professional attention to tile installations
Last week I found myself in Spain once again for another edition of the Tile of Spain press & architecture junket. I have to say that this is by far my favorite industry trip of the year. I love this country and never feel more alive than when I am immersed in the culture that creates my favorite ceramic products. There’s just something about being here, meeting the technicians & designers, speaking the language and walking the spotless factories that speaks to my soul.

The first couples days, as always, were spent in Castellón De La Plana with a visit to the Porcelanosa Grupo companies.  I arrived late last Thursday night after 2 planes and a train, equaling around 18 hours of travel, feeling like I was rolled hard and put away wet but ran directly into the purchasing contingent from Fontile (my former employer). How could I refuse to join them and their rep from Noken for dinner? A few cervesas & some delicious food at Plan B was enough for the un-knotting of my tired muscles that allowed me to sleep well and recharge my batteries for my visit the next day. 

My good friend Andy Pennington, the National Sales & Marketing Director for Porcelanosa USA was my gracious host once again this year. Whisking me through each of the eight company’s showrooms with their sales teams & technicians to get into the nitty-gritty of the new collections for the year. Amazingly, we managed to see it all in the one day I had even spending an hour with the senior product designer at the end of the day to rap about inspiration and future direction.

This addition to the trip is necessary since Porcelanosa hasn’t exhibited at Cevisama for years now and if I don’t see them, I am missing out on a key player from Tile of Spain for my Trends and other programs for the North American market at Coverings in April. Although the group is will be stopping at the main showroom from Grupo after visiting Vives’s factory, I am very happy to have spent a day on my own absorbing as much as possible.

I thought I’d give you all a sneak peek & share some of the pictures of my journey through the Porcelanosa world. You will just have to join me on the Tile of Spain pavilion at Coverings though for any of the details or explanation on the trends and innovation. Until then, enjoy the eye candy!

The next blog will delve into the amazing personalities & events that shared the rest of the trip with me. To those of you that I had the honor to get to know on this trip, you have my lifelong respect and admiration- it was a special group and my absolute pleasure to be your guide into my world of Spanish tile. 

Now... The eye-candy!
Just a select few of the drool-worthy novelties coming out of Porcelanosa Grupo companies this year... what do you think?
I know, I know... you are all salivating for more info from Cersaie 2011. It's still coming, I promise.

You will, I'm sure, forgive my delay in favor of this amazing Tile of Spain installation which debuted in Milan, Italy at the MADE Expo in October this year.

The inspiration for this exhibit was for it to physically project some of the prime foci of the ceramic tile sector in Spain to people moving through the space. In their own words, Here's how Tile of Spain describes the space:

“Fluidity: Ceramics, a material for the city of the future”
    "Today's global society requires a greater continuity between the public and     private, between indoor and outdoor spaces, from which new synergies arise, and lead to more dynamic urban spaces with a better relationship between cities and their inhabitants. Fluidity uses the characteristics of ceramics to respond to these needs, creating urban elements characterized by a double skin, in other words with an outer side, composed of elements that decontaminate the air, and an inner side consisting of extruded ceramic tubes. The floor is flexible, forming waves that move in synergy with the various layers of the skin. Walls, ceilings and floors interact with each other".
    “The public space of the future is varied, composed of elements which             interact with one another through the use of diverse materials and various building systems, leading to design projects with versatile functions".
Bird's eye rendering
Green Geometries Laboratory co-founder, José Ramón Tramoyeres was the architect-curator for this exhibit.

He and his firm are the same people responsible for last year's exhibit 'Vectorice' that debuted at the Bejing Architecture Biennial. The 'Vectorice' installation was the centerpiece of Cevisama 2011's Trans Hitos exhibit which can be seen in an older blog post HERE 

Architect's rendering of 'Fluidity'
Architect's rendering of 'Fluidity'
Architect's rendering of 'Fluidity'
The ceramics and mechanical installation systems were supplied by ASCER member manufacturers; Ceramica Mayor's- Tempio, Ceracasa Ceramica, Decorativa, Natucer and Tau Ceramica to collaboratively create a custom organic space that interacts with users and the surrounding environment in a beneficial way.

This one installation exhibits many of the strengths of the tile sector in Spain- first and foremost of which is unbridled creativity and the drive for rapid & intelligent innovations. Never liking to say no to a client; each of these factories, like most ASCER manufacturers, frequently work with architects on a project by project basis to collaborate on custom solutions.

The unique space employs ventilated facades with a unique glaze & surface texture that neutralizes NOx in the atmosphere (BionicTile); a raised flexible flooring installation (Tau's S3 Systems) & columnar extruded tile interior/exterior walls that even transition to benches (co-operative effort by Natucer's Life-Arq. and Tempio's custom installation framework) The custom molded ceramic benches outside of the super-structures propose a highly durable & hygienic custom solution for public areas.
If you missed the MADE expo this year- do not despair! Fluidity was built to last and will be seen in this year's incarnation of Trans Hitos at Cevisama this February. Yet another excuse to get yourself to Valencia to experience the fair first-hand. Make sure to contact us on Twitter at the fair!
One of my favorite parts of the Cevisama fair every year is the Trans Hitos exhibit in the center of the galleria at Feria Valencia.

Each year, multi-faceted teams of architects, designers, ceramicists, sociologists and marketing professionals collaborate to create unique spaces that showcase the power of ceramics in innovative ways. It is a feast for the eyes and imagination but also an embodiment of the indomitably creative spirit personified by the ceramic sector in Spain.

Each of the installations showcases multiple new technologies and innovative ways to utilize ceramics in our buildings, habitats and public spaces- Harnessing tile's power as both a functional and highly aesthetic medium. The theme this year was to fuse that duality of ceramic tile, utilizing the technical properties to create uniquely beautiful sustainable spaces- showcasing the limitless potential ceramics provide.
'Lovin' Green installation showcases new & old technology working together, providing a sustainable space where the boundary between Built & natural environment is blurred
Ceramics and re-purposed cardboard comprise the only inanimate materials in this space
Durable exterior furniture is created from Manufacturer defect tile, re-purposing the waste stream
'Re-Make' is a complete public space created from salvaged ceramