Ken Mason Tile

Best Handmade Tile, November 2005

The only machines in the Long Beach shop of Ken Mason Tile are 45 kilns. The rest of the work is unmistakably hand-done. No two crackled glazes are alike, nor does one fleur-de-lis look like another. Mosaic pieces are hand-cut from larger tiles, leaving sharp edges that produce shimmering facets. Each year the shop presses 1,000 tons of Sacramento River clay into 300 one-of-a-kind molds, making 2.5 million tiles—from genuine raku (the venerable Korean art of coaxing metallic finishes) to terra-cotta. Don’t like an existing design? Suggest your own. Even an old buffalo nickel can be rendered in platinum and silver if you’ve got the time and inclination.