Puerto Rico Tile Designs--book and CDby Mario Arturo Hernandez Navarro and Hernan Bustelo Moran. The newest in this series of books about Mosaico Hidraulico tiles around the world is available. While the images it contains do not seem to me to be significantly different from the previous books (The author states that the P.R. tile companies often copied tile from Spain,etc) the text (in five languages) is really interesting. Before I read this, I had always thought that the basic process of this kind of tile was begun in France. But these authors may have dug up some new information. They say the technique is based on the banchetto method which originated in Italy in the 12th century making tiles to simulate marble. Buy this book to read more of the details of the history of hydraulic cement tile. About 159 vivid tile images on the included CD as well as in the book which also contains photos of cement tile floors in Puerto Rico and informative text. In Puerto Rico these tiles go by several names including criolla, losa nativa, losa isleño. Click to see large image of book cover. Click book cover, this page, for Amazon listing.
Barcelona Tile Designs--book and CD by Mario Arturo Hernandez Navarro . Portarricense graphic designer, trained in the USA, a researcher of the hydraulic design of pavements. A fabulous little book, full of graphic representations of mosaicos hidralico tiles and floor layouts. Comes with a CD. Walk into a bar or restaurant in Barcelona and chances are that you will enounter a beautiful tile pattern on the floor. In the late 19th century, mass reproduction of intricately designed floor tiles became possible, and they became a common feature in the interiors of buildings in cities all around the Mediterranean. In Barcelona, the design of such tiles reached its peak in the age of 'Modernismo', the Spanish variety of Art Nouveau, in the early 20th century. Barcelona Tile Designs features a colorful collection of carefully restored and digitized designs. Both single tiles and whole patterns and borders are shown, and the tiles on the CD make it possible to create designs in any shape and size. A great resource for design professionals and hobbyists alike. Click book cover for more info.
Havana Tile Design-- book and CD-by Mario Arturo Hernandez Navarro, for graphic artists and researchers. Similar to above book. Bold, colourful tiles from the early 20th century still decorate homes and public buildings throughout Cuba. Havana Tile Designs contains many stunning examples of these tiles, carefully digitised and included on the enclosed CD-Rom for use as a graphic resource or for inspiration. Agile Rabbit Editions contain stunning images for use as a graphic resource, or inspiration. All the illustrations are stored in high-resolution format on the enclosed free CD-ROM and are ready to use for professional quality printed media and web page design. The pictures can also be used to produce postcards, or to decorate your letters, flyers, etc. They can be imported directly from the CD into most design, image-manipulation, illustration, word-processing and e-mail programs; no installation is required. For most applications, single images can be used free of charge. Please consult our section on image rights for conditions. Click book cover for more info.
We received this kind note from Mario Arturo Hernandez Navarro, May 2008,
I just want to thank you for you web page. I am the author of Barcelona Tile Designs and Havana Tile Designs and it was a big thrill to do a Google search on tiles and find your page and with my books in it. Your page is an excellent source for further research.
Thanks a lot again!
Two more great books from the same publisher:
Tile Designs from Portugal/Desenhos Em Azulejos De Portugal--This wonderful book and CD has hundreds of examples of the tile of Portugal. Many of them are simple designs compared to the above books, and many are in blue and white. Click book cover for more info.
Cement Tile: Evolution of an art form--This beautifully illustrated book by Jorge Aguayo explores the evolution of cement tile as a unique floor and wall covering. Information from cement tile's invention during the end of the 19th Century in Europe to its popularization in Northern Africa, the Americas and Asia. Follow its many transformations, from a canvas in the hands Modernist architects such as Antoni Gaudi, to an element of contemporary design. See how each tile is individually made by artisans in over 15 different countries and learn how to install and care for them. Click book cover for more info.
Some say that in Europe, the first hydraulic presses for making encaustic cement tiles were installed close to 1850 at Viviers on the embankments of the Rhône, alongside the first cement works in France. I read that "from there, the outstanding durability and esthetics of this new floor covering led to rapid development from Lyon to Marseilles where workshops were set up everywhere".
The unusual pictorial book, Barcelona Tile Designs says that the first reference to encaustic cement tile is from the factory Butsems i Companyia in 1857. At the 1867 Paris Universal Exposition hydraulic (encaustic cement tiles) tiles were exhibited by Garret, Rivet i Compania of Barcelona. Later, Orsola, Sola y Compania popularized the encaustic cement tile in Barcelona. They had more modern machinery and the capacity for mass production. Another company was established in 1886, Escofet, Fortuny i Companyia, which was known for its innovative Art Nouveau styled designs. This company had rapid expansion throughout Spain and Latin America.
See some excellent Spanish video of making cement tiles here.
Even though 'mosaicos hidralico' as they are known in many places have been and are still used extensively all over the world, in the U.S.A. they are relatively unknown. Even the recent comprehensive books on tile totally ignore this entire category. The only decor books that seem to acknowledge the encaustic cement tile are pictorial books about Havana, Cuba, other Latin countries, ... and the architecture of Europe.
