#TileWorldDomination with Mercury Mosaics and the Tile Elves
Mercedes Austin, the enthusiastic founder and owner of tile collective Mercury Mosaics, tells all about the design team’s dedication for an American handmade process, passion for their beautiful home state of Minnesota, and plans for international expansion. Known for their Moroccan Fish Scales Tile and unique take on the Subway Tile, Mercury Mosaics wants their tiles to be the “backdrop of your life and your friends life”.
Where is Mercury Mosaics based and how did you gather your fabulous team of “Tile Elves”?
Mercury Mosaics is based in Minneapolis, MN – USA! The tile elves are a collective of intelligent, creative, passionate & hard working people of various backgrounds. Our team has grown through classic hiring out and through internal referrals. The team has been building itself over the last 10 years. Before then, it was a solo show with myself “figuring it out”.
What is the mantra of the “Tile Elves”?
We share a common purpose to make beautiful objects that enhance people’s lives. With hard work, dedication, persistence, team work and really good coffee, we feel like we can accomplish anything!
Mercury Mosaics recently designed the stunning new murals in the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport – what was the inspiration behind the design?
Minnesota landscapes + a hidden inspirational expression. The men’s room has layers of hills, a cyclist and endless blue. We wanted to add a theme of something tactile, refreshing & adventurous in a place where you least expect it. MAC and Arts @ MSP are very passionate about curating an extraordinary experience for travelers in our airport. This was something that we basically treated as an adventure. Now, for the women’s mural, we looked at a more classic scene which can take place on almost any lake in our great state – you’ve got the trees lining the lake, the sun is setting, a person in a canoe and the word “tranquility” tucked in the lower right. The colors in the women’s room: warm tones, in the men’s cool tones. Engaging the senses visually and inviting a unique experience to the visitor as they head in and refresh – they’re jet setters, let’s give them an awesome experience in Minnesota – we have a lot to be proud of in this great state. I’m absolutely thrilled to be a part of curating an international experience in the bold north!
What are some other projects that Mercury Mosaics is particularly proud of?
Making tile in the newest Lunds developments: downtown Minneapolis + downtown Saint Paul. It has been a thrill to see the impact, the life – the vitality a grocer permeate in an urban core. Just exciting to work with a company that has sustained generations of entrepreneurs and one that was launched in 1939. Another really exciting experience has been working with the sensational locations of coffee spots in New York & Philadelphia: Bluestone Lane. The beans are actually sourced from right here in our backyard: Dogwood coffee, but the style of coffee and the energy behind the spaces comes out of Australia. In fact, we just got finished making tile for their 5th location in Brooklyn – their coffee and food fare is so spot on – they are attracting such personalities as Taylor Swift and Martha Stewart as “regulars”. Lastly it has been an absolute thrill to collaborate with some pretty epic ship builders on a global level. We recently fabricated and shipped tile to Italy. The company we worked with has been in business since the early 1700’s building ships. First of all, to make and ship tile to Italy – the birthplace of tile – is an absolute honor. Second of all, to make and supply tile for a cruise ship (and several of them) is very humbling. We were selected by a stunning architect firm in Sweden and built a relationship and picked out the perfect tile, colors and quantities to contribute to the experience they were dedicated to creating for the client on this luxury ship.
Which tile shapes and colors are your best-sellers?
Hands down: Moroccan Fish Scales and Subway Tile. Anything in shades of blues, greens, greys and whites are the “heroes.” It makes sense. I feel like any of these hues and shapes just call for a refreshing, stunning tactile feel in a space and, for me, they put me in another place and remind me of my global travels. I’d like to think we’re adding a little bit of that magic to each tile. If you think about it – with food “they say” to never eat something prepared by an angry chef…. that the anger translates into the food and then you consume it. Well, I feel the same about tile. We are here, we are making this raw clay material into a shape, we’re adding color, we’re making the tile come to life. If you ever come in and visit the studio atmosphere – you can really feel the passion and dedication and happiness. THAT goes into the tile. No bull. Go stand in front of a sterile, commercially, machine made wall of tile and “listen to it” and tell me what speaks to you. Now, go stand in front of an installation of Mercury Mosaics – handcrafted tile and “listen”… you’re going to feel something. There’s a story behind it. It’s this energy that we bring to the table with each tile we make. This is what we’re bringing to the table. We’re not trying to compete with big box. Our aim is to add to a meaningful, curated environment. We aim to add value to beautiful places. We want our tile to be part of the backdrop of your life and your friends life.
Fish scale tiles have been all the craze these days – what do your customers typically purchase fish scale tiles for?
Everything. Showers, kitchens, fireplaces, restaurants, hotels, murals. Anything and everything. People LOVE the sea.
The subway tile is also making a big comeback – what are some interesting ways to use the subway tile?
Let me count the ways! We are going to do a fun roll out on Instagram and across our social channels to help people be creative with one of the most classic tile shapes around – “101 ways to use Subway Tiles”. Follow us, it’s more fun to show you then “tell you” how to use Subway Tile in interesting ways.
What are 3 tips of “best practices” to offer interior designers for choosing the right tile and making the most out of tiling when decorating a space?
1.) Have a sense of an overall goal in a space.
2.) Decide what 3 things are the big focus & work from those.
3.) When choosing tile, ensure you’re placing importance on 1 & 2 and make your selections based on empowering those two important points.
What are some other innovative ways interior designers can use tiles beyond the traditional usage in flooring and backsplashes?
Murals (interior and exterior), feature walls in showers, accent areas in entertainment nooks – like a bar, full walls for fireplaces, table tops, framed art, faces of islands in open floor plan concepts, column wraps & bringing the traditional kitchen backsplash to the ceiling – of course!
Based on your knowledge of the industry, what trends are you forecasting for 2017 in regards to tiling shapes, colors and texture?
Monochromatics to add texture and depth to highlight handmade, global patterns, timeless shapes pulled from historical installations, larger format versions of small patterns.
What’s next for Mercury Mosaics?
The metric system. Our government is really passionate in partnering with us to translate all of our materials into the metric system to strengthen our ability to export tile. We’re excited to focus on a few countries to start and pave the path to what we call our “evil plan” of #tileworlddomination.
Photos by Mercury Mosaics