- Posted by Matt Clark
My first experience working with Tile was in 1978. I was helping my father set tile in a little art studio bath on his land in the Malibu Hills. We grouted the 8×8 tiles and set an alarm clock to come mist the floor with a garden hose every couple of hours to make sure it damp cured nice and slow. I enjoyed the Magic of working with mud and ceramics. I watched it transform a liquid slurry into a rock hard finished product overnight. The tile was permanent. I got the feeling it would outlive all of us, and all the wood in the house.
A little while later our neighbor John Stehura asked me to help cover some areas of his experimental architecture on the ridge across the way. John is a genius and had bought the ridge after he designed the F14 Navigation system. I went to work digging trenches for him to install fat ABS pipe he later planned to snake fiber optic cable through. This was 1978. He was certain that there would be a nuclear war and built a ferro cement dome to live in. One Friday he came driving up to the property with his car dragging on the rutted dirt road, carrying a load of B&W green glossy tile. It was 4×4. Almost all wall tile in those days was 4×4.
He set up a grinding wheel, and a few buckets of Henry’s Mastic and instructed me to cover the doorways, arches, columns and dome ceiling with green tile. I had to smack the 4x4s with a hammer to get pieces small enough to follow the contour of the curved oblique concrete. It was fun and challenging and way better than digging trenches. I listened to all the current hits, Blondie, Al Green, while under big California Oaks tiling this very unique and large concrete igloo.
There was an enormous fire in Malibu a few years later. My Dads Little art studio (wood framed) didn’t stand a chance. Everyones cars were turned to molten steel and glass. John locked himself in his concrete house and closed all the windows and doors while the 2700 degree fire raged around him. It never got over 88 in there. and not a single tile fell off. As a matter of fact, not a single tile has popped off through today, over a third of a century later.