by Robert Winter
"The importance of Ernest Batchelder as an Arts and Crafts tilemaker cannot be overstated. For his innovation in design, his entrepreneurial spirit, his living his life true to the principles that he espoused, he is a man to be admired by all generations." (Joseph A. Taylor, Tile Heritage Foundation)
Ernest Batchelder's ceramic tilemaking enterprise began as a modest backyard venture in rural Pasadena, California but quickly grew to national prominence. In 1908 this enterprising young man left a prestigious teaching position to start his own school and factory, with the goal of establishing a West Coast guild of craftspeople. By 1930 the Batchelder-Wilson Company had showrooms in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, as well as representation in virtually every major city in the United States. New York, Minneapolis, and Vancouver hosted major Batchelder architectural ceramic installations.
Batchelder remained the preeminent leader of handmade tiles in the West until the Depression forced the closure of his operations in 1932. His clients ranged from restaurants to churches to high rise office buildings, although perhaps the most striking installations remain the many fireplaces gracing modest American bungalows throughout the country.