Four Reasons Why You Should Love Sonoma Tilemakers Like We Do (Part 1)

By Sam Ferris

Sonoma County is renowned for its wines and equally luscious landscapes, but the real treasure is its tile. Snuggled somewhere between golden vineyards and California?s scenic 101 highway is Sonoma Tilemakers, an innovative tile manufacturer that fuses ceramics with glass and stone. Every year, the company invites designers from around the country to tour the factory (and the local wineries), and we had the opportunity to tag along this year.

As much as there is to say about Sonoma?s sparkling glass backsplashes and romantic ceramic tiles, there?s even more about how it?s all made. It?s intimate. It?s efficient. It?s detailed. The list goes on. In an attempt to shorten it, we gathered everything we learned into a four-part series (with photos, of course) that highlights why Sonoma Tilemakers is one of the best in the business. You can explore the first reason why we love Sonoma Tilemakers below. Like good winemaking, it?s all about balancing nature and nurture in perfect harmony. Sonoma does the same thing with its tile.?

It?s as hand-made as ever

The not-so-secret ingredient? Human touch. In an age of technology, it?s like a splash of cool water to see Sonoma Tilemakers getting back to basics. There isn?t a shortage of machines at the Sonoma Tilemakers factories, but if they can, they use their hands, whether it?s cutting clay or glazing tile.

One of the best confirmations of craftsmanship is seen in Sonoma?s mosaic blends. Sonoma assembles unique mosaic blends and medallions by hand using jigs (below). In layman?s terms, it?s like fitting together pieces of a puzzle.
It?s difficult to place the tiles into the jigs because not every piece is the same size. Sometimes Sonoma workers must cut the pieces to size or spend extra time fitting the pieces into the jig. It takes about eight hours to make one medallion. Sonoma cuts individual pieces to size and assembles them in the correct pattern.
Clay pieces are also cut by hand, and it?s much harder than it looks. We tried our hand at it, and not only were the pieces lopsided, but it also took us about a minute or two to cut. Sonoma?s workers showed us how it?s done right in about 10 seconds.?
Even some of Sonoma?s sample boards are constructed by hand. Small samples of their Vihara line, for instance, are cut, polished and glued by hand. If you look below, you?ll notice that sometimes the samples don?t look like they?re supposed to look. If glue leaks out on the board, it has to be tossed. If the paper on the back isn?t completely removed with water, the tile looks funky. It requires a certain degree of skill even for a task as ?small? as this (we say small in quotations because samples are a vital cog in every tile manufacturer?s sales strategy).
And these are only glimpses into the depth and breadth of Sonoma Tilemakers? dexterity with their products. As you?ll see later on in this blog series, human touch is prevalent in almost every aspect of their production. It?s an artisan venture in its purest form.

*Single color blends are made by machine for efficiency purposes.

Stay tuned until next week when we tell you the second reason we love Sonoma Tilemakers so much. If you?re already sold and want to see their handiwork in-person, click here to set up an appointment with one of our designers!?