Perhaps quarantine time at home has allowed you an opportunity to explore new ideas for improving your outdoor living spaces or you are keeping yourself and your family busy with creative craft projects. We’ve shared instructions with you earlier for one way to make a planter box from mosaic tile or leftover tile you have at home. For more tile planter box inspiration, we look to the Tile Heritage Foundation’s annual Artisan Planter Auction. These unique flower boxes, created with artisan tiles and techniques, are accessible virtually to view and bid on via eBay July 12 through July 21, 2020.
Tile Heritage Foundation Auction
The Artisan Planter Auction fundraiser is held annually during the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works (MPTW) tile festival in Doylestown, PA. MPTW has hosted a tile festival for local and national tile artists since 1991 (traditionally held the weekend after Mother’s Day). The festival grew from an impromptu tile sale at the end of a three-day symposium on tiles and tile history held by Tile Heritage Foundation. The symposium focused on the life and work of Henry Chapman Mercer, the founder of the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, and his tile-embellished home, Fonthill Castle, in Doylestown.
MPTW generously extended an invitation to Tile Heritage Foundation to use the unique venue of the tile festival as a fundraising opportunity and May 2020 would have been the sixth year for the auction. Katia McGuirk, a well-known ceramist and long-time resident of Doylestown, now living and working in Philadelphia, first conceived of the fundraiser and recruited artisans to create tile garden boxes.
“As artists we are often asked to donate our artistry to charitable causes,” said Ms. McGuirk. “The planter boxes are an ‘out-of-the-box’ way to do this. Visiting the auction table during the tile festival is fun for the consumer and another way for consumers to connect with the work of their favorite tile artists.” Ms. McGuirk continues to curate the auction as it moves to an online platform for the first time due to the social health precautions of COVID-19.
Executive Director of the Tile Heritage Foundation, Sheila Menzies, is hopeful of the virtual fundraiser. “This is an opportunity for the auction to be international,” she said. “Extraordinary artists have created planters this year and the virtual platform gives us a much wider audience than we’ve ever had before. We are so grateful for the artists’ voluntary participation, as well as their creative contributions and support!”
The 9”x 6”x 6” fibre cement planter box forms, contributed by Campania International, are each uniquely embellished in the mosaic style by 11 participating artists and studios.
2020 Artisan Planter Designs
Mandy Baker of Whispering Hill Studio in Jamison, PA, makes decorative tiles and functional objects for the home and garden. Her commissioned works include commemorative tiles for organizations, donor recognition, and car show awards. Ms. Baker’s planter box of hand-pressed and hand-glazed ceramic tile incorporates a detailed butterfly to delight your garden.
As a studio tile maker, Chris Bonner engages the medium by pushing, combining, and experimenting with a variety of materials to create compelling sculptures. He has taught ceramics at Penn State, Abington for 20 years. Mr. Bonner’s planter uses vintage mold and slip-cast porcelain, hand-pressed, and mid-range porcelain tile to give unique texture and character to each tile.
Eric Boynton owns Clay Rat Studio located in Souderton, PA, where he makes decorative, trim and field tiles with contemporary arts and crafts surfaces for functional ceramics, mosaic plaques, and assemblages. He also produces custom designs, including commemorative tiles. Mr. Boynton’s planter box is hand-pressed, hand-painted, and glazed terra cotta tiles in soothing blues and greens (with a surprise dragonfly motif)!
Alissa Blumenthal is a mosaic enthusiast and ceramist who often combines a variety of mediums including ceramics, glass, wood, mirror and millefiori in her work. Ms. Blumenthal’s delightful “flower box” is bright and cheery with texture and pattern created in clay by using rubber stamps, everyday objects, and even bike gears and chains. Ms. Blumenthal hopes her work reflects her “happy place” and helps you find yours.
Kathy Casper is a tile artist in New Jersey at Think Good Tiles. Ms. Casper experiments with surface design and combines a variety of slip, stains, and an Italian glazing system to make her vibrant tiles. “Music Is the Sound Feelings Make” is the theme of her planter box made from press-molded, rolled, and hand-painted ceramic tile, and mirror. Ms. Casper’s tiles can be bought in gift shops around the country as decorative objects and have been installed in homes, schools, and hospitals.
