It will measurably aid your understanding of Jess Sheldon’s Cityscape Tiles if, as per the company’s name, you don’t think of her tiles as coasters — even if that’s how you might use them.
Why? Because you might also hang them on your wall.
Sheldon even sells her tiles in wooden picture frames. And she sells prints, too. Which makes sense, considering she didn’t set out to make tiles — or coasters, or wall art, or what-have-you — when she first picked up her grandfather’s Canon AE-1 more than a decade ago. She wanted to document Over-the-Rhine, and photography seemed the best medium to do it.
“I quickly fell in love with the Over-the-Rhine. Its history, people, and architecture opened up a new world for me,” says Sheldon, who is a resident of the neighborhood. “It felt like the heart of our city.”
As for the whole tile thing, one day Sheldon happened upon a dumpster of discarded tiles on Race Street, no doubt from one of the neighborhood's innumerable building renovations. Plucking a tile from the dumpster, she admired its size, its portability, and its capacity as a canvas for her photos.
Years later, Sheldon has a pretty big operation going. She and her team still produce and market the gorgeous Cincinnati tiles you see above, but they’ve also ventured into Chicago tiles, Indianapolis tiles, and even Paris tiles. (You can see some of her photos in the gallery.)
But Sheldon is keeping that local mindset. She still works out of the Pendleton Arts Center, and she still holds her favorite neighborhood close to her heart. Probably why she signs her site the way she does... “With love from 14th Street.”
- - -
You can purchase Cityscape Tiles online. They’re also at City Flea, as well as many of the festivals around town. For more information, check out the website here.