Catalina Island is just off the coast of California. But it feels a world away.
Why? It's the famous Catalina tile.
Tour: Silver Canyon Pottery
Address: Avalon, Calif.
Price: $59 child, $55 adult
If you've been at Catalina Island, you've surely seen the lovely, colorful clay tile all over Avalon.
You can not only see how these tiles are made. You can make them yourself.
It all starts in a small workshop on the west side of the island. Getting there takes some doing, and you'll likely need to rent a bike or take a taxi. We love to walk, but it's a little far even for us.
When you arrive at Cataline Tile Experience, you'll first be greeted by a friendly dog. And that's how you'll know you're at the right place. The other way you'll know is the rows and rows of colorful tile. Special Catalina tile. And the smiling face of Robin Cassidy. She's the owner of Catalina Tile Experience. "It's the tiles that people remember," Cassidy said.
You'd be hard-pressed to meet anyone who knows more about Catalina Tile than Robin. She was born on the island. And she's been hand-making tile there for decades. In fact, 60% of the tile you'll find on the island is made by Robin.
The tour start with history. Robin teaches you the history of clay and tile on the island. You'll learn about and touch natural amethyst, serpentine and soapstone. You'll also learn that William Wrigley's grand plan for the island included mass producing lovely Catalina tile and shipping it all over the country.
But there was just one problem. Tile needed clay. And Catalina has lots of clay. But when it's fired into pottery and tiles, it's too brittle.
That's good news for you Robin (and you, too). Many of the tiles in town broke or chipped. Robin matches the tiles as closely as possible and replaces them. Don't worry, she gets clay from the mainland that makes more durable tile.
The tile making process starts with you putting clay into wooden molds. You then choose a pattern on your tile and then stamp the tiles and form them.
It takes practice and care to pull it off.
And at the end, you'll choose the color scheme and she mails them to you.
It's a very enjoyable way to learn how tile is made.