YWCA

Three questions with Karen Singer, Germantown business owner and tile maker

Karen-Singer-1Longtime Germantown business owner and artist Karen Singer is building on her series of tiles picturing iconic Germantown buildings.

This year’s collectible tile features the historic YWCA building. Germantown United CDC commissioned Singer to create a custom tile as a thank you gift for donors to We Are Germantown, the organization’s annual fundraising campaign (read about the campaign and become a contributor). The first tile in the series featured the Germantown Town Hall. All of the tiles were made at her studio, Karen Singer Tileworks, which is located at 90 E. Church Lane (at the corner of Church and Lena Streets).

We asked Singer three questions about her business and the tile-making process.

What attracted you to the historic YWCA building, which is the focus of your tile this year?

Karen Singer: My plan with the GUCDC Development Committee has been to highlight a Germantown building that has been prominent this year. Thus, last year, we did the Germantown Town Hall, and this year the YWCA. The idea is to continue the series to form a set of collector’s items.

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What kinds of tile making techniques are you using to render the facade in clay form?

KS: I am sculpting the original tile in low relief – a combination of building up the surface and pressing into the surface. We then made a plaster mold. We pressed a series of terra cotta tiles off the mold and bisque fired them. I will be sending photos of the bisqued tiles by separate email. We then glazed them with a white glaze, which was painted into the lines and crevices, and then sponged off, to give the tile a stronger contrast, and to mimic the look of mortar between bricks.

How long have you been working in Germantown and where can people see and buy your work?

KS: I started my business in Germantown in 1991, and will be celebrating 25 years in business in 2016. We are a very small staff – only 3 of us at present. Our primary clientele are non-profit organizations. We specialize in large scale ceramic murals designed to create a portrait of each client organization’s mission. We also do custom awards, gifts and naming plaques. We are a great resource for people looking for something that you can’t find commercially made.

The studio is located at 90 E. Church Lane (at the corner of Church and Lena Streets) in a building that has many other artists’ studios. We have tiles available for sale in the studio, which is open by chance or by appointment (best option is to call us at 215-849-7010 before coming by). We tend to be here during normal business hours, 9–5 M-F. In addition, I have a limited amount of work for sale at the Mt. Airy Art Garage.

We also offer tile workshops and parties, either at the studio or at another location. We do these as team-building workshops, birthday parties, girls’ night out events, etc. I particularly love working with people who are convinced they “cannot” make art. I love helping them discover that they can, and that it can be really enjoyable.

Visit karensinger.com to learn more. 

The historic YWCA building at 5820-24 Germantown Avenue. Photo taken on December 9, 2015 by Emaleigh Doley. Stabilization and weatherization work is currently underway at the site to prevent the building from any further structural deterioration. This work will also help to make the property more marketable, and aid in stabilizing the commercial corridor. The Redevelopment Authority is expected to reissue the Request for Proposals for redevelopment of the building.

Above: The historic YWCA building at 5820-24 Germantown Avenue. Photo taken on December 9, 2015 by Emaleigh Doley. Stabilization and weatherization work is currently underway at the site to prevent the building from any further structural deterioration. This work will also help to make the property more marketable, and aid in stabilizing the commercial corridor. The Redevelopment Authority is expected to reissue a Request for Proposals for redevelopment of the building.

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Above: The YWCA tile at bisque stage.

view more images – click to enlarge

YWCA Update: Councilwoman Bass uses NTI Funds to Support the YWCA

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Councilwoman Bass uses NTI Funds to Support the YWCA

As the Councilwoman for the 8th district it is my job to advocate for every neighborhood, keeping in mind the unique perspectives of residents while recognizing community treasures.

When I took office in 2012, the question of what to do about the YWCA loomed large, as this building is an integral part of the neighborhood’s history. And while we are still working towards a final answer, I am beyond pleased that we have endeavored to explore additional options. I am most impressed with the creativity of the ideas that have been presented thus far, and nothing less should be expected in and for Germantown.

While we await the Request for Proposals (“RFP”) to be issued by the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Authority (“PRA”) this Spring, I will continue to speak with local developers and discuss their bold and unique visions for Germantown. Some of the concepts suggested thus far include full market-rate condominiums and/or rental units, office space, retail options and recreation uses. These suggestions have been presented both individually and in various combinations, and I am excited about the possibilities ahead. We are seeking developers that have the capacity to move quickly, who have a plan to involve the community in the process, and who take into account the importance of environmental sustainability. The RFP will be an open and transparent process, with an emphasis on preservation.

But beyond what goes into the YWCA, we must address the building’s condition and the recent concerns brought forward at a community meeting around this topic back in January. As rumors began flying about the building’s condition, (i.e., instability), it was critical that we operated on the facts. Working with the Department of Licenses and Inspection, and private consultants including former L & I Commissioner Bennett Levin, we got those facts which I am pleased to report.

I am happy to announce the YWCA is not imminently dangerous, and I have committed $2.2 million of my Neighborhood Transformation Initiative (“NTI”) funds to rehab the property and make the building safe and stable. With additional funds from the PRA, totaling approximately $4 million, we are able to provide the resources to protect and weatherize the property to prevent the building from any further structural deterioration. We will also be able to provide the much needed ‘curb appeal’ to make the property more marketable, and aid in stabilizing the commercial corridor.

We have to be thoughtful and deliberate about development in Germantown-just as we have in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. Nothing less will be acceptable. With the NTI funds I am committing to this project, it will help make the site more attractive to developers while protecting a vital part of our City’s history. The building is currently in poor condition, but with our subsidy from NTI and the PRA, it will be saved and developed.

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