5 Under 40 Awards 2016: Paul and Esther Halferty

August 25, 2016

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New England Home is thrilled to present the seventh annual “5 Under 40” awards, celebrating New England’s finest emerging talent in residential design.
Over the next few weeks leading up to the Thursday, September 8 party celebrating the award winners, we will be featuring all the talented honorees on our blog. Today meet Paul and Esther Halferty of Lilywork Artisan Tile based in Stonington, Connecticut.

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Photograph by Bruce Rogovin

A wet piece of clay becomes a work of art in the hands of specialty tile designers Paul and Esther Halferty. The couple, who met while working at Pennsylvania’s historic Moravian Pottery and Tile Works, opened Lilywork Artisan Tile in 2008. Together they are committed to continuing the craftsman tradition of making all of their own molds, glazes, and tiles by hand.

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Photography by Peter Walli

At their Connecticut, studio, it takes two to three weeks to create each tile, from opening a box of clay to slicing, stamping, trimming, drying, glazing, and firing. Culture and history gleaned from travels abroad are primary inspirations for the Halfertys’ design process. “Lilywork has a language we work with,” says Paul. “Our starting point is antiquity; we look at a lot of Persian, Turkish, and Moroccan artwork as inspiration, and see how we can interpret that into our language and work out our own designs.”

Subtle color variations and some irregularity only enhance each handmade tile’s beauty in a way machines just can’t replicate. One of their latest collections, Mariner, takes its cue from the seafaring history of New England, incorporating whales, ships, fish, and other maritime icons.

Although it’s carried at showrooms around the country, Lilywork is still a very small tile company in a very big world of tile—and the Halfertys want to keep it that way. “We never want to be a big company,” says Paul. “It’s nice being a size where we know who our customers are.”

The slow, labor-intensive process of creating these tile works of art is certainly paying off, as evidenced by Lilywork’s growing list of clients who recognize the beauty and value of handmade tile.

Paul and Esther Halferty’s Rug Inspiration
The patterning found in textiles in Central Asia, Turkey and Iran have influenced our tile design. Taking something crafted to be walked upon, we translate it into clay. We are excited to see the translation process work in reverse with the rug we designed for 5 Under 40, having our tile design handcrafted back into silk and wool.

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The “5 Under 40” celebration is open to the public. Join us by purchasing your tickets here.