Nestled in the quintessential New England town of Old Lyme, Connecticut is Lilywork Tile. At first glance you may think the studio is a precious little home converted from an old carriage house, it is that welcoming from the street. That cozy warmth continued as I turned the handle of the front door and entered. I knew immediately we were in for a treat! Esther had visited our LDD studio months before to share her tiles with us. The textures, colors, and designs had myself and the entire LDD team swooning. I was certain our tour that day would not disappoint, and I was spot on. Esther, and her husband, Paul delivered a wonderful experience.
It is no secret that I love a good story, and the story behind this little company with big designs is a love story.
It all began in 2005 when Esther and Paul first met. She was an apprentice learning the craft of hand-pressed tile at Moravian Pottery and Tile Works; he was one of their chemists and mold makers. I imagine Esther was quickly taken by Paul’s soft smile and gentle demeanor, while Paul was drawn instantly to Esther’s bright smile, poise, and classic beauty. While preparing clay the conversations began and continued through studio clean up where they discovered their common passion for the art of tile. This love for the craft and some strong chemistry motivated Paul to invite Esther for coffee. That cup of coffee was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and within a year Paul and Esther were married.
The newlyweds couldn't deny their artistic dreams, so they started to build a tile business together. Esther spent her days hitting the pavement, visiting showrooms, and collecting ideas while Paul worked on honing his tile-making skills. Their nights and weekends were hardly the typical newlywed life! Paul and Esther spent them covered in clay dust, experimenting with various molds and hunting for kilns to fire their visions into reality.
"It was a labor of passion, creativity, partnership and never-ending piles of clay. It was hard work but with each new design, our studio took shape. What started as a serendipitous meeting at Moravian Tile Works led us to build both a business and a family together piece by hand-pressed piece" ~ Esther Halferty.
Lilywork Tile was 'born' in 2007.
It was and still is a labor of love. Early on Paul and Esther found that trade shows were a pivotal way to gain exposure in the industry. The shows also challenged their craft and designs to become better with each show. They quickly recognized they were competing with large companies that had long standing relationships in the industry. They needed to set themselves apart and that they did! They thought outside the box with interesting and creative marketing maneuvers such as hand-crafted clay business cards for their first major tile show in Chicago! It worked! Today Lilywork Tile creates designs and tiles that are shipped all over the country. During our tour in particular, one kiln was filled with tile for a pool in Las Vegas while the drying racks held tile for a boutique hotel in California.
The Halfertys now share their vision and passion for the business with their children. Silas, their eldest son attended his first trade show when he was 2 months old. They are not only learning the art of hand-molded clay tiles but also the business. A business that is passionate about unique designs, hand-craftmanship, and no assembly lines. A business where only 20 square feet of tile can be fired in a kiln in a 48-hour period. (The first kiln firing takes 12 hours then another 12 hours to cool and finally both steps are repeated for the glazing process). A business where tiles are hand-packaged to ensure safe arrivals to the many destinations across the country. A business that has been and continues to build a strong network of designers, architects, and tile showrooms to share their designs. It is a business that sells not only a product but also a passion...a piece of oneself.
Those are great life lessons right there! Pride in a job well done, understanding the value of what you're creating, and how to build relationships. I know I've never read this approach in any parenting self-help books, but honestly, I think Esther and Paul are onto something here. Watch carefully folks, this family is going places.
"Through it all, our children inspire us just as much as the clay does to keep pushing forward as artists and entrepreneurs." ~Esther Halferty
As I stood in Lilywork's studio watching Paul and Esther share their craft with my team, I saw a passion in their illuminated smiles that filled their faces. I couldn't help but pause and reflect on what was unfolding before me. We were not only learning about another great American made company, but also learning about their craft, their family, and their story.
Yes, this is the American dream. These are Americans at their finest. This is what it means to be American.
LDD Interiors looks to preserve American craftsmanship in our designs as much as possible and support home grown talent.