These are handmade tiles that sit on the backsplash of my kitchen sink. I bought them at the Hearst Castle when my husband and I went to California. There’s a back stairway from the kitchen, and the risers are entirely tiled with these; replicas cast from the original molds are sold in the gift shop.
There are several reasons why I love these tiles. First, they’re just beautiful. The colors are amazing, the glaze has a lovely sheen, and I just love the castle and rabbit motif (especially on the Ave Maria tile). I also love them because they were designed by Julia Morgan, the architect who built Hearst Castle. Miss Morgan was one of the first female graduates of the University of California and owned her own very successful architectural firm during a time when women in the workforce in a professional capacity were extremely rare. William Randolph Hearst’s mother had engaged her to build a house and he was so impressed with her work that he wanted her to build his dream castle. Hearst was a controversial figure, but I love that one of the most powerful men in the world at the time hired a woman to build his house.
Mr. Hearst had a bit of a progressive streak in relationship with his household staff. He corrected anyone who referred to them as “servants” or “maids”. They were “employees” and Mr. Hearst was known to frequently explain that he considered all of his employees, from his newspaper editors to his gardeners, as equals (although I’m sure that didn’t extend to their wages. But still.) Apparently, Mr. Hearst was legendary for his hospitality, which was lavish and open-ended. If he invited you to his home to stay, you could stay and enjoy yourself for as long as you wished. Only 2 things would land you on the street: illicit sex (his own relationship with Marion Davies while they were still married to other people notwithstanding, but hey, it was his house) and rudeness to the household staff.
I love that the tiles remind me of our visit to California and San Simeon. You can name anyone in American or European life during the early 20th century, and chances are, they were guests at the Hearst Castle at some point. I loved the bus ride up the mountain, which was shrouded in fog (as it apparently usually is), so that you didn’t see the Castle rise from the mist until you were almost at the top. I wouldn't want to live at Hearst Castle; there weren't many parts of it that said "come in, sit down, kick off your shoes, watch a movie", but it would have been fun to be a Gilded Age heiress staying there for a few weeks.
(I noticed the total funk on the kitchen hose after I took the picture. It's clean now. Gross.)