Designer Claire Zinnecker’s Horizon Tile Pays Homage To Saltillo, MX

All you want to know about the Claire Zinnecker and Clay Imports collaboration

By Clay Imports

Tile Artist Series: Horizon by Claire Zinnecker

The Horizon tile series is a popular collection of tiles that has recently received an update with new shades and finishes! This update has been developed in collaboration with Claire Zinnecker and has been designed to expand the collection textures and colors, providing even more options for those looking to incorporate the Horizon tiles into their home or commercial space.

Claire is the founder of Claire Zinnecker Design, a boutique interior design firm based in Austin, TX. Specializing in both residential and commercial design, Claire’s work has been featured in Domino, The Wall Street Journal, Architectural Digest, InStyle Magazine and more. Claire is a firm believer that every space tells a story. We had a chat with her to know the secrets behind her unique style, her passion for clean, affordable design and how did she find her design aesthetic.

Terracotta tiles with design

How did you become a designer?

When I was little, I wanted to be a veterinarian. And then I learned that you have to put animals to sleep! This is when I realized that I had to get a new career (Claire still is committed to helping animals though, you can tell from her Instagram!) I first wanted to work as an architect, because I admired my architect uncle. However, he advised me to rather pursue a career in interior design, as he felt this was something I’d really enjoy.

Consequently, I went to study interior design, mainly because someone told me to. Luckily, I loved it! I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin at a time when there weren’t many jobs available. So, I hustled and worked really hard, which led to starting my own firm! Again, nothing that I originally planned, but I am thankful this is the path I took.

What do you love most about what you do?

The part I love most about my job is product development. If there is something that’s in my brain and I can’t find it anywhere online, I can rely on wonderful makers to bring my vision to life. Over the years, I connected with skilled artisans that can custom make whatever I dream up. And this is how the Horizon Tile Line with Clay Imports came to be. I knew there were shapes and patterns and colors that I wanted for my projects. But I just couldn’t find those anywhere. When Clay Imports and I connected, and we saw that our visions aligned, it was kind of kismet.

What does it entail to launch a tile line?

Creating a tile line in these times is extra special. As we all know, 2020 has slowed everything down. And that coupled with working in a different country has been a challenge I enjoyed taking on. There has been trial and error just because we really wanted to make sure that everything was perfect. I started brainstorming with Clay Imports in Austin over coffees and topo chicos. Then, we would draw up ideas, and present them to the makers. The hardest part was deciding on colors! We reviewed several options throughout last year, as I really wanted the line to reflect my aesthetic. I truly feel that we achieved that. Now, we have finalized all details, and are thrilled to present the “Horizon Line by Claire Zinnecker Design.

Kitchen backsplash with green tilesDesign by Chelsea Meissner. Photo by Jillian Guyette

Why "Horizon"?

Traveling with Clay Imports to Mexico to see the products come to life influenced how I think about the line. I soaked in the desert landscape of northern Mexico and enjoyed a much-needed sense of freedom and leisure at the Oaxacan coast (all in one trip!). This experience not only broadened my horizon, but I hope it evokes endless possibilities for you as well. The common theme that I hope to put forward was for the tile line to look and feel natural. For me, “Horizon” brings forth a feel for this earth, a certain calm, and peace.

What was your inspiration for the Horizon Line?

The inspiration began ultimately with my love for nature and endless wide open spaces. Much of my creativity stems from vibes of the American Southwest and Mexico. I am intrigued by natural colors of clay and dirt and also wanted to honor architectural aspects of Mexico. The city of Saltillo, surrounded by mountains, and built with local clay products, has become one of my favorite places. I am continuously inspired when I walk around the streets of Mexico, that I am fortunate enough to go experience.

I was looking to figure out ways to use those natural materials while also making them suitable for modern, contemporary projects. Durability and versatility was also a huge factor in creating my tile line. A lot of my clients are requesting low-maintenance, handmade materials that can be used in a variety of spaces. My aesthetic, natural beauty, durability, and versatility were the things Clay Imports and I wanted to hit. And I’d say, we nailed it!

How was your trip to Saltillo with Clay Imports?

Traveling to Saltillo with the Clay Imports crew and making tile was so fun and eye-opening. I might have a better understanding as a designer than most consumers about what handmade means, but it was still incredibly rewarding to learn about the process. It is truly amazing when you’re actually there on this pile of dirt, watching these craftspeople work from hand make every single tile from scratch. We use a special mold, pack the clay, and then let it dry in the sun. A product like this is priceless.

We did a road trip from Austin to Saltillo, which is an 8-hour drive. Lessons learned? You cannot take a leased car into Mexico. The solution? Trust your gut and keep on going (with a rental car of course). Saltillo is the capital of Coahuila, a large town, with unexpected places of peace. We stayed at the beautiful, family-owned Hotel Rancho El Morillo, just a short drive away from the mountains where the tile is made. To make the most out of our time there, we woke up early to shoot sunrises, and stayed up late to discuss collection details. It was an intense 3 days, but I wouldn’t miss it as it has shaped my understanding of the line and the people who make it.

Bathroom with pink and white tilesDesign by Be Unica Interiors. Photo by Jane Ko

What is like to design a product and see it in other people's homes?

For me, developing a product is really exciting and also really terrifying. I think that confidence is something that I’m always working to be better at. When I know I love something, know that I’m going to enjoy it, I just have to trust that I have decent taste and that y’all will love it too!

Designing products others will enjoy in their homes is fun and I love to collaborate with other creatives. It’s really one of my favorite things about design. It’s also something that I don’t get to do as much when it’s just me in the office. For me, bouncing ideas off of other artists who come from different backgrounds is truly one of the best things about being a creative.

What's your favorite color and shape combo of the Horizon line?

Choosing a favorite is really hard. It depends on the day, but I’d probably say that my favorite right now is the glazed Pale Terracotta. Why? It was sort of the first inspiration and really led to the rest of the line. The great thing about these glazes is that you see hints of the actual terracotta coming through. It’s that handmade look which is what we were striving for with this line.Kitchen bar with terracotta tiles

What's your advice for aspiring product designers?

My advice would be go for it! So much of life involves this kind of nervous waiting for things to happen. Things happen if you and your passions take the leap to do them! It’s amazing what can come to you if you just start talking about your ideas with others. As you’re talking to people, you can refine the ideas. And then maybe along the way, you meet someone who shares a similar passion or has a person who knows a person and then all of a sudden your product is born. This is pretty much how the Horizon Tile line with Clay Imports came to be! So, again: Go for it and don’t give up!

Clay Imports Horizon Series Catalogue

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