The fireplace is designed by the Cincinnati-based Rookwood Pottery Company, founded in 1880 by Maria Longworth Nichols and the first female-owned US manufacturing company. And I can't imagine liking a fireplace more than I like this one.
The fireplace was a collaboration with the University of Cincinnati and Rookwood and the design team includes two of the university's professors – Katie Parker, assistant professor (ceramics faculty) and Guy Michael Davis (adjunct assistant professor, fine arts), centre and right in the picture on the right, along with resident Rookwood artist, Terence Hammonds, far left. And more of him shortly.
The face tiles in the fireplace portray individuals important to the history of Rookwood and ceramics, including Rookwood’s afore-mentioned pioneering female founder, Maria Longworth Nichols Storer, American industrial designer, Russell Wright, Josiah Wedgwood (that Wedgwood, yep) and midcentury ceramicist, Eva Zeisel. Their portraits, explain the artists, are set against a pattern inspired by Victorian wallpaper and Islamic tiling. The artists specifically used antique Rookwood patterns and tile moulds – and, of course, its historical narrative – and mixed them up with with new elements that reflect Rookwood's hometown of Cincinnati today.
For instance, the tiles above the mantelpiece are modern, but intended to echo a 15th century tapestry from the Indian subcontinent; but where, in the original tapestry, there would be deer and cheetahs, in this there are contemporary urban beasts instead – such as dogs, pigeons and rodents. Very Timorous Beasties (see below for the Scottish textile designers' take on London).
Also in the mix is a print maker and wallpaper designer Terence Hammonds, currently working at Rookwood. And I love his work. Hammond's input is visible in these amazing faces, surrounded by highly decorative pattern – and in the image below, you can see his Hip Hop wallpaper behind the fireplace.
I couldn't get an image of the wallpaper close-up, but you can just about make out that the blue part of the pattern features faces – hip hop icons through the years.
check out her other finds too, including cushions with Princess Diana, Obama and Nelson Mandela on them.
If you happen to be in the Ohio vicinity, you can get a glimpse of the fireplace in person: it is part of an exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, which continues until 2 September. Full details are here.