A few years ago, I was contacted by an editor at The Magazine Antiques in New York City. The magazine was researching an article on the Miller House in Columbus, Indiana and needed help identifying some of the ceramic pieces in the house. This allowed me to ruminate a bit on Warmth with Ceramic Tile.
The Miller House, a National Historic Landmark, had just been donated to the Indianapolis Museum of Art and is considered an iconic example of modern American architecture and design. It was completed in 1957 and was special because its owner, J. Irwin Miller, an industrialist and patron of modern architecture, brought together three of the greatest designers of the time: Eero Saarinen, Alexander Girard and Dan Kiley at the peak of their careers, to create this innovative, modern, American family home. It was one of the few residential projects Eero Saarinen completed before his untimely death at the age of 51 in 1961.
The ceramic pieces in question were made by Gian Carlo “Tunsi” Girard, brother of the famous American designer, Alexander Girard. When I was studying art and culture in Florence, Italy, I had been the student and assistant to Gian Carlo Girard. Each weekday, I travelled to his home and studio on the outskirts of Florence to work on my ceramics and assist him in his private studio. I was his only student/assistant at the time. I knew when I met him that he was an extremely talented artist. His house and artwork emanated great design, artistry, ease and joy, much like himself. His ceramic artwork was a combination of local earthenware clay, colorful glazes and unique folklike, theatrical, sculptural dioramas of community scenes. His work was joyful, colorful, historic and complicated in its technical execution.
Over the many lunches we shared, we talked about art, ceramics and design. He often talked about his close brother, Alexander. I didn’t know about Alexander Girard at the time, but have since become a sincere fan of his work. Through my talks with Gian Carlo and my own private research, I have learned about his illustrious career that spanned over 50 years. He collaborated with some of the 20th centuries great modern designers including, George Nelson, Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames. He was an inexhaustible collector of international folk art and these patterns, images and colors deeply inﬂuenced his own designs. He used pattern, ornament, texture and color to warm up modern interiors as he masterfully did in the Miller House.
Recently, I have been thinking back about my time spent with Gian Carlo and the importance of Alexanderʼs work in relation to today’s current modern trend. What Alexander contributed to modern interior design was an aesthetic balance that was rooted in opposites. The importance of hand-made objects, pattern, ornament and color brought warmth and livability to modern environments. I believe this aesthetic is still alive today.
As trained ceramic artists and producers of artistically made ceramic tile, we at Moore Merkowitz Tile also value the importance of hand-made, pattern, ornament and color to bring warmth to contemporary living spaces. Clay is a material that supports the human touch and along with nature and pattern, our original designs are inspired by various historic and artistic motifs and images.
We are proud to have an aesthetic linkage to such a great innovator and designer like Girard. We have created warm beiges, soft grays, buttermilks, ochres, blues and browns to warm your interiors. We invite you into warmth with ceramic tile via Moore Merkowitz Tile.
by Susan Moore and Neil Merkowitz