I’m very pleased to welcome Emerald Atkins as a contributing blogger for TIR. A talented writer, jewelry maker and mother, Emerald will be providing us with a series of in-depth profiles of some of the wonderful artisans involved in sustainable furnishings and crafts. To begin the series, she has interviewed my favorite handmade tile maker, Bronwyn Simons. Enjoy!
Quality, tradition, sustainability, an artful approach to life and business… In Terra Home’s rural studio in the heart of Denman Island, in British Columbia, founder Bronwyn Simons pursues all these ideals. For her sustainability is not just a business practice but a reflection of the philosophy that guides her life.
Beauty in the everyday. Serenity in a single tile.
After earning a degree in Art History Bronwyn was a mural painter for many years, but sought a way to bring her business home. So when a client asked her to create hand painted tiles for a home remodeling project Bronwyn started doing custom tile murals, and soon expanded into crafting custom tiles. Robert Simons, her life as well as business-partner, came on board, and shortly thereafter the business bloomed into a full-fledged ceramics studio. From work that was mainly focused on painting Terra Home grew into crafting carved and relief pressed tiles, creating custom glazes, exploring alternate firing methods, and most recently, designing hand-built tableware.
She loves collaborating with her clients to “come up with something really unique.” Her favorite projects are large-scale challenges: an arts and crafts fireplace reflecting local flora, a shower painted as a Costa Rican rainforest, a Moorish fountain.
While developing the design for a new tile, Bronwyn often refers to her own travel photos and sketchbooks… or draws inspiration directly from the natural world around her. Once a design is finalized she creates a master tile and mold: new tiles are pressed by hand into the mold, dried, given an initial bisque firing in the kiln, glazed with hand-mixed colors, and then fired again to create the finished product. The result is inevitably not a only a visual treat but soothing to the soul.
“I love the idea that art can be an intimate part of our daily lives, in the construction of our homes, and our mundane functional objects.” Bronwyn said. “We envision homes that nurture a sense of peace, well being, and beauty for all who enter them, and we envision our tiles becoming part of those homes.”
Having her studio on her own land eliminates a commute, keeps her in touch with her immediate environment, releases time for gardening and home cooking, and allows her to contribute to her community in a meaningful way. She takes care to craft an eco-friendly product that can be enjoyed for generations. The studio was built using many salvaged or recycled materials, along with timber sustainably harvest from her own land. Additionally, the business’ environmental impact is reduced further by the practice of re-using packing & shipping materials. For Bronwyn, working in a sustainable fashion simply grew out of her lifestyle – which is “modest, rural, artful and ecologically aware” – so that life and work blend seamlessly.
“For me, it all starts with mindfulness,” she said. “If we are able to stay conscious of our small, daily choices, and make choices that are healthy for ourselves and the earth whenever possible, the cumulative impact will be great… We need to return economic power to small communities, encourage small-scale local economies, empower women, and preserve the incredible richness of cultures through traditional craft.”
At their website Terra Home offers hundreds of original ceramic tile and tableware designs. Ms. Simons may be contacted at info[at]linguaterratile[dot]com or (250) 335-3149, 9AM to 9PM PST.