13 Questions for Katie Deedy of Design Studio Grow House Grow

By Clay Imports

Design Studio Grow House Grow specializes in narrative-inspired patterns. Their lifelong love of storytelling and affinity for design shapes every single thing they produce. With Grow House Grow’s magical designs, and Clay Imports artisanal tile making expertise, we are excited to share the Grow House Grow x Clay Imports collection: original patterns on clay that tell a story.

We virtually met with Katie Deedy, the founder and creative force behind these magical, narrative-inspired patterns to chat about design, tile, and life.

Before we begin, keep in mind that the tiles of these collections are completely handmade. Handmade tiles exhibit natural variations, which are inherent traits of natural materials like Terracotta. These variations in color, texture and sheen are not defects but rather a natural part of the product. We highly recommend ordering samples before making a final purchase to confirm and appreciate these natural variations in each tile.

We admire your work. Tell us more about your Design Studio Grow House Grow!

I founded Grow House Grow in 2007 as a Brooklyn-based design studio focusing on handmade wallpaper and tile. My original interest was narrative art, and at the time I was working in illustration. When I caved and began to pursue my love of pattern, incorporating stories into the work was a given. I love how our patterns are both appealing on their own, and develop additional depth once the story behind the paper or tile is known.

Modern kitchen design with gray tilesDesign by Cerulean Concepts

What inspires your tile and wallpaper line?

Each of our patterns is inspired by story; it can be a notable person, an interesting place, an historical event, or a general curiosity. We have wallpapers for forgotten women scientists, the lost Library of Alexandria, time travel, mysterious manuscripts, and much more. My interests are pretty broad, and I love a good research rabbit hole!

What does this collaboration with Clay Imports mean to you?

Two people, with two ideas, coming together to make a better idea. As much as I love being in my head and working alone, life would be pretty boring if I was only exposing myself to my own solo perspective, no matter how “informed” I was.  Beautiful things can happen when you join forces!

Why clay?

My family is Cuban, so the idea of creating traditional cement tile--common in many of the homes and buildings on the island--was an exciting prospect for me. I’ve now been working with cement for close to a decade, and it’s completely transformed my understanding and passion for tile. I’m at a point where I’m curious to explore new mediums, particularly with a product such as clay that has a robust cultural history of its own. In terms of practical application, I’m also excited to offer a non-porous option for our tile patterns, which can expand how our designs are used throughout the home.

What is your design process?

Many of my designs begin with a feeling more than a visual. It can be a spark of curiosity about something I’ve come across while reading or researching, or from visiting a particular place. The rest is just having the patience to peel the onion as the concept develops into a repeating pattern, which can take anywhere from a few hours to a few months. All of our lines have an overall theme, with three wallpapers and usually a tile or two created under that umbrella.

Our Codex Collection, for example, was inspired by a broad interest in old manuscripts.  The patterns are more specific, pulling inspiration from the yet undeciphered Voynich Manuscript, a magical 16th-century collection of astronomical events called The Book of Miracles, and the heartbreaking loss of the original Library of Alexandra.  Coming up for 2020, our newest wallpaper collection (which is somewhat delayed due to the temporary shuttering of NY businesses) is inspired by mythical islands, which had me exploring old cartographic maps and a lot of folklore. Having a design process that’s broader than putting pen to paper makes each line so fun to create!

Jardín de Luna blue tilesYou can select the Jardin de Luna tiles individually, or mix and match to tell a whole story. Rabbits, deer, and herbs dance over this popular pattern inspired by "the rabbit in the moon.”

How are you pursuing your design work under the stay home order? Any tips?

It’s been tough for everyone. Like many parents, I’m now also homeschooling and like many small business owners, I’m grappling with the realization that my business (which is like a child to me as well) is essentially on hold. I’m so used to being busy that the adjustment has been a bit painful for my NYC brain. That said, it’s also a tremendous blessing: it allows me to spend more time thinking and making, as opposed to running the business-side of things full time.

Normally, having space to focus on the creative end of my business is a luxury (which is a shame, because it’s my favorite part and why I do this in the first place!). So I’m making sure I use this time to be with my family, read, research, make art, and just stare at the wall a bit. I would normally feel guilty about some of that, which honestly isn’t very healthy. We all deserve a break, so I’m trying not to resist this imposed change.

What design trend are you vibing on right now?

I wouldn’t call this a trend, but I’d say a lot of us who have the luxury to daydream are in the midst of some serious virtual pandemic nesting. For me, it’s looking at historic homes that mix both the comfort of old finishes with colorful, playful modern color and furniture design. When you’re stuck in one place for weeks, a girl’s gotta dream.

Modern kitchen backsplash with black tilesReminiscent of the vibrant nights of old Havana’s heyday is The Tropicana tile

If you could have an unlimited supply of one of our products, which would it be?

As much as I’m an all-pattern-all-day kind of person, I absolutely love Clay Imports’ clay solids.  You can create so much texture to a space using a colorful, beautifully-shaped tile! I’d have a hard time committing to just one shape and one color though…do I have to?  In my fantasy world this is a real thing, and I’m loving it.

What is your personal style?

Creative, comfortable, easy, quirky.

Do you have any daily tips, tricks or rituals you do to stay sane during this strange time?

I’m making myself change my environment every hour or so. Even if it’s just moving into a different room to read the same book, it keeps me from feeling bored or having the whole day pass by without remembering it.  I’m also taking walks whenever I can, and really enjoying watching everything bloom one day at a time. It’s so cool to notice the minute changes that I might have been too rushed to see previously.  Beyond that, I’d like to say that I’m picking up a new skill to keep my brain active, but honestly the entire planet is upside down right now, and I’m a bit tapped out. We each need to find a way to be gentle with ourselves these days, whatever that means individually.

Interior patio with white and black tilesThe Tropicana tile is also available in white

Do you have a go-to project management tool that you live by?

It’s called my Virgo Brain.

What do you love the most about what you do? Assuming you love what you do.

I absolutely love what I do!  I’ve worked my tail off to build a business and be able to live off of my art, so every single sale brings me joy.  It’s amazing to watch designs I’ve dreamed up continue their life in other people’s homes. It’s the greatest compliment.  That said, the part that makes it the happiest is the actual creation process; from getting that initial spark to having the final piece of wallpaper or tile in my hands is thrilling to me.

If you weren’t a pattern designer, what other career path would you pursue?

You would find me in the Nile Valley working as an Egyptologist, of course!

Outdoor copper shower with blue and white tilesWe recently used these tiles to build an outdoor shower. Learn more about this DIY outdoor project by reading this article.

We are launching this series in times of great change. The global pandemic has been affecting our lives for months now. We strive to provide you with positive announcements during these strange times. We hope these beautiful patterned tiles will bring you joy in all your projects and will find a place in your home.

Finally, we also recommend taking a look at our Clay Care products. These maintenance items have been carefully tested with our products, and they are designed to preserve your tiles' beauty, ensuring their longevity and durability. From sealers to cleaners, purchasing these maintenance items together with your tiles not only simplifies your order but also prepares you to enjoy your tiles for a long time.

And remember, if you have any questions or require more information, don't hesitate to reach out to us at contact@clayimports.com