the Catalina Tile Experience
Make Your Own Catalina Tile
Written by: Nick
Recently, a few of us at the Hermosa Hotel decided to check out the Catalina Tile Experience offered by Silver Canyon Pottery. Located in Avalon’s “industrial area” on the same site as the original facility, Silver Canyon Pottery has been faithfully restoring, recreating, and reproducing classic Catalina pottery and tile since 1988. Robin Cassidy, the friendly owner and tour guide, is extremely knowledgeable about not only the tile and pottery making process, but also the history and geography of the island. Robin is very enthusiastic about her work and it shows as she shares her knowledge. Even as island residents, we learned a ton of interesting new information about this important facet of Catalina’s history.
While learning about the history of the Catalina tile and pottery (and seeing the island from a new perspective), this tour allows you to create your own Catalina tiles! Molds are provided in a variety of traditional Catalina patterns seen on tile around town. We were able to hammer the clay into shapes and sign and date the back of the tiles, as well put a notch enabling us to hang our creation if we desire. The tiles take 2-3 week to cure after painting (you get to choose your colors), and are shipped to you (shipping is included in the tour pricing for most US destinations).
This hands-on, 90-minute experience is awesome for all ages. I would highly recommend this tour to anyone, as it was fun, creative and informative, plus you’re able to make your own unique souvenir. Prices start at $46 and transportation is available.
Robin shared with us that soon after William Wrigley, Jr. bought a controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company in 1919, he realized that the numerous building projects necessary for transforming the island into his vision of a tourist destination would require a large amount of building materials.
Tapping into the island’s red clay and mineral deposits for bricks, tiles and glazes, Pebbly Beach quarry and Catalina Clay Products (more commonly known as Catalina Pottery) opened in 1927; giving year round jobs to as many as 70 Avalon residents at one time. That year the factory averaged production of 60,000 bricks a day, a number which nearly doubled the following year. The factory also produced other construction items such as floor, patio, and drainage tiles. Not just for construction, the decorative Catalina tiles feature scenes and animals of the island in addition to geometric patterns and moorish style stars. In addition to tiles, dinnerware, plates, jars, vases, pitchers, and figurines were also produced. The factory lasted only 10 short years on the island before shutting down due to rising production costs. These rare items are now highly valued due to their strikingly unique colors and art deco style; which has regained popularity.
Today, many examples of these original materials still exist around town; the bricks in the walls and benches by our beaches, and decorative tiles in the fountains and exterior walls of many stores and buildings throughout town. Once you’ve been through Robin’s tour you’ll never look at town the same again!
Book YOUR tour here: CatalinaTileExperience.com