The sleepy hollow of Knysna is an unlikely base for an influential design brand but it’s there that Akashic Tiles creates its range of swoon-worthy products, recently drawing the gaze of style-savvy creatives, major designers and architects. Despite having been under the guidance of new owners Sharon and Ryan Kensley for a mere year, their tiles have been used in some of the country’s hottest interior spaces and have travelled as far afield as Miami in the US.
One of their biggest supporters is Studio A’s Tristan du Plessis, who regularly uses their tiles in his much-publicised interiors. “I love working with Akashic because they’re so flexible and are willing to create any colour-way, style, pattern or texture that we come up with,” he says.
You haven’t always owned a tile business? No. Two very close friends of ours were emigrating and wanted to sell their handmade-tile business (Renwick Tiles). Like them, we’re a husband-and-wife team, who already owned a creative business with a ceramic offering. We decided to buy Renwick, rebranding it to Akashic Tiles and began creating our own, unique designs.
What has caused all the hype lately? I’m not sure but I think it’s a snowball effect. Since we started, we’ve had some key players post pics to social media and have worked on some well-known projects. It has just flowed from there. Our recent appearance at Decorex brought us into view too.
What do you think makes handmade tiles so beautiful? The inevitable colour and shape variation. The beauty is in the unpredictability!
Who have some of your clients been so far? We’re working with many talented designers but our favourite client, who we’ve worked on many amazing projects with, is the beautiful team at Studio A, whose level of creativity allows for such an exciting exchange.
Where do you gather ideas from? I love walking through second-hand shops and feeding my creativity with shapes, textures and designs - even the curves of a piece of plastic junk can inspire me. Creating colours is one of Ryan’s best parts, because working in glaze is a form of alchemy … just slightly adjusting the ingredients can create magic.
What should one consider when choosing a tile? Because purchasing a handmade, customised tile is a deeper expression of yourself, I’d suggest blocking the world out and asking yourself what colour, shape and texture truly expresses who you are.
Some of the exciting spaces your tiles have ended up in? Mia Widlake’s (of Studio 19) own home (Long House), La Parada, Nando's and a string of Studio A’s interiors like Gorgeous George, Saigon Suzy, Naked Coffee, Alice & Fifth and our favourite, Fyn Restaurant.
How do you set yourselves apart? We keep moving forward and pushing the boundaries of creativity, revealing the limitlessness of wall art.
What’s your studio space like on an average day? Happiness … it’s cheesy, but true! We work where we live and we love the flow that this creates. We wake up and move over to the side of the property that houses our two studios, our kilns and the showroom. We have the most amazing staff that we owe our love and respect to - we couldn’t do what we do without their help. The property is surrounded by greenery and large trees, which results in the most beautiful environment in which to create.
What are you working on at the moment? A tiger-print hexagon!
Would you say tiles are more than just a practical addition to a space? Yes! Tiles have become another expression of the personal creativity that lies within everyone.