Whistling Frog Tile Company

A tradition in tile for over 30 years.

 Co-Owner and artist  Tonya Lutz  sculpts a new tile design by hand.

Co-Owner and artist Tonya Lutz sculpts a new tile design by hand.

studio tiles drying.jpg
studio sculpting.jpg

About Whistling Frog Tile Company:

Whistling Frog Tile Company is owned by artists Richard Pruckler & Tonya Lutz. Together, they run their local MI business and create all of the beautiful tiles available in their collection. Getting where they are today was a journey of creativity and teamwork, combined with a genuine love of what they do. Read on to learn about the journey of Whistling Frog Tile Company and how it came to be.

Whistling Frog Tile Company was founded over 30 years ago in 1987 by artist and ceramist Richard Pruckler. Creative and artistically inclined by nature, Rick was inspired to start Whistling Frog Tile Company after a lifelong love of the arts and extensive experience and personal involvement in the field of ceramics. Rick was involved in countless projects and installation pieces, as well as decades of instructing students in the art of ceramics. Additionally, Rick had the unique experience of hand-crafting the look and feel of the contemporary vase designs and glaze formulas used today by Pewabic Pottery in Detroit. After moving on from this and other endeavors, Rick knew he wanted to find a place where he could allow his creativity and expertise to evolve unhindered. Thus, Whistling Frog Tile Company was born.

With this new-found freedom to create, Rick’s designs came to life, incorporating elements of nature, traditional technique, and beautiful contrast. His architectural tile work was equally striking, utilizing techniques, custom glaze formulas, and unique design elements to create aesthetically beautiful spaces and inspire the senses.

In 2011, with almost 25 years of Whistling Frog history at the stern, Rick partnered with Tonya Lutz,  a graduate of Fine Arts at Wayne State University.  A talented sculptor, Tonya was just what the company needed to spur the next step in its artistic evolution. The addition of Tonya’s professionalism, talent, and original perspective allowed Whistling Frog Tile Company’s tile line to expand even further. Her business skills and perspective, Rick's experience, and their combined artistry revealed new opportunities and areas of growth for the business. Tonya introduced tile narratives featuring woodland creatures, cats, & dogs. The Destination tile series and the wildflowers continue to be a treasured endeavor for her.

Today, Rick and Tonya are a happy team of two artists who love what they do. For them, creating tile is more than a process; it’s a passion and a joy. They are the designers, sculptors and makers involved in every step of the process. Their hands are in the clay and their minds are in the process from start to finish. Rick’s extensive experience formulating custom glazes creates a one-of-a-kind color palette featuring fresh, bright, beautiful colors and finishes that can’t be found or replicated anywhere else. Additionally, all clay and glazes are crafted using sustainable practices. Even packing supplies are up-cycled for minimal environmental impact, and as much surplus clay and water as possible are conserved and recycled. Every handcrafted item is made locally at the Whistling Frog Tile Company studio in Ferndale, Michigan. Ferndale is a wonderful, caring, festive, and vibrant little community hugging the border of Detroit. Housed in their cozy 1927 private home, the studio is humming with life and creativity. Charming ceramic decor, tiles and architectural elements give the home and studio a welcoming and comforting feel. Rick & Tonya’s backyard chickens can be found scratching and pecking happily by the garden or roosting in their cozy handmade coop. Truly, it is a place full of life and creativity!

Rick and Tonya value promoting appreciation and awareness for the environment, native wildflowers and plants, endangered species, historical places, communities and more through their unique designs. By celebrating and elevating their subject’s importance through art, Rick and Tonya create pieces with meaning and vitality. This level of passion and dedication provides the essence that goes into each of Whistling Frog Tile Company’s beautiful handmade items.

Whistling Frog Tile Company: The Story Behind The Name

The year was 1998, and Richard Pruckler found himself on a beautiful beach in Bermuda. As he sat, marveling at the wonder of nature surrounding him and filling the senses, he contemplated what to name his tile company. He had many ideas, but what could convey the essence of the process, designs, unique glaze colors, and even the clay he so enjoyed creating by hand in his studio? The gentle beach breeze made the process enjoyable over the songs of local wildlife, but he simply couldn’t think of a name that really rang true.

Rick had already started making some tile under the name ‘Tapas’ pottery. He had originally chosen this name because of it’s East Indian roots and literal translation: ‘fire of transformation’, but somehow it wasn’t quite right. He noted that Spanish cuisine was becoming quite popular during the then ‘90’s, and knew the more widely known translation of the word was ‘small Spanish savory dishes, typically served with drinks at a bar.’ So, Rick watched the waves roll in and away again, knowing the name ‘Tapas’ would do the same. Additionally, the ‘fire of transformation’ referred to by the East Indians was supposed to be a spiritual transformation. A tall and rather unwieldy order to fill in a process he really hoped would be more like a song.

The sun was setting, and the sounds of the local wildlife became evermore vibrant.  As the sun descended and a fiery sunset crept across the sky, Rick considered the name ‘Burnt Clay’, but it wasn’t right.  Try as he might to concentrate, the darkened trees were now completely alive with the calls of the wildlife, and it was almost impossible not to be drawn into their almost overwhelming resonance. Late ‘80’s terms kept bubbling up, vying for the opportunity. ‘Rampant Tile’? ‘Emerge Tile’? What were these names even saying? And what creature could possibly be creating the sound now completely permeating the tropical night?

A local Bermudan had come out to enjoy the sights and sounds of the evening beach.  He called out into the twilight, “Whistling frogs… they're okay!” Whistling Frogs, of course! What other than multitudes of tiny Whistling Frogs could create such a sound cascading from the treetops?  Satisfied, Rick sat calmly enjoying the beautiful night. And with the songs of frogs, 'Whistling Frog Tile' came to be.

 BErMUDA Sunset

BErMUDA Sunset

 Lesser Antillean Whistling Frog  (Source: http://www.dcnanature.org)

Lesser Antillean Whistling Frog (Source: http://www.dcnanature.org)

 The Original Whistling Frog Logo, complete with hand drawn font by Artist and founder rick pruckler. This beautiful mark is our symbol of authenticity, hand-stamped on the back of each genuine whistling frog tile.

The Original Whistling Frog Logo, complete with hand drawn font by Artist and founder rick pruckler. This beautiful mark is our symbol of authenticity, hand-stamped on the back of each genuine whistling frog tile.