meet the makers | Apr 14, 2022 |
This designer’s imaginative mosaic motifs moonlight as works of art

Cean Irminger is on a mission to bring a little levity to stony surfaces. As the creative director of New Ravenna, she believes that mosaics can infuse art and personality into a space without ever sacrificing an inch of functionality. “Folks tend to think mosaics should be classic, neutral and low-key, and they often save bold patterns and fun motifs for textiles,” she tells Business of Home. “I want to teach people to embrace the ability of mosaics to capture whatever brings them joy and make it a permanent part of their environment.”

This designer’s imaginative mosaic motifs moonlight as works of art
Cean Irminger with the To Dye For mosaic by New RavennaCourtesy of New Ravenna

Growing up on the eastern shore of Virginia, about 10 minutes from New Ravenna’s headquarters in Exmore, Irminger fell in love with art at a young age. “I was a homebody and an avid doodler,” she says. “It was always my dream to settle here and find a way to turn my passion for art into a career.”

After graduating with a fine arts degree with a focus on painting and drawing from Virginia’s James Madison University, Irminger moved back home with faint hopes of landing an art-related gig. As luck would have it, she was approached by New Ravenna founder Sara Baldwin after leaving one of her doodles behind on a chalkboard at a local bar. “We quickly discovered we had the same goals and aspirations,” says Irminger. “She, too, had come back to our rural community to make something meaningful with art.”

This designer’s imaginative mosaic motifs moonlight as works of art
Irminger at work on New Ravenna’s Granny Squares mosaic.Courtesy of New Ravenna

In 2000, having never made a mosaic before in her life, Irminger was hired to work on the production floor of the brand’s studio. “I learned everything about the craft, and about design in general,” she says. “I can’t imagine a better education.”

After 17 years of working various positions at the company, she was made creative director of New Ravenna. “My job has many facets, beginning with creating a storyline for a collection all the way through designing the patterns and prototypes and picking the finishes.”

Irminger’s debut collection, a line of seven whimsical, jewel-toned patterns called Kiddo, was the brand’s first foray into designing for children—and another dream come true for her. “I wanted to inject my love of color, animals and illustration into mosaics, while still connecting those elements to elegant classic motifs,” says Irminger. “To do this, I created a framework based on design standards like damasks, tumbling blocks, basket weaves, subway tiles and wallpaper murals, then went wild popping playful critters into the patterns.”

All of Irminger’s mosaics begin as sketches on paper, which are then turned into repeat patterns and manipulated in scale before being transformed into handcut stone and glass tiles that, depending on their composition, can be installed indoors or out, on floors or walls. “Mosaics are the ultimate art discipline in which form and function are equally important,” she says. “We’re always thinking about what materials are durable and how grout seams and color will affect the look and usability of a piece.”

This designer’s imaginative mosaic motifs moonlight as works of art
The Subway mosaic by New Ravenna.Courtesy of New Ravenna

In February, Irminger unveiled Heyday, the third edition of its Kiddo line. The characterful assortment spans 11 handcrafted mosaics with free-spirited motifs, including a kaleidoscopic butterfly pattern and a rainbow-colored tie-dye-like design. “I’m happy to report there is a place in our industry for intentionally joyous tiles,” she says. “It turns out nobody buys these patterns for their kids—they buy them for themselves!”

Currently, Irminger is hard at work on the launch of the brand’s spring collection, which draws inspiration from the natural world and, more specifically, the ways color can impact our perception of pattern. “New Ravenna is also celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, and we plan to invite some of our favorite guest designers and people from our past to design and celebrate together,” she says. “Look for some gorgeous new mosaic collaborations in the fall.”

If you want to learn more about Cean Irminger and New Ravenna, visit the brand’s website or follow her on Instagram.

Homepage photo: Cean Irminger with New Ravenna’s Phase to Phase mosaic. | Courtesy of New Ravenna

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