Whistling Frog Tile is a happy little team of two artists: Rick Pruckler and Tonya Lutz. We’re the sculptors and makers. Our hands are on, and in, the clay from start to finish, providing all the extra care that goes into our handmade items.
When Rick founded the company in ‘87, he soon had artist S. Cassabon join in finely sculpting many of our floral designs until she made the career switch to the Smithsonian. Rick continued on sculpting away, incorporating dragonflies, frogs, and even caribou, all the while designing and installing custom tile for fireplaces and backsplashes.
In 2011, Tonya joined Rick and introduced to Whistling Frog narratives featuring birds, cats, dogs, beavers Wildflowers and Destinations to the tile collection.
Whistling Frog Tile is special in three ways. First, we hand-make all our work right here, in Ferndale, Michigan, a caring, festive, vibrant little community hugging Detroit . Second, Rick has extensive experience in formulating glazes. You’ll see glaze colors in our palette that are fresh, bright, & far from commercial-looking. All of our clay and glazes are hand crafted by us using sustainable practices. We up-cycle packing supplies, and recycle all surplus clay and water that we can. Last but not least, we’re making our art tiles so we can celebrate unique destinations, elevating their importance with art. From Michigan wildflowers, to endangered species in hometowns, we think seeing what is special and what is here is what the world needs now.
So that’s Whistling Frog, two eccentric artists busy in a studio that takes up half the house, with chickens and a garden in the backyard. We couldn’t be happier! Well, maybe with more space....
How Whistling Frog Tile came to be:
While relaxing on the beach in Bermuda, in 1998, Rick Pruckler was thinking about what to name his tile company. He had many ideas, but what would convey the whimsey of his original designs, the fact that he makes all his own glazes and clay, and made each tile by hand in his studio? The gentle beach breeze made the naming process enjoyable, save for some persistent jungle noises. However, he had a hard time trying to find the right words.
Rick had already started making tile and selling under the name ‘Tapas’ pottery. He chose this name because of it’s East Indian roots and it meant literally, ‘fire of transformation.’ Spanish cuisine was becoming more widely enjoyed then in the ‘90’s, so Rick watched the waves rolls in, knowing the name ‘Tapas’ wouldn’t last. Birds chirped their condolences from the palms. He figured this was for the best, since the Indian term refers to a spiritual transformation. Lots of difficulty could be brought on in the kiln room by asking for this, and he wanted the whole process to be more like a song.
Speaking of song, the jungle sounds increased, causing his brainstorming session to be interrupted. As the sun descended and a fiery sunset crept across the sky, Rick was thinking that ‘Burnt Clay’ might be the name. The darkened trees were alive with the piercing sound of animal calls. He tried to concentrate, scratched his head, and covered his ears. Late ‘80’s terms kept bubbling up, vying for the opportunity. ‘Rampant’ tile? ‘Emerge’ Tile? What were these names even saying? And for the love of all that is holy, what is that confounded sound?!?
A native had been watching his very American distress from afar on the beach. He called out in the twilight, “Whistling frogs… they're okay!”
And on the advice of that kind and helpful man, Rick had the name of his company.