The Artist: Houston Llew
A man with southern roots and all the charm to prove it, Houston’s kind heart, wit and warmth emanate from his masterful Spiritile Collection. He took a circuitous route to the birth of Spiritiles. As a graduate of Auburn University, Houston began a career in the corporate world. In 2008, he found himself unemployed in the middle of the great recession. Through fortuitous circumstances, Houston met the master enamelist Zingaro and followed him around, shadowing the artist around his studio until he gave Houston the keys to enameling that would later evolve into his first work - Spiritiles. For months he spent every waking hour over a kiln, experimenting, sketching, living on only "ramen and beer." Houston says that the only reason his art exists today is because he had no other option - no job to fall back on, no security other than what he could create himself. This tenacity kept Houston going so that when one thing wouldn't work, he would step back, retool, and try a new path. Houston is infamous for "spitballing" ideas and trying seemingly crazy things just to see if they work. By harnessing that constant experimentation, his artistry evolved from enameled imagery to a combined image and story design. From the beginning, what pushed Houston forward was the uplifting thoughts and musings. This became the cornerstone of his work - create art that inspires, uplifts, and brings a hopeful connection to life.
Houston’s work in enameling is based on his belief that meaningful art is about emotion. Thus, every Spiritile created reflects a piece of our story. These icons stretch our memory and bring to mind the people we love, the things we cherish, and the passions we pursue. When collected, Spiritiles become a montage of moments that make us smile, laugh, remember, and dare to dream. When Houston first started his artistic journey, he sought a medium to animate this inspiration. Vitreous enamel, the art of glass heat-fused to metal, is as ancient as Mesopotamia, with infamous historical artworks in royal jewelry and imperial treasures. It is an illustrious but little known medium that Houston cast in a new form. With its metallic base as canvas and its myriad glass colors as “paint”, what makes this work unique is the story wrapped around the sides of each piece. Some Spiritiles quote authors and poets, other philosophers and fellow artists, but every piece is designed to speak to our life and reach our emotive self.
In the Spring of 2019, many moons later, Houston celebrated his 10th year as an accomplished artist. Throughout those 10 years, he continued to refine and perfect his craft, staying true to his mission - to produce works of art that inspire and enlighten and bring about positivity.
The Work: Vitreous Enamel
The craft of vitreous enameling is done by applying a thin layer of glass to the surface of metal and fusing them at high temperatures in a kiln. The product that emerges is a luminescent work with fine cracks. The fine cracks that appear on each Spiritile are intentional, and are unique to each piece - making every single Spiritile a unique work of art. Every Spiritile is handmade according to the same dimensions following the golden mean ratio. Houston often likes to say that these artworks are "created as windows of the enlightened spirit."
The technique of enameling proceeds both Zingaro and Houston, dating back to the 13th century BC. The excavated relics are still as vibrant as the day they were produced! Pictured here is a plate from the Ming Dynasty, 16th century. If you want something that will never fade or tarnish - an enamelled work fits the bill! The technique is used in the notable Carl Faberge’s distinctive eggs and the Battersea’s copper boxes.
A quick video on the making of:
Proudly Made in the USA
Those southern roots run deep, and it's only natural Houston Llew would plant his studio in the vibrant city of Atlanta. It is there that Spiritiles are dreamt up, and come to fruition through skilled hands. His works are all created by hand in the studio by him and his team of apprentices, who create enameled art under his training, guidance and design direction. Quality and integrity is of the utmost importance to Houston. Both the metal and the glass are sourced from reputable sources in the USA. The glass is from the only lead-free glass manufacturer in the USA.
There are 4 new Spiritile collections annually that are released seasonally - Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall. The unifying concept of each release typically follows the theme of the season - spring-rebirth and hope, summer-adventure and discovery, fall-change and evolution, winter-reflection and connection. Each release sees anywhere from 3 - 6 new TIles. In addition to the seasonal releases, there are typically a few limited edition and special releases scattered throughout the year, including a special Holiday tile available at the end of the year. Every collection and release is announced via email, so be sure to join our email list by clicking Join VIP at the top of this page and watch your inbox! New tiles are on display in any of our three locations.
