Thursday, August 12, 2010

Encaustic Tile

Recently, archaeologist Hernan Bustelo wrote to me to share some images of encaustic tiles he came across in St. Croix. Hernan is a tile enthusiast and co-author of Puerto Rico Tile Design, so he knows a great deal about tile. 

"I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to clarify the cement vs. encaustic thing," said Hernan. "Here are some pictures I made on the Island of St. Croix were you can clearly see the two types of clay, or slip, used to create the pattern in old encaustic tiles."
This gallery is in the Lutheran Parsonage, originally a single family home. The building is from the mid-18th century and the tiles could be that old as well. 

Here's a close up of some of the more intact encaustic tiles and the lovely pattern:

Here's an example of the more worn tiles:
You can see where the darker clay has deteriorated. Imagine how many feet have walked over these tiles in the past 250 years! Also, I'm curious as to whether these tiles were manufactured in the Caribbean or were carried over from Europe as ballast.

Thank you for the great images, Hernan. It's so interesting to see these beautiful remnants of an earlier (yet still relevant) design sensibility.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Geometric Tiles

I've written about Kale before. Several years ago, this Turkish company started creating very innovative tile designs and they've been impressing me ever since.  

That's me in the robe. (Kidding!)

 Kalebodur’s Cube & Dot Collections is designed by Tamer Nakışçı.

What do you think?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Difference between Encaustic and Cement

Last week I had a little rant on Twitter. It made me feel better, so I decided to devote a whole blog post to the topic.

Maybe it's something about having degrees in writing and literature makes me a little persnickety about words and their meanings. I dunno. Everyone makes mistakes, especially me, but I'm not talking about accidental errors. What I'm getting irritated about is when someone calls something by the wrong name--on purpose. Things have names for a reason.

So, here it is, the scandal that I just can't keep quiet about any longer... Encaustic tiles and cement tiles are not the same thing! Yet, I keep seeing the very people who make and sell cement tile calling it "encaustic" tile. Of course, I know (and adore) many of the people who do this, so I hope I'm not stepping on any toes. Here's the deal:

Encaustic Tile
Briefly, encaustics are made of two or more colors of clay which are inlaid together making a pattern, then fired, sometimes more than once. This type of tile making has been around for hundreds of years and was popular during the Renaissance. Minton tile is a more recent type of encaustic tile. 

Here's a picture of the slip being poured into the tile:

     Photo by H & R Johnson Tiles

Cement Tile
With cement tiles, on the other hand, the color comes from mineral pigments which are set into a mold at the beginning of the process. The cement is poured on top, then the tile is hydraulically pressed and the tile is cured for about 3 weeks or so. This method was developed in the mid-19th century.

Avente Tile has a video on YouTube showing how cement tile is made, with the pigment being first poured into the mold and then the cement going on top. Avente Tile's video of cement tile manufacturing process.

Both cement tiles and encaustic tiles are usually patterned and unglazed--perhaps that's where the confusion arises? Either way, cement tiles are a perfectly lovely art form that don't need to borrow a name to make them sound fancier.

Whew! I feel better now.

For more info: 
Website describing encaustic tile history and manufacturing process.
National Park Service site on preserving encaustic tiles
The very excellent Villa Lagoon tile has a whole section on cement tile in the media including a link to an article I wrote on the subject. 
Not that I'm selling anything, but here's a whole Book on Cement Tile (which I edited.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Creative Reuse

Well, I'm only partially recovered from last week's tile and stone extravaganza. With hundreds of tile manufactures to visit, Coverings is always overwhelming. It usually takes me a few days to process all that I've seen (and for my feet to stop hurting). I'm going to post a few of my favorite finds over the next few days.

One product that stood out was this re purposed antique tile from LTS Ceramics in West Palm Beach. They actually take the old tile and slice it to make thin pieces and then create mosaics using the fronts and backs of the tile. They also mix in stone, too. The results are beautiful and unique.

Depending on the tiles used and the patterns created, the mosaics are vastly different in tone. One is classical, one whimsical, one artistic.