Gloria Kosco is a ceramist whose work reflects the vulnerability, honesty, and understanding she has of ceramic magic and a tradition that crosses timelines and cultures. Her work is understated, humble, and grounded in history. Ms. Kosco’s planter in rich, variegated earth tones will integrate with any natural landscape.
Jessica Liddell owns and operates Bella Mosaic Art Studio in Philadelphia. She creates public works in schools, hospitals, and parks and teaches classes at her studio and the Philadelphia area. Her planter design has a coastal palette, featuring pressed, rolled and stamped ceramic tiles that are glazed and silk screened.
Katia Tiles in Philadelphia is a custom studio designing, fabricating, and installing tiles in residential and commercial settings. In her studio practice, Katia McGuirk enjoys sculpting bas relief tiles and 3D sculptures; she often depicts animals in unusual ways. Ms. McGuirk’s box depicts a surreal, morphed narrative of COVID times in press-molded, hand-sculpted and hand-painted ceramics.
Will Mead uses handmade ceramic tile, rolled and extruded glazed terracotta, and stoneware for his planter box. Mr. Mead founded Peace Valley Tile in Pipersville, PA, in 1985 and has been recognized and awarded prizes for his outstanding tile installations. His work can be found in the White House (Obama Administration), museums, Rittenhouse Square and in the homes of many celebrities. Mr. Mead has a large “boneyard” of tiles, seconds, and overruns that he up-purposed for his auction planter. The extruded trim pieces elevate the box as the strong triangles in juicy blues and greens and other jewel tones point toward the sky. Will likes to beautify the world, one tile at a time.
“This flower box is the first piece that I have created since we were all quarantined at home in March. I decided on a bird theme with a focus on HOPE and POSITIVITY,” said Robyn Miller of her press-molded, hand-painted ceramic and glass design. “Symmetry for me is very calming and brings a sense of balance and peace. I think we all need that now.” Ms. Miller works from her Philadelphia studio, Robyn Sue Miller Mosaics, as a prolific artist and maker, creating one-of-a-kind works of vibrant and whimsical art.
Laura Lyn Stern, Sculptural Designs, is a renowned Philadelphia artist and educator. She uses current technology to make bas relief and high relief cast glass, as well as ceramics sold in galleries across the country. Her commissions include custom designs and accent walls, often including mixed media such as glass, ceramic, bronze, and natural minerals. The craftsmanship and attention to detail are impeccable on her planter. Made at the forefront of COVID-19, the design is a spontaneous and calming example of Ms. Stern’s work.
Participate in the Auction
“The planters push us as artists to create something a little different,” said McGuirk of the annual fundraising project. “As tile artists, we love seeing the element of play in each of our colleagues’ approaches to the box. We also love supporting the Tile Heritage Foundation and showing our loyalty to the organization that is the glue that joins all of us — individual, to collector, to industry, to historian.”
All proceeds from the auction support the Tile Heritage Foundation’s ongoing Tile History Archiving Project, which is a comprehensive online index of ceramic tile in the United States from the 1870s to the present day.
To participate in the online auction, visit the eBay auction site to bid. If you are new to bidding on eBay, you can sign up or bid as a guest and you may want to watch this instructional video. For additional questions, please email the Tile Heritage Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mosaic Tile Garden Planter Box Guide
Are you now inspired to begin your own planter box project?
Here are some step-by-step images from Kathy Casper’s design to help you create a planter box with an arrangement of colors, shapes, and patterns on a lightweight planter base.
Step 1: Gather materials you will need:
- Planter base
- Thinset mortar
- Snips and ceramic cutting tools
- Wide plastic putty knife
Step 2: Cut and sort the pieces to consider for your design into like colors or groupings.
Step 3: Plan your mosaic arrangements on a piece of cardboard or paper the same dimensions as the area on the box you will cover.
Step 4: Use mortar to adhere your designs to the planter base (follow mortar package instructions). Final snips and shaping of your tile pieces may be necessary for fitting your tiles to your form.
Step 5: Grout the entire arrangement (follow grout package instructions) to finalize your planter box.
Planting the Seeds of Creativity
Explore images from the past Tile Heritage Foundation auctions to further inspire your creative planter project!