The Why Behind Our Design Studio

The Why Behind Our Design Studio

2020 proved to be a defining year for Mercury Mosaics, one where we were either going to sink or swim. Swimming requires nimble coordination of the body’s limbs, and the same goes for an organization like ours. To move forward, we needed every team and every teammate aligned with purpose.

We challenged ourselves to step up, to reflect on what mattered most, and used our shared values to become an intentional, cohesive team. We entered the year as several islands operating with bouts of harmony and disharmony, working on halfway dreamt-up, partially-started and confusing internal goals. By the end, Mercury Mosaics was an unified team poised to get to work on a strategic plan with a shared vision to guide us into the future.

And that future involves a gorgeous new design studio.

Mercedes Austin is a mosaic artist and founder of Mercury MosaicsMercedes Austin is a mosaic artist and founder of Mercury Mosaics

Outgrowing Our Current Headquarters

Sustaining the company during a pandemic forced us to reinvent our work life as we knew it. That challenge actually empowered us to rebuild a better business––one that fosters our community and allows us to be much more cohesive. Based on the synergy we’ve created internally, we’ve outgrown our current headquarters nestled in the center of the Thorp Building - we’re no longer able to keep everything we do under one roof. This drove the decision to retire our mosaic classes and fueled the vision for the new Design Studio. 

The Studio will be a space for our Communications, Creative & Growth teams. These teams have been working together since March 2020. In that time, our Make team has fully taken over our glorious headquarters. If you’ve been following along, this article gives you some insight on the pivot. The priority is to maintain a sense of safety for them. It became clear to me that a strategic move would be to plan where my administrative teams would come back to work, and how we would do it in a way that carried forward the safety, wellness, and inspiration we received from our current HQ.

handmade tile now in the Thorp Building

Thorp Building, est. 1902

A Vision for the Space

This space will embrace the future of flexible working. It will support collaboration between teams at Mercury Mosaics as a model to promote working together in harmony. I wanted my Make team to be able to blast music during the week without worrying about important client meetings. Loud noises for various forms of manufacturing should happen freely, without concern for in-progress conference calls. 

With the Make team taken care of, we determined the priorities for the new Design Studio:

-Designated wellness space

-Conference room for team collaborations

-Office space with plenty of natural light

-Showroom space with easy street access

The Design Studio offers the work from home teams a choice. As a company, we’ll continue to embrace the hybrid work model. It’s important to be able to have the flexibility to work from home, while also providing a choice to come into the office & see your co-workers face-to-face. Just having the option to be around our handmade tiles in person is a game changer. As an artist at heart, working from home primarily over the last year has certainly taught me to appreciate the sheer beauty and nuances of our tile when experiencing it in person. Seeing it in its various forms when installed, in samples, and on concept boards breathes life into my existence. I cannot help but trust that it will also do the same for my team.

Making History While Honoring the Past

Our two spaces within the Thorp building will each have a conference room and flexible drop-in meeting spaces to create environments that naturally support creativity, thus being motivational spaces to support the pursuit of our vision.

The Design Studio is also located in the historic Thorp Building. It has a rich history in Minneapolis as an industrial powerhouse and symbol of American industriousness. Built in 1902, the Thorp Building was originally home to Thorp Doors, which made heavy-duty sliding metal-clad fire doors. During World War II, General Mills Mechanical Division occupied the building to secretly manufacture highly classified military equipment — namely the Norden Bomb Sight and the Ryan Listening Device, the predecessor to the Black Box. We’re repurposing the space with a very different intention!

The Design Studio represents the future of Mercury Mosaics. We are committing to being a mature, thriving, design-driven manufacturing company, and with that comes more intentionality with our teams and the spaces that surround them. The workplace environment is critical for employee performance. The physical aspects of a workplace environment have a direct impact on a team’s productivity, performance, health and safety, comfort, ability to concentrate, ability to collaborate, job satisfaction, and morale. This space is rolling out alongside living wage improvements. We are fueling our growth with direct investment in our most important resources: the team.

We're always organic textures and materials like wood panels and ceramic tiles, as seen in our current headquarter's entrance.

Within our Design Studio, a grand entrance will be created with a custom front desk combining antique elm and handcrafted geometric tile. The wood merging with tile patterns has become a signature in our headquarters. It emanates a welcoming visual statement. We’d like to echo this when you enter the Design Studio from the street.

A kitchenette will ground our showroom & flexible meeting space. Flexible is the key word here: We’ll need to adapt in order to thrive and survive this next chapter. The last year has certainly taught us the importance of this.

A wellness space with ample privacy will offer a little respite from the working environment, nurturing our team and reminding them that we advocate for pauses in the day and believe they aid productivity. 

A conference room  in a sunny, inspiring setting will set the tone for insightful work sessions to come, boosting collaboration between internal teams and making it easier to coordinate with external partners.

Finally, our largest office space to date, with a 19’ x 41’ footprint. We’re dreaming up the ideal flexible space, where we can nurture dedicated desk space for working in the office while also upholding the importance of working from home for part of the week. The concept is to have a seamless workforce that feels empowered to choose their location without constraints.

Partnering with Likeminded Brands

Mercury Mosaics has always been on the giving side of partnering with brands. In fact, this has been a solid part of our business plan since 2009… long before Instagram & Pinterest were born. We’d like to think of ourselves as old school, working on a one-to-one level and forming a relationship or some common ground. Frankly, in the long term, it's in our Mosaic blood to speak out and build our voice in the design community. So, we will continue to leverage our unique brand and authentic passion that goes beyond tile but is central to our craftsmanship and personal connections.

Tile cannot exist in a space without creating harmony alongside other elements and finishes. More often than not, our clients consult us about their space and seek our opinion, at times, on the blend of their material selections, whether or not they’re going for a custom designed tile look or choosing from our most popular tile

So here we are, on the other side of the table, leveraging both our internet footprint to bring this magical space to life through the power of our voice, and our eye to make a unique and stunning environment. That foundation will allow us to build new partnerships and grow our relationships with those we continue to cherish working with. 

When our aims are integrated with our culture and environment, everyone wins. Because of this, we’ve partnered with the magical Morgan of Construction 2 Style to show us how this is done in an intentional and authentic way. Our aim is to highlight local, minority and women-owned businesses as much as possible through this process. 

Pre-pandemic tile artistry in action.

Carrying a Business Through a Pandemic

I find it to be my personal responsibility to continuously breathe life into the company, shaping it in a way I’d want to be remembered for. Bringing a work culture and a manufacturing process to the industry in this fashion is my legacy, and I intend for this model to be around long after I am. I’m not interested in cutting corners. If I can continue to say that each month, and that in every quarter, and with each passing year, the team raised the bar. We persisted through the obstacles, remained empowered to be a part of the change of bringing new life to the realm of artisan manufacturing. If we can do that, then I’d know I did my part.

With this foundation in place we’re truly able to focus on our mission of… enhancing the world one handmade tile at a time.

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