Three questions with Karen Singer, Germantown business owner and tile maker
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.
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.
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.
Above: The YWCA tile at bisque stage.