I suppose this product could be considered the ultimate in recycling.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Coverings 2010

Coverings will be opening shortly and I'll be there, scouting all the newest and coolest tiles. Check back in a couple of days for updates on all the trends!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Porcelain that looks like concrete

Inalco, a tile of Spain branded manufacturer, has just released their "Sensations" collection. Among the new releases is "Concrete" which uses "environmental materials in their purest state," according the the press release.  I'm not sure what that means, but it sounds good. This large format tile is 23.6" x 23.6" and comes in neutrals, grey and white (shown here.)

Obviously, this is a gorgeous installation. I'm wondering though, what do you think about using a high-tech product to replicate a low-tech one?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tile as wallpaper - part 2

Here's another interesting use of cement tile on walls. Sure, it's busy, but the colors are beautiful and in this powder room, the pattern really pops. This line is from the Cuban Heritage Collection by Aguayo Tile. (Thanks to Alexandra for sending in the image.)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What not to do

Recently, a tile company sent me this image of their tile, hoping that I might promote it in one of my articles or perhaps even on this blog.  In any given week, I might get dozens of press releases, and I always enjoy seeing what's new in tile.

This image however, is the perfect example of what not to do. The decorative pieces aren't horrible, I don't love the field tile, but the installation--shudder! Would it really have been so difficult to drop the center panel a couple of inches?

Last month, I was asked in an interview to give one piece of advice to someone tiling their home. I said, "Hire a qualified installer!" Here is the perfect example of why that is so important.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tile as wallpaper

Tile somewhere other than in the kitchen, laundry room or bathroom--this is a trend I see repeatedly at tile shows, in catalogues and in showrooms.

The idea of tiling non-traditional rooms is interesting because I don’t see it much in North America, and in my work, I go into a lot of well-designed homes. So, is tiling the bedroom, living room, etc, really wildly popular elsewhere? I don't know. Then again, I don’t know why not, because it is hard to imagine anything more elegant than a wall-sized mural of the most gorgeous tile you’ve ever seen. Think of New Ravenna Mosaics and it's hard to conceive of a place you wouldn't want it.

Many Italian glass tile companies show exotic, erotic or exquisite tile murals. (But sheesh--have you seen the ads? You'd think they were marketing to strip club owners.) Those tile patterns are stunning, but personally, I wonder if I’d want to change that out after a while.

The idea of tile wallpaper—a luxurious, repeating pattern—seems more manageable. Several glass mosaics companies have classic tile patterns I could imagine in a dining room wall above the chair rail, or something romantic--but not clichéd-- for the wall behind the headboard in the bedroom. 

There's Bisazza and Sicis, with their stunning murals, of course. Previously, I've written about the classic Mosaico Italiano stone mosaics. Also, Hakatai and the Canadian company Interstyle, both of which have beautiful glass tile. Oceanside has very unique and lovely glass tile and mosaic lines.

Trend USA is a glass mosaic company with an interesting line called Wallpaper. It was hard to narrow down the selection because there are dozens of designs, but the black and white patterns are very striking. When I saw these photos, I really started thinking about mosaics that really were never meant for a kitchen backsplash.

This organic vine pattern seen above and at right is called "Glorious 3" and the zebra design below is appropriately called "Wild 3". Pretty groovy, I'd say.

Images courtesy of Trend USA.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Art Tile

Is all handmade tile Art Tile?

There could be justification to say that it is, I suppose. Made-by-hand, artisan designed...Yes, I get it. Tile manufacturers are highly skilled craftspeople, and there are lots of beautiful handmade tiles, for sure.

Earlier this week I had a phone interview with Southern Maryland artist, Parran Collery who was both charming and articulate. She told me about her inspiration from nature and how she designed her own unique glazes.

As you can see from the photo, her Eartha Handmade Tiles are eye-candy, and absolutely gorgeous. These tiles are art for the walls, so I don't think there's any question that this handmade tile is Art Tile.

What do you think defines Art Tile?