India has a region that is famous for this type of floor tile. Since the manufacturing of the encaustic cement tile does not require fueled heat, as the firing of a ceramic or porcelain tile does, it is possible for tile-making to be located in remote and rustic areas . Occasionally you see the tiles referred to as 'rusticos'. In the Miami area our tiles are called "Cuban Tile". And in Cuba known as Cuban mortar tiles and losa hidraulica, and losatea hidraulicos. The first cement tiles in Cuba were imported from Spain. Cuba may have been the second coutry in Latin America to start making mosaicos hidraulicos following Mexico. The first documented Cuban tile factory was in 1886.
In Italy this type of tile seems to be referred to as pavimenti in graniglia even tho this term also applies to some terrazzo like tiles. Also in Italy I see encaustic cement tile called Cementine altho the word in not in broad usage perhaps and Pastina or Pasta Tiles. To the Manilans this type of tile is known as Malaga, and called simply cement tile (carrelages du ciment) in France and Belgium. Cement tile are also referenced as rajola hidràulica in parts of Spain..., baldosa hidráulica in other parts.
Until the 1920's, colorful mosaico encaustic tiles were considered high-end ultimate flooring that decorated the palaces of the Tsars, the mansions of the Côte d'Azure, Gaudi's Barcelona and Berlin's official buildings. Later on, the encaustic cement tile expanded as a creative and durable flooring all over Europe, and the French, Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Around the 1950's the mosaic hydraulic lost importance and was replaced by less labor intensive, and less colorful floors. The beginning of this century, the trend for authentic products and 'green' flooring has brought attention back to the encaustic cement tile. Recent storms along the Gulf Coast have raised awareness of durable, waterproof architecture. We hope to spread the word. We have first hand knowledge of the need for sensible flooring along coastal U.S. Additionally, this type of tile flooring is perfect for high traffic areas and any place where discriminating people gather.
It has never been possible to create an industrialized product that can substitute this handmade tile. The variety of colors, the matt finish and the soft silky texture are characteristics that make this tile absolutely unique. It is very important to note that no two tiles are exactly alike.
Encaustic cement is flooring with character, of great quality, outstanding for its clear, bright finishes, excellent ageing process, elegance and nobility.
Check these antique tiles from Imelda's Blog from Singapore . According to the home owner, the tiles were already there when her father was born in 1922. She was told that the tiles have been there since late 1800s. Look at the sheen and the brilliant colors.
See the Mosaicos de Pasta of this Mexican Hotel...Casa Mexilio
Yucatecan, Mexico, Central America...Of French and Spanish origin, mosaicos de pasta – the highly decorative tiles that cover the floors of haciendas, colonial mansions in Mérida’s Colonia Centro and old factory rooms alike – were originally brought to Yucatán as ship ballast.These tiles (also known to local masons as ladrillos) are made of colored cement, formed in molds that resemble cookie cutters, and then dried – they are not fired. Once laid, they are polished to a gleaming brilliance. Since cement has always been plentiful in Yucatán – and fine clays rare – the tiles became the sine que non for all buildings of importance during three centuries. At the turn of the 20th century, a Yucatecan entrepreneur named Rafael Quintero established the region’s first factory for producing pasta tiles. His legacy continues in operation at Materiales Traqui in the tiny pueblo of Ucu.
Nowadays produced primarily in Latin America and Morocco, the tile is such a popular export item for use in Craftsman and Spanish Revival homes in southern California and European style homes everywhere. (adapted from http://www.worldstudiointernational.com)
The tile maker creates a three part layered stack in a (usually) square mold. A sectioned pattern die is placed in the bottom of the open mold. Manufacturers put the color in the various sections first and them back the tile with other layers of cement products. The liquid color material is composed of ground marble dust, fine white Portland cement, and natural earth pigment. The stacked concrete tile layers are pressed using a hydraulic press and then removed from the mold. Generally the biscuit-like tiles are placed in a rack and submerged in water to allow the correct moisture necessary for the chemical reaction in concrete. The tiles are removed from the water, allowed to dry and stacked and allowed to age for some period of time for curing to achieve adequate hardness before shipment.
The end result is a tile that is about 5/8ths inch thick and quite heavy. The top side is the mosaic type design and backing that layer is a grey concrete layer for strength.
The design layer is about ¼" thick, giving the tile a great surface life, able to withstand all weather conditions and decades of traffic. Encaustic cement tiles can be found in many historic homes and public buildings throughout the world. Traditional cement tile is often used as ornamental motifs similar to carpets, bordered rubs, tapestries or mosaics.
A very nice French web page gives (in English) the history of the kiln-fired ceramic encaustic tile as well as info on carreaux de ciments tiles, the cement encaustic tiles, similar to our tiles. The Antique Floor Company.
Many terms are used to refer to what we generally call Encaustic Cement Tile: Cement Tiles also called Cement Tiles, Hydraulic Floor Tile, Encaustic Tiles, Hidraulico, Hydraulic Tiles, Ladrilhos Hidráulicos, Carreaux de Ciments, Spanish Mission Tiles, Redondo Tile, Rajoles Hidràuliques, Baldosas Hidráulicas, Pasta Potosi, Mosaicos Hidralicos, also occasionally called incrusted motif tiles.
