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Piece By Piece

Each of Particular Tiles’ Products Tell a Story About the Land and Their Efforts to Protect It

Article by Kailey Beuerlein

Photography by Provided by Particular Tile

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

A product that tells a story while making a positive impact? We’re sold.

Founded by Christopher Caskey, a climate scientist with a Ph.D. who transitioned into entrepreneurship, Particular Tile was born from the hunt to solve a local problem on Colorado’s western slope. Aside from their extensive and impressive sustainability practices, their tiles are also exclusive to the owner—made by hand, and completely one of a kind. 

Chris grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona, where his parents taught him and his siblings a love for the outdoors and to care for the environment. “One time my brothers and I found an abandoned mine with an old mine cart on the tracks,” says Chris, which, you'll see shortly, is a bit of foreshadowing. “They hopped in the cart, and I pushed them down the tracks in the darkness. But only a short distance, because we knew how that ends in the movies.”

Particular Tile creates handmade terracotta tiles out of red clay, unique to the American West. And their products pay homage to just that: the American West. Everything the Particular Tile team does is authentic to true Western ideals and lifestyle, from their unique upbringings to the reason why they do what they do.

The day-to-day team consists of Chris, founder; Nancy Ihlenfeldt, director of brand, sales and marketing; Nina Steigele, director of operations; Holly Williamson, project director and Montrose local Jordan Lobush working as production specialist. These people are literally bringing in the mud from outside of your house and making it into something extraordinary. “And it does not get more Western than that,” says Nancy Ihlenfedlt.

“It’s cliché, but when you live here and you see the red mountains, and you see Red Rocks, you see how tactile it is. That’s where our designs come from. It’s authentic and as pure as it gets,” says Nancy.

The creation process is no easy feat. With nine steps, which I’m sure have been whittled down to be more digestible to us laypeople, we start with step one: mud collection. By collecting mud that is clogging their local reservoir, Paonia, their team excavates truckloads of mud to create a little more space in the reservoir for water storage. In turn, this water is used by farms, ranches and vineyards in need of irrigation. But not just anyone can go around digging up mud; Particular Tile has collaborated with a number of stakeholders for permits and permissions, including the Bureau of Reclamation, Fire Mountain Canal and Reservoir Company, Army Corps of Engineers and Gunnison County. 

After step one, is naturally, step two: clay preparation, followed by clay extrusion, and tile cutting and shaping (steps four & five), kiln firing, glazing and then a little more kiln firing. The finished product is beautiful, colorful, intentional and again, one of a kind. Their products serve a purpose. Nancy shares that people are often awestruck by the finished product, musing how it feels like it was made just for them. “That’s because it was—handmade, just for you,” Nancy says.

In addition to their clay work, Particular Tile is also in the process of planning their own methane—a dangerous greenhouse gas—capture facility, captured from abandoned coal mines near the reservoir (foreshadowing!). Engaged in a number of coal mine methane capture projects, Chris and his wife Holly now live in Paonia, where they just purchased a coal mine that they estimate leaks over 750 tons of methane per year. By purchasing this coal mine, they’ll capture this methane and use it not only as a heat source for their kilns but to eventually power their facility as a whole.

Their sustainability efforts are just the cherry on top of their extraordinary and special creations. It’s evident that people are drawn to Particular Tile because it not only is handmade, but it looks handmade. Not one tile is the same, and two tiles that undergo the exact same process can come out looking different. “It has all the hallmarks of a handmade product,” says Nancy. “Variation, in color, depth and warmth.” Each tile is particularly unique. Get it? And although they have a large array of shapes, they’re happy to custom design pretty much any other shape you can imagine. They’re original works of art.

Beyond creating beautiful, artisan and long-lasting products, Particular Tile strives to be an example to others in that manufacturing. “We’re trying to show other manufacturers that it’s possible to be a for-profit business that can not only cause less harm but one that can actually reverse an issue,” says Nancy. “We want to show that you can solve a problem by creating a product. Less harm is good, but solving a problem is better.” 

To learn more about Particular Tile, visit or email 1825 Launa Drive, Montrose, CO 81401