Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pomona Tiles' Distinguished Designer Series

The earliest reference that I have to the Distinguished Designer series is in the June 1957 issue of Art & Architecture where a two page Ponoma Tile ad announces the forthcoming release of their new "Distinguished Designer" tile series. The following text is quoted directly from this ad:

"Working under special assignment from Pomona Tile Manufacturing Company, five distinguished contemporary designers —Liebes, McCobb, Bass, Laszlo, and Sheets — have opened the way for scores of beautiful new uses and applications of decorative tiles for both residential and commercial construction. The project was an interesting challenge. The results...as usually happens when the true artist applies his talent to a new medium of creativity...are totally unexpected and unprecedented. And this inspiration, in turn, should beget a great new school of ideas, from architects, decorators, and builders. The first in the series will be introduced, in full color, in the forth-coming issue of this publication. Don't miss it! POMONA TILE, the creative name in ceramic floor and wall tile."

The second page contained brief bios of each of the designers:

PAUL McCOBB: functional furniture designer and originator of the "Linear look" in contemporary furniture. Famed for his imaginative uses of unorthodox materials, he recently introduced designs combining structural aluminum and natural woods. Winner of many "Best Design” awards
MILLARD SHEETS: water-colorist, muralist, illustrator, mosaicist, architectural designer, director, teacher, and lecturer. Winner of scores of awards for watercolors and other paintings, his works are to be seen in the permanent collections of more than forty museums and galleries.
DOROTHY LIEBES: textiles de-signer and colorist, and the winner of many national and international awards in art and design competitions. Director, trustee, and member of more than a score of art and professional societies and schools, her work has been exhibited in countless museum and gallery shows.
SAUL BASS: designer, consultant in integrated design-planning for industry; also well-known for unusual movie- title designs. Teacher, lecturer, and member of the executive board of the International Design Conference at Aspen. Winner of scores of national and international awards
PAUL LASZLO: industrial designer and interior designer. He is a renowned exponent of the new "romantic movement" in home interiors. Known as a "radical architect" in Vienna before World War II, he says he follows no formula or dogma except what he terms "ABC's of good design, artistry, beauty, comfort.”

In this initial advertisement there were no images of the tiles, these weren't to come until later on. These first three magazine clippings showing Dorothy Liebes, Millard Sheets and Paul Laszlo's designs I acquired from Cathy of California's blogpost on Pomona Tile. Great work btw Cathy. 





So that only leaves Paul McCobb and Saul Bass for the 1957 series of tiles. My research has shown that McCobb did three tile designs for Pomona but only one of them was ever publicized, that being "Roulette", seen here in a full page ad from Arts & Architecture 's August 1957 issue.



The only reason I have any knowledge of the other two patterns is because Gerard O'Brien, whose pioneering work archiving information on Paul McCobb is the basis of my own continued research, had managed to obtain what is seemingly the sole surviving copy of an original Distinguished Designer collection brochure. It is from this resource that we get images of the remaining Paul McCobb designs.


In 1961 a subtle addition was made to the McCobb designs with the inclusion of a new colorway for the popular "Roulette" tile design (the following is quoted from page 283 of the October 1961 issue of Interior Design)
New Tile Color 
The Pomona Tile Manufacturing Company, has announced a new color variation, designed by Paul McCobb. on its Decorator Tile Roulette. The new tile is in blues and greens while the original design utilized the red-orange hues. Samples are available at any Pomona Tile showroom or distributor. 
For the longest time I had despaired of ever finding a color image of this change in the design but as luck would have it I recently managed to acquire examples of all of the Paul McCobb designs for Pomona Tile including one of the 1961 "Roulette" tile! This is a scan of the actual tile.


It's interesting to note that the two examples I have found of Paul McCobb's "Starspray" tile design do not exactly reproduce the colors shown in the brochure. Again this is a scan of an actual tile in my collection.


For the Saul Bass designs I was fortunate enough to have stumbled across another Pomona Tile brochure in my meanderings over the past few years which has all three of his ""Bass" Relief" tile designs (seriously, that's what they were called... I am not making this up...).



In late 1958 Pomona contracted two more design luminaries to add to the Distinguished Designer series.  This time out were chosen famous designer and watercolorist Dong Kingman 


and the inimitable George Nelson who I think needs no further explanation... 




As a final note it seems that the Distinguished Designer tiles had a long healthy run, they were sold from 1957 to at least 1963 according to a small blurb in the back of the March 1963 issue of Arts & Architecture.


4 comments:

  1. Another great post! I had never heard of Pomona Tiles, but now I'm determined to find some. Off to eBay I go!

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  2. I just submitted an offer on two sizes of Starspray tile on eBay. I can't wait to hear back from the seller. Thanks for putting me on to these. I was completely in the dark about them.

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  3. Really, awesome, these tiles brought brightness into my eye. Love these design and hope I can find the same for my wall tiling.

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  4. These Designer Series Tiles appear in interesting places - this is one of several exterior wall panels on a residence in the Laurel Leaf (George Nelson) we saw in Kansas City, Kansas. Sorry for the poor cell phone picture - will try to get back with my better camera -

    http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5524/9446663125_aad5bc3d57_h.jpg

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