Giving Wings to Creativity Joyce Oroz

Giving Wings to Creativity Award presented to Paul Burns, October 26, 2011

It’s not everyday the Aromas Hills Artisans give an award to a local business owner. In fact the GIVING WINGS TO CREATIVITY award was created because of Paul Burns, owner and President of Fireclay Tile located in San Jose and Aromas. Today I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Burns and touring his Fireclay factory in Aromas where old toilets, recycled windows and granite dust are magically turned into beautiful ceramic tiles.

The magic happens when the oddest of materials, the sharpest minds and excellent equipment come together. It’s the “green magic” we’ve all been searching for. Who knew it would be found in old toilets? In this case, 1,700 donated toilets from the Monterey Presidio, but don’t worry, replacements are on the way.

Linda Bjornson, president of the Aroma Hills Artisans, presented a handmade wooden box (crafted by Daniel Smith, AHA member) to Paul Burns, owner and mastermind of Fireclay Tiles. It was a joyful moment for all and all because fourteen years ago Mr. Burns had an idea. He wanted to make tiles out of porcelain toilets. He worked at the idea for a year before he found a way to successfully incorporate ground up toilets with other ingredients to make tiles. Now his Debris Series tiles are 70% recycled material.

Mr. Burns ordered a special kiln from Wisconsin. It arrived in four boxcars—yes, it’s that big! How hot is 1,800 degrees? He says his biggest expense is labor. Gosh, do we still make things in America?

Paul’s thirty employees turn out thousands of tiles ranging in size from one inch by one inch to fix-foot long solid counter top slabs. The tiles come in a full range of textures, shapes and vibrant colors. The intricate, Italian and Mexican style tiles are hand painted by ladies with steady hands and good temperaments.

The process is beyond interesting. It was wonderful to see American enterprise in action. Hat’s off to Paul Burns.


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