One of my favorite games to play is “If you really knew me, you would know…” with each person in a group revealing a piece of themselves. It’s a game we can play over and over, with new answers emerging each time.

If you really knew me, you would know that I am obsessed with things made by hand, or that show the hand of the maker.

Ann Sacks Tile: The hand of the maker. Photo by Rick McCormack Via Instagram

And, I used to be a potter.

I started in college, throwing my own bowls. I used to bring sets of my handmade bowls to dinner parties as hostess gifts. In fact, when my sister Rebekah Martin got married to Rich Wood, I made the small, glazed pots, planted with succulents, that we gave as favors to each of the guests.

(I continue to love succulents, and beautiful pots for them, as you can see in this detail shot from our Tahoe Vacation Home project, below.)

So, you can imagine how deeply I enjoyed my recent factory tour with Ann Sacks tile, in Portland, Oregon.

Seeing how the tile was made, being around all that clay which is harvested and processed locally, spoke to my heart. The factory tour was part of a three-day event, with a group of designers flown in from all over the country and Canada.

Day 1: We were whisked to the Ann Sacks to-the-trade showroom, where we feasted our eyes on the gorgeous tiles and nibbled on small bites and sipped wine, as the president of the company, Ted Chappell, spoke about the brand and his vision.

Photo by Rick McCormack, via Instagram

The care and attention to detail that the company applies to the creation of its tile lines, from the higher-end hand-pressed and glazed (at $150 per square foot), to the thoughtfully-produced and curated more-affordable options, was similarly applied to the care and feeding of our group. Should you find yourself in Portland, I highly recommend everywhere we visited and ate, including the Green-certified hotel, the Nines, where we stayed, and the hotel restaurant, Departures, where we dined on our first night.

(The Nines was also hosting another important group; you may have heard of the Warriors? And yes, I did bump into Steve Kerr in the elevator. #FanGirl #KerrKrush #HellaHeartOakland.)

Day 2: We spent the day being educated — and entertained — at the architecturally-inspiring Sokol Blosser winery. Meals catered by Hunt and Gather. Dinner featured a course of octopus terrine, elegantly plated on a hexagonal, black marble tile.

Octopus Terrine.  Photo by Scott Gibson via Instagram

Octopus Terrine. Photo by Scott Gibson via Instagram

The talks included a presentation on the trends to watch in 2017, including metal joints, mixing metals, graphic tile floors (like what LMB Interiors recently installed on the patio at The Wolf), and strong horizontal or vertical lines on tile walls.

I particularly love this movement towards replacing traditional grout with metal tile edging, used with reasonable restraint. For example, choosing to use it in a bathroom or in the kitchen, rather than throughout the whole house. It’s a great opportunity to add just the right amount of bling! We also attended a roundtable discussion, where the company asked us for feedback on their products, and how they could serve us and our clients better.

And, it goes without saying, we tasted the Sokol Blosser wines.

Day 3: We toured the factory. Seeing the clay being stamped, designs laser cut, glazes applied, visiting the robust and imposing giant kilns, including one named “Duane” for a beloved 30-year employee, gave us yet another perspective into the process.

Our parting gift? We hand-pressed and glazed our own coasters. #FullCircle.

All photos by Laura Martin Bovard unless otherwise noted.

A version of this article appeared in the Piedmont Post