Ceramic Tiles from Spain, on the Rise

The International Ceramic Tile Fair, recently took place from Feb. 11-14 at the Feria Valencia center in Spain. Today, the tile industry in Spain is on a roll, with sales rising for a third consecutive year. The country is currently Europe’s leading ceramic tile producer, and the second largest exporter worldwide – including exports to the U.S that increased by 22 percent in 2013.  A+A recently interviewed Ana Martinez of the Spanish Tile Manufacturers’ Association about the phenomena, via email:

How far back does the industry go in Spain? What’s its original locale?

The origins stretch back hundreds of years. This is a natural material used in construction. In about 711 – during the Muslim period – ceramics became glazed and these spread throughout Europe – the first use of glazed ceramic in Europe was from Spain. The modern industry dates back to the early 20th century with the major centers being the Barcelona area for terra cotta and extruded tile and Valencia (Castellón) area for dry-press. Both of these locales remain the major centers today.

Why such rapid growth in recent years?

Sales have been steadily improving each year since the end of the worldwide recession. The Spanish sector as a whole has also been sharply focused on providing high-value, lower-cost solutions that appeal strongly to recovering markets. One of the key factors making this possible is the high quality local red clay, reducing supply chain costs.

Why is the U.S. market expanding so rapidly?

The U.S. market is recovering at a faster rate than the European markets. In addition, Spain is perfectly positioned to deliver high design and innovative products at an accessible price point for the market. Some of the major markets that were caught out of their refurbishment cycle by the recession were corporate tenant improvement and hospitality, forcing strong recovery in these sectors. Ceramics have become a go-to material choice for these projects due to their durability.

What are traditional designs of Spanish tiles known for?

Spain is known for its technology, design and innovation in the tile industry. There are such a wide range of styles and designs – there’s no one style today that we produce. Thin tile, natural looks in stone, wood and marble – just to name a few examples. Traditional hydraulic or encaustic styles – vintage looks – are experiencing a resurgence. These are probably the styles from the 19th century that are most attached to Spain and are quite popular now. Also terra cotta styles that are Mediterranean in appeal are becoming popular again. Finally, double-fired & beautifully glazed wall tile has been a specialty of Spain since the early 70’s which is again seeing a resurgence, especially in smaller formats.

Contemporary tiles?

Contemporary looks are most common in natural cement or stone looks in shades of grey. These are popular in Europe and in the U.S. market. Spanish manufacturers have created a new look this year in contemporary mixing multiple stone types together in one shade of inkjet decorated porcelain – creating a completely new stone-look style with even greater spontaneity than mother nature ever conceived.

What are the newest innovations?

We are seeing manufacturers developing whiter whites for marble tile looks; highly technical thin porcelain slab for counters and other non-traditional installations; incorporating titanium dioxide coatings for the self-cleaning and anti-microbial properties; and multiple mortar-less installation systems including laminate-style interlocking, raised access flooring and peel & stick solutions.

The biggest trends?

The Hydraulic or Encaustic looks from the 1900’s incorporating multiple patterns in the same collection; small format wall tiles especially in contemporary bevel formats; salvaged, weathered or “well-loved” looks in traditional materials like wood, cement or stone.

The best-known applications of tiles of Spain?

Among our favorites, we would list Park Güell of Gaudí, the Santa Caterina Market (Barcelona) Miralles Tagliabue, the Spanish Pavilion of Mangado at Universal Expo Zaragoza, and the Libeskind project in Dublin.

For more information, go to: http://www.tileofspainusa.com/.

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