Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tiles of the American Riviera - Santa Barbara, CA


Located 83 miles north of Los Angeles, CA, is a gem of a city nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains. Santa Barbara is considered by many to be the American Riviera as it shares the same dramatic mountains, sparkling seas, lush gardens, white-washed buildings, red-tile roofs and abundant sunshine of its French and Italian counterparts.

Red tile roofs of Santa Barbara
The red tile roofs of Santa Barbara. Image via www.welcometosantabarbara.com. One of the best ways to explore the city of Santa Barbara is on foot as you follow along the Red Tile Walking Tour that takes you through 17 stops and 22 historic adobes dating from the late 1700s through the 1800s, plus many of the structures built in the Spanish-revival and Moorish styles mandated by community leaders after the devastating earthquake of 1925 

A Brief History of Santa Barbara
The city of Santa Barbara got its name from Portuguese explorer Juan Cabrillo when he happened upon the area in 1542. Before and after Cabrillo’s visit, the Chumash Indians populated the coastline, cruised through its coastal waters and lived off the land until Spanish Franciscan monks arrived in the 18th century on their mission-building quest through California.

The Franciscans built 21 missions in California, including three in Santa Barbara County: Mission Santa Ines in Solvang; La Purisima Mission in Lompoc; and Mission Santa Barbara, which is affectionately known as the "Queen of the Missions." After coming under Mexican rule for 24 years, Santa Barbara became a U.S. territory in 1846. 

Focus on Handmade Tile Artisans
As a city known for its population of outdoor lovers, surfers, volleyball players, and college students, and of course, the rich and famous, the most notable residents are the artisans. These artisans craft everything from foods to art in various mediums. However, those that stand out are the handmade tile artisans. Everywhere you go within this elegant city, you’ll notice hand-painted terracotta and ceramic tiles gracing every niche, fountain, building façade, restaurant, and more.


Tile graces every part of Santa Barbara, CA.
Handmade or hand-painted tile can be found in every part of Santa Barbara, CA.


Tile mural by Susan Dunbar’s Custom Tile Studios. Her tile artwork can be found throughout Santa Barbara County.


A closer look at Susan Dunbar's beautiful hand-painted tile craftsmanship.

Within the outdoor Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center in downtown Santa Barbara, tile artisans have created installations that cannot be missed, some of which are included here: 

Handmade tile can be found throughout the Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center.
Handmade tile can be found throughout the Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center.

An Old World terracotta look is graced with intricately designed inserts.
An Old World terracotta look is graced with intricately designed inserts.


This installation of  6" x 6" tiles resembles Moroccan zillij tiles.
This installation of  6" x 6" tiles resembles Moroccan zillij tiles. 

Here's another installation of 6" x 6" tiles that beg for attention!
Here's another installation of 6" x 6" tiles that beg for attention!

Hand-painted ceramic tiles that reflect the Spanish influence of Santa Barbara.
Hand-painted ceramic tiles that reflect the Spanish influence of Santa Barbara.

More hand-painted ceramic tiles that reflect the city's Spanish influence.
Another example of hand-painted ceramic tile that reflects the city's Spanish influence.

An outdoor staircase at shopping center Paseo Nuevo is decorated with Mexican tiles.
An outdoor staircase at shopping center Paseo Nuevo is decorated with Mexican tiles. Image via National Geographic Traveler. Photo by Catherine Karnow.

Do you live near an artisan community where the city’s heritage and culture is celebrated? Does handmade tile play an important role in your community as much as it does in Southern California?

If you love Spanish and Moorish influence in your tile design, then here are related posts you may like to read:

Moroccan Tile: In a Class of Its Own

Tiles with a Classic Spanish Touch

Rustic Cement Tile Pavers



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