Every year on November 1st, Houston releases a very special tile that illuminates the warmth and joy that emanates throughout the holiday season. Spiritile collectors eagerly anticipate the big reveal! This is the most coveted of all Spiritiles. The holiday tile has a limited production run through December 31 of the same year. Shop the Holiday Tiles.
Why: Art as Gifts
It is not often that one has the opportunity to gift art. Art is highly subjective and generally falls in the high risk category when considering it as a gift. However, Spiritiles offer community - a tangible, familiar image paired with a beautiful sentiment. To collectors, Spiritiles visually share the brilliant moments that make up the unique story of life. As gifts, they share brilliant moments with the people you love or admire. Whether it’s commemorating an important milestone like a big birthday, wedding, a graduation, first home, or even a sales goal exceeded, Spiritiles are the perfect way to honor the moment.
Current Spiritiles still in production are priced at $149 and increase in value to $200 when they first retire. With every new collection released, other Spiritiles are retired. Upon retirement, they increase in value since production has ceased. What remains in the marketplace, as reported by authorized retailers, helps determine the value of retired Spiritiles. We have sold retired Spiritiles for as much as $650! Be sure to grab your favorites before the prices go up! Please contact us if you're trying to locate a retired Spiritile that we do not have in stock; We will try and locate one for you.
View our Retired Category to see available stock and current values. For a more in depth analysis of retired Spiritiles, read our blog post here.
"Everything in New Orleans is a good idea." - Bob Dylan
The Giving Tree Gallery team worked with Houston and team to create a few exclusive Spiritiles, available only through our stores. The very first one we did speaks to our love for the city of New Orleans, as told by Nobel Prize laureate, Bob Dylan. Humanity is on full display everywhere you look in New Orleans. Raw and exposed, it breathes through music, art, and an inescapable rich history full of triumph and tragedy that lingers on every corner. Parades at weddings AND funerals? YES. Drinks at happy hour and dawn? YES. Fine art and art for art's sake? YES. Dollars bill on your birthday and baby jesus in cakes? YES and YES.
"Wherever my travels may lead, paradise is where I am." - Voltaire
While the elegant Bird of Paradise might not technically possess plumage, it is admired for its beautiful, vibrant colors, especially by the ubiquitous Snow Bird. At the first frost Snow Birds pack up and head south to enjoy life under sunnier skies & just as readily migrate back when the Gulf water hits hot tub temps. The joy of the Voltaire quote adorning this tile is its duality of meaning: the chasing of a literal paradise, & the metaphorical recognition that paradise is a state of mind, of being. Each person’s paradise is different, but sometimes the metaphor & reality meet. Just as Birds of Paradise rely on pollination by Sunbirds in order to survive, to thrive, so too do the paradise towns the snowbirds call home for the winter.
How: Every Spiritile is presented in a designer gift box. In every box there is literature about the art work, a biography of Houston, and a full catalog of all of the active tiles.
How to Display:
Spiritiles look great singularly, or grouped together. These delicate yet durable artworks are made to last, resist fading, shine under light, and fire up a meaningful conversation. Spiritiles can stand up on a flat surface or hang on a prized wall. They can stand alone, but love company. Each piece is sized the same to mix and match for a collection that tells your story. CARE: Enamel artwork is best polished with household glass cleaner and a soft cloth.
Here are a few templates, Spiritile collections of 4, 9 and 14 to use as a guide when hanging your collection.
Have a different number of Tiles you’d like to hang? We’re here to help! Email us and we’ll help put something together for you.
HOW TO HANG: Drywall screws work great! When affixing the screw, leave a ¼" lip to rest the frame's hollow on the screw head. The artwork will sit securely and flush with the wall. When hanging multiple pieces, the ideal spacing between screws is 7¼" horizontal and 10½" vertical.
“Optimism is the most important human trait because it allows us to evolve our ideas, to improve our situation and to hope for a better tomorrow.” - Seth Godin
"The tile was just stunning - the artistry, the workmanship top notch. It came quickly and well packed. Love the blue box and it was even wrapped in tissue paper."
"The item, a Houston Llew Spiritile, was attractively packaged and arrived very quickly. It was exactly as portrayed on the website."
"My order arrived quickly and was well packaged. The tile is beautiful and when light catches it the coloring is gorgeous. I am very excited to add it to my wall!"