by Joseph A. Taylor
Tile Heritage Foundation
In 1905 the leaders of the newly formed Handicraft Guild of Minneapolis hired Ernest A. Batchelder, then a relatively unknown instructor at Throop Polytechnic Institute in Pasadena, to head up their first summer program. Batchelder’s forte was in composition and design. Just 30 years old and entering his prime, he had yet to focus his attention on ceramic tiles. His success at the Guild brought him back for the next four summers.
By that time, in 1909, Batchelder had established a national reputation for himself. He was director of the art department at Throop, the author of a major book, Principles of Design, a regular contributor to The Craftsman, and an international traveler. From all indications he loved Minneapolis and debated permanently settling there. But he had yet to make a ceramic tile.
Caption: Ernest A. Batchelder. Photo courtesy of Robert Winter.
In September of that year Batchelder bought property in Pasadena with the intention of opening his own school patterned after the Handicraft Guild. First he built a house for himself and a year later a studio out back. By that time he had dropped all else and was making tiles…and the rest, as they say, is history. Within a short time Batchelder was considered a master of the craft, establishing a totally unique style of Arts & Crafts tile distributed throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Batchelder’s ceramic legacy is well established in the Twin Cities with his largest-ever commission at the chapel at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul. Other significant installations are the entire lobby of Scott Hall, University of Minnesota, and a magnificent bathroom at the Bakken Library and Museum.
Handmade Tile Association
34 Thirteenth Avenue NE
Minneapolis, MN 55413