I learned to appreciate the beauty of stones, fossils, and all things petrified. I learned about how these things were formed over millions of years, and I also learned that the earth wasn’t as young as the people at church told me it was. I was a curious kid, and I’m a curious adult. Maybe. I’m not sure. I mean, I’m not sure I’m fully grown yet!
With all this in mind, imagine my delight when I entered the Ann Sacks booth at the 2012 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show and found this:
It comes in three patterns: large cut, small cut and quarter sawn. They each have their own distinct characteristics. I would use each pattern for a different purpose. The high shine Large Log slab, above, would look amazing just about anywhere. The company used it as their desktop for the show. Impressive!
Time to move on to this:
As my guide took me around the showroom, she explained the theory behind the new tile collections at Ann Sacks. They’ve added a few more talented designers to their roster, and with that move they have upped the style quotient at this already notoriously stylish brand. (Hint: One of them designed the First Family’s residence at the White House.)
Before we go any further, I beg of you, please don’t call PETA on me. I didn’t make these tiles, but I did want to make out with them:
Shagreen is the term used for the skin of a stingray. It is also used for faux papers or finish techniques that mimic the appearance of shagreen. This, dear readers, is the real thing. Like most seafood, the meat of the ray is a delicacy is many parts of the world and much of the leftover skin is discarded. The design team at Ann Sacks worked to keep the excess from going to waste. They created a special process for mounting the skins on tile.
That process led to this gorgeous vignette:
Let me preface this part of the story, by telling you that all of the white mice at my science museum didn’t make it into the belly of the beasts I was in charge of. I pleaded for a reprieve for two of them. I got it, took them home, loved them dearly, then fell into a state of despair and disbelief as they proceeded to play a vicious game of Tyson v. Holyfield. Ears disappeared. Blood was shed. Lives were lost. I was traumatized in my attempt to save them. Death at the whim of a reptile would’ve been a much kinder way to make an exit. Nature can be cruel at times, and I have a soft spot for creatures of all kinds.
In my soul, I am a child of the sea. The hospital I was born in is literally perched over a body of salt water, and it is the sound and smell of that water that calms me to this day. I’ve caught fish, crustaceans, and all manner of things in those waters. I’ve also dipped my hand in the stingray pool at an aquarium more than once, I even felt up a couple of sharks within the last few weeks, so I can empathize with those who may disagree with my opinion about this tile.
Stingrays are fascinating creatures and I would prefer they be left alone, but if they are going to be used for sustenance, I believe that nothing should go to waste. Taking things that are commonly discarded and turning them into statement pieces can be controversial, especially when those statements are made with the byproducts or remains of animals and sea life. I feel the same way about the other things we humans consume. I’m not going to eat snouts, feet, or chitlins, but golly Wally, I love me some bacon and the occasional pork chop. I leave the rest of the pig to the NFL and true food connoisseurs, but I digress.
Where was I? Ah, yes. Shagreen tiles. The white lines you see in the photo above are not all grout lines. They are mainly the beveled edges of the tile the skins are mounted on. This technique gives the walls added depth and dimension. It is lovely. They aren’t cheap, and are only available to the trade. You know what that means: You’re going to need a designer or architect to help you out with this purchase.
Thanks for taking the time to read about Ann Sacks efforts to upcycle petrified woods, lumber and skins. I think they’ve been very successful with their designs. Already known for their innovative, exquisite, creative product lines, the company continues to inspire and delight specifiers and end users alike with the incorporation of extraordinary natural elements. No trees were harmed in the making of these slabs, and the rays were on a sushi platter long before their beautifully colored and textured skins were mounted to tile. Better in a kitchen or bath than in a landfill. That these products are beautiful is a bonus.
I would love to hear your thoughts, even if you disagree. Especially if you disagree. You can vent here or start a conversation on Twitter. You can find me @livethefinelife. I look forward to hearing from you, I think…