A stylish secret

FREMANTLE artists Gabby Howlett and Penny Bovell will bring a little-known aspect of the city’s Italian culture and heritage to this year’s Fremantle Festival thanks to the discovery of some uniquely crafted tiles. 

Giuseppe Scolaro immigrated to Fremantle with his family from Capo d’Orlando, Italy, in 1949 hoping to set up a brick-making business. 

But with big manufacturers having the market stitched-up, he turned to terrazzo style tiles, establishing The Universal Terrazzo Tile Factory on Blinco Street, Fremantle.

Mr Scolaro was not a tiler but his skills as an engineer and his innovative use of both recycled materials and pigments of cement brought from Italy, led him to create beautiful designs that Ms Bovell says are unique and dotted around the city.

She became interested after seeing some of his tiles at a home open eight years ago. 

• Gabby Howlett and her son at her mum’s home with Giuseppe Scolaro’s unique terrazzo floors.


She loved the place so much she bought it, later discovering it had been the Scolaro family’s home.

Two years ago she started delving into his history, but discovered little documentation had been kept, though she’s been able to source one of the original moulds he used.

Ms Bovell said the craftsmanship and significance of his Italian origins was a “story worth telling” as they were now a part of Fremantle’s ‘Fediterranean’ architecture and story.

The factory produced tiles from the 1950s-1970s, though Mr Scolaro died when he was just 54 and his wife Anna carried on the business for the next decade.

Ms Howlett and Ms Bovell have already discovered about 50 Fremantle homes with the Scolaro tiles, but they believe there may be more than 100. 

Ms Bovell said people often discovered the tiles when ripping up old carpets or lino. Ms Howlett said they were invited to take part in this year’s festival when word of their research found its way to Freo council.

“For it, we hope to share the beautiful tiles with everyone, a bit about why they are so special and a bit about the people who made them through an immersive installation, including kids activities and workshops,” Ms Howlett said. “It will be at the Moore’s Gallery in Henry Street during the duration of the festival.” The festival runs from July 9-19.


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