There’s a controlled bustle inside Fireclay Tile’s factory in tiny Aromas, California. Workers shuttle racks of dried but unfired tiles fresh from the heater, warming the air as they pass, while a 25,000-pound extruder nicknamed “the Junior” forces moist clay into ribbons that are then cookie-cut into perfect squares. A craftsman showers a fine mist of color over rectangular tiles in a graceful sweep, and painters deftly squeeze glaze by hand with breathtaking speed.

Founder and chief ceramicist Paul Burns takes it all in with a smile. More

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