love to create custom pieces for clients. For any enquiries of this nature, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me your ideas. It helps if you can tell me which of my designs you like and what surface area you want to cover, then I can work with you to make your vision a reality.
Also visit my website at guymitchelldesign.com
Q: Finally (to close)… What’s does Artful Living mean to you?
A: To me, ‘Artful Living’ means applying creative skill to your surroundings, house or garden. It means taking inspiration from something, anything and being able to use it to enhance your life. It means seeing two colours together for the first time and going home and painting a wall and buying a throw. Artful Living is being brave and being bold. Above all… it means doing what you enjoy and enjoying what you do!