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Spotlight on... Lubna Chowdhary, ceramic tile genius

If you love colour and don't know Lubna Chowdhary's geometric ceramic work, you should...

The artist's gloriously hued tiles have been on my interiors horizon for ages, and when I saw her work up close a couple of years ago at London Design Festival I was even more dazzled.

Above: Chowdhary in her studio at work, left, and some of her colourful geometric designs

Chowdhary describes her work as "architectural ceramics", and she regularly designs pieces specially for large-scale non-residential projects, as well as creating stand-alone artworks. As such, buying a piece of Chowdhary's work is quite an investment... But – ta-da! – if south London is accessible to you (or a kindly friend), take note as this weekend she's throwing a very special studio sale (scroll to end for details). By way of celebration, I asked her a few questions about her work, her inspiration and her home.

Tile design is a pretty niche area – what drew you to tiles? 
I studied ceramics at the RCA and initially created sculptural work [that] referenced architecture and the built environment. After some time I realised I wanted to move outside the gallery environment with my work and I transferred my skills from sculptural ceramics to tile or architectural ceramics. 

I treat tile as I would a canvas or  paper and work on it with rich colour, line or texture and sometimes create relief forms. I describe my work as architectural ceramics as I've worked on so many varied projects, some of which don't involve tile but draw on my design and creative skills in other ways.

Above: a kitchen fill of D-Tiles

Tiles are having quite a moment right now – there were lots at this year's London Design Festival. Any other tiles you particularly like?
My work is hand crafted and bespoke, it's known particularly for the richness of glaze and intense colour qualities. These are the qualities I prefer in tile; the unpredictability and the serendipity associated with glaze to mechanically applied transfers. There are a lot of industrially produced tiles around at the moment because I think tile manufacturers are now really in tune with the relationships of tile to contemporary design, interiors and architecture.

If asked to pick an industrially made  tile, I like the functionality of D-Tile but also love the graph paper-like quality of  just a plain white tile with grey grout. 

What's been a favourite commission in terms of its unusual use of tiles?
I love all the work I'm commissioned to do and always learn so much each time. In terms of residential commissions though, I think Retrouvius is good to mention. It was such a delight to work with them as I just love Retrouvius's use of materials and colour for this project (see below).

Above: Retrouvius redesigned this whole house, a listed building, and Chowdhary created the tiles pictured left for the lavish loo.

It was a small commission for which I did some glaze  colour matching with the wallpaper colours. and then made some bespoke tiles to match the Emery & Cie tiles. I love the asymmetric insertion of the tiles.

What are your current favourite colour combinations?
Tumeric and prawn [as seen in these painted windows, in a photo taken by Chowdhary in Kerala, south India].

Grey-green and scarlet [as seen in this Zinnia, also snapped by Lubna].

And beetroot and turquoise [also one of Chowdhary's own images].

How tile-y is your house? 
My house has tiles in the hearths of three fireplaces [one is pictured above], a fully tiled shower enclosure and a small sink splashback. 
We have a large circular tile which we use as a centre piece on our dining table and some small circular tiles which we use as coasters and also some of my hotplates with ceramic inserts, which I use every day [below]. I also have a couple of framed tile panels [above, and below in situ].

Find out more at and don't miss the studio sale this weekend if you're anywhere near south London (one of her tiles would make a very lovely Christmas present for the design and colour lover in your life). The sale will include individual tiles (prices start at just a fiver!) as well as her stunning tile panels and limited edition walnut wood hotplates with glazed ceramic inserts, both at 30% off.

When: 10am – 6pm on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 December 2014
Where: 162 Sunnyhill Road, London SW16 2UN (a 10-minute walk from Streatham or Streatham Hill stations, or a short bus ride from Brixton tube)

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