ARTS AND HUMANITIES: Tileworks, ‘castle’ showcase arts and crafts style | Features

Point out the expression “Arts and Crafts Motion,” and most people likely feel of 19th-century British artist William Morris, whose textile layouts are still preferred nowadays. Morris wished to turn back again the clock prior to the age of equipment-facilitated mass generation to a time when the ornamental arts have been handmade.

On our aspect of the Atlantic, we have our own Arts and Crafts visionaries, not the least of whom is the Pennsylvanian Henry Chapman Mercer, an archaeologist and rich artifact collector who finally employed his personalized fortune to construct in 1898 the Moravian Pottery and Tileworks a lot less than 40 miles west of Philadelphia.

On a latest journey to the Metropolis of Brotherly Adore, we revisited soon after a lot of yrs two of the 3 amazing poured-concrete structures produced by Mercer just exterior of Doylestown. The extraordinary Spanish mission-type tileworks is operated right now as a “working history museum,” and a short wander away is Mercer’s “castle for the New World,” which served as both equally his private residence and a showplace for his tiles.

Any visit really should start with the tile manufacturing unit. Even though he hooked up the designation “Moravian” to this tile output space, there looks to be no distinct-slice relationship to the Moravian adherents of the Protestant sect that did without a doubt initial settle in this region in Pennsylvania about 30 miles north of Mercer’s birthplace. It is assumed by some scholars that he may possibly have adopted the time period since his earliest decorative designs were derived from individuals on stove plates fashioned by Moravian tile makers.

Moravian tiles are however designed today from community clay, using Mercer’s initial molds and the slips and glazes that he formulated around a hundred yrs back. The reissued tiles are clearly stamped on the base to inform them apart from those manufactured all through Mercer’s time. Most are solid in squares and rectangles, but some function cutout kinds that can be pieced together into elaborate mosaic configurations like the four hundred that adorn the flooring of the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg. These narrative items interspersed with photographs of the state’s flora and fauna were being put in in 1904-1905.

Each and every take a look at to the Tileworks commences with a temporary online video in the most cavernous area in the complex. Immediately after viewing that movie, guests can ramble at their leisure via the constructing, interacting with artisans who welcome interruptions, evidently joyful to remedy questions about their person roles in the tile-earning approach. The tour can be as very long or quick as the visitor prefers it all relies upon on how invested 1 is in finding out about the historical past of the spot.

Immediately after discovering exactly where the tiles were being produced, people can then stroll to Fonthill Castle, also constructed of reinforced concrete and festooned with tiles designed by Mercer or collected on his travels. Listed here the tour is guided due to the fact of the price of the collection and the complexity of the inside areas. Just one could extremely conveniently get lost in the maze of forty-four rooms, just about every a single richly decorated with vibrant ceramic art. It is almost impossible in every single room to pick out a unique focal place, given how nearly each readily available inch of wall is so fantastically adorned.

The castle has been described as a mix of several architectural models, which includes both equally Gothic and Byzantine. It is risk-free to say that it is 100 % Mercer, the brainchild of his creative creativity.

The so-termed Mercer Mile, which also involves a 3rd construction, his particular museum of day to day objects from the pre-industrial age, Is absolutely a worthwhile vacation spot. Having said that, just one needn’t make the excursion to Eastern Pennsylvania if your sole objective is to acquire a Moravian tile or two. A pleasing assortment of the reissued tiles is offered on the web at

Massive-scale commissions are also probable with the support of a “team of learn installers” who can do the job with homeowners and architects.

This is the next installment of a 3-aspect journey series centered on Philadelphia and its environs.