The best discussion of what "Encaustic" tiles are and how they have been made over time is on the Stoke-on-Trent Museum website. The article is about ceramic tile (unlike our cement tile) but tells about the term "encaustic" which has a lot of confusion associated with it. I am including it here as many people reach this page whilst doing research on encaustic tiles.
Encaustic: A clay pattern was embedded into the body of the tile, the two sections fusing during firing.
Medieval tile making
Tile making was associated with monasteries and palaces, the large buildings of their time. Potters travelled around the country using local clays and firing them on site. The tiles were hand made, by flattening the clay and cutting pieces into shape. The only mechanical aid was a wooden mould carved in relief, which indented a pattern on the clay slab. The slab would be dried and the impression filed with white pipe clay. After further drying this would be shaved flat.
A glaze of lead ore was sprinkled onto the surface and the tiles were then fired. These 'encaustic' or inlaid tiles were made from the 12th to 16th centuries. This skill disppeared with the dissolution of the monasteries, and was not revived until the mid-19th century.
Making encaustic tiles - dust clay
In 1863 William Boulton patented a method of making encaustic tiles using dust clay. The patterned part of the tile was formed using one or more copper plates which were perforated to the required design. Guide pegs located the plate on the bed of the press and the hollows in the mould were filled with dust clay.
A die whose relief pattern corresponded to that of the plate was used to compress the clay, a ram coming down in such a way that the plate was removed as it returned. The frame was filled with more clay of a different colour that would form the body. As this was compacted, the inlaid section was bedded into the face of the tile. This method increase speed of production and so a cheaper tile was available to a wider market. The dust pressed process never ousted the plastic clay method, and the two ran side by side.
Encaustic tile revival
Archaeological excavations of medieval sites aroused much interest in encaustic tile making. Herbert Minton began experimenting in 1828, and in 1830 bought a half share in Samuel Wright's patent for the production of encaustic tiles. It was several more years before their results were reliable, and a catalogue was issued in 1835 containing designs based on medieval originals.
Very soon he was receiving commissions from churches to lay encaustic tile pavements, and success was guaranteed when he found the patronage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert making a pavement for Osbourne House. The fashion for encaustic tiles spread with the Gothic Revival lead by Augustus Pugin who was a friend of Herbert Minton.
Encaustic tile making was the greatest stimulus to the development of the Staffordshire tile making industry in the nineteenth century. The district was a natural centre as clay and coal were available, and a skilled workforce to call on because of the established pottery industry.
Making encaustic tiles - plastic clay
The mixture for the tile body might contain red clay or ball clay, china clay and flint. Chemicals were added to produce the different colours. Water was added to form a slip (liquid clay) which was sieved. The clay was dried on plaster bats, which absorbed the water to bring it to a plastic state.
A pug mill then tempered the clay (formed a compact mass with no air bubbles.) The tile was formed in a metal frame, the relief pattern that formed the indentation in the bottom. The clay was added in a sandwich fashion: firstly a quarter inch of fine clay; a thick coarse clay layer; then a quarter inch of fine clay. This method prevented warping, and gave a fine clay surface while the body was robust. A plate was placed over the frame and the layers pressed together.
The tile was allowed to dry, then slip was poured onto the surface filling the indented pattern. After three days, drying the surface was scraped to reveal the design and after further drying they were fired. This process was manual except for the few machines that prepared the clay.
Making wall tiles
In 1840 Richard Prosser patented a process for making clay buttons from dust clay. Herbert Minton was quick to realise that this process could be converted to make ceramic tiles, and he bought a share in the patent. The wall tiles were different from the encaustic in that they were lighter and had a larger proportion of calcined flint to produce a white body and usually a surface glaze decoration. The clay was cleaned and dried in heated troughs.
It was important to get the right water content, as the clay felt dry - hence 'dust clay'. After leaving the drying beds, the clay was ground to a fine dust that had natural cohesion when under pressure, and could be handled without further drying. If a tile had a surface pattern a die was placed into the tile press. The presser wiped the plates of his press with a greasy rag, filled the mould with dust clay and scraped the surface level. He lowered the press by turning a large horizontal wheel at the top, this exerted enormous pressure on the face of the tile and thus compacted it. The tile was forced out of the press by a foot pedal.
This method changed little throughout the 19th century except for the invention of the steam driven press first used by Maws in 1873.
Benedicte Bodard collects hydraulic tiles from dumpsters of apts being remodeled. She gives them a new life, a second chance as elegant table tops. See them at her blog: mesabonita.blogspot.com
A large collection of photos of concrete tile floors, see as a cement tile floor slideshow.
A discussion & photos: http://www.flickr.com/groups/mosaico_hidraulico/discuss/72157603679516312/
Photos on Flicker http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosapomar/sets/72157603593890933/
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We are finding that people allover the globe are finding our website and learning about the classic art of cement tiles. This has been so exciting to us to reach out to people everywhere that are so excited to discover that this wonderful flooring is still available.