At Mercury Mosaics it’s hip to be square

A Mercury Mosaics designer looks over samples.

They actually do make those little square tiles typical on floors for hundreds of years, but Mercury Mosaics pushes the edge of tile design with their distinctive, unusual shapes and freeform patterns.

Floors, walls, fireplaces, counters, shower surrounds, custom table tops and three-dimensional undulating storefronts have been covered with their tiles in the shapes of fish scales, honeycombs, diamonds, hourglasse, and floating bubbles. Even their subway tile is nontraditional with round holes punched out to accept inserted colored accents or a wavy top edge that allows for a confetti-like border. The options are endless!

Mercury Mosaics began in 2004 when studio owner Mercedes Austin’s business grew out of her apartment and reopened as Mercury Mosaics. Now she’s assisted by 20 “Tile Elves” who help make the nationally known indoor and outdoor tiles.

Several creative artisans work in the wide-open studio. Bags of clay are opened, rolled out flat, cut into shapes, stamped, dried, glazed and then baked in 2000-degree kilns.

Each job is unique and takes a variety of skills and talent to success. The artisans take pride in their work and must have a lot of fun, too, because even their job titles show a sense of whimsy: Glaze Goddess, Queen of the Kilns, Mayor of Sampletown, Creative Design Sidekick. Three official Studio Dogs patrol the workshop as security detail.

House Blends are favorite groupings of colors from the 135 glaze colors they have available. If that wasn’t enough choice, some glazes offer a thick, solid covering, while others are more transparent or include flecks of other colors or have a watercolor-like wash of two colors. Embossed textures in the tile surface such as stripes, swirls, pine needles, twigs and geometric patterns offer more options to make each project unique. There are vast choices to make, and it helps to have professional advice.

Mercury Mosaics works with designers or they can design for customers in-house. No job is too small. They also offer classes so people can experience the joy of tile work themselves.

Check their website at for upcoming classes. Looking for local gifts? Mercury Mosaics sells cute ceramic magnets in the shape of Minnesota.

An example of Mercury Mosaics' work at The Bachelor Farmer.
An example of Mercury Mosaics’ work at The Bachelor Farmer.

Located in the artist-filled Casket Arts building in Northeast Minneapolis (681 17th Ave. NE, #160), Mercury Mosaics is usually open by appointment only but will host visitors during Open Casket, the building’s annual fall open studios event: 5 p.m.–10 p.m. Oct. 7, noon–8 p.m. Oct. 8 and noon–5 p.m. Oct. 9.


Mercury Mosaics has made tile projects for Google, Starbucks and Warner Brothers, as well as for many local homes and restaurants. Here’s a partial list of public projects they’ve done in the metro area:


* Bachelor Farmer Cafe

* Whole Foods

* Barrio

* lululemon

* Marin

* Mojo Monkey Donuts

* People’s Organic


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LUNCH TIP: Stop in for a famous Northeast Minneapolis garlic roast beef sandwich at Mayslacks (1428 4th St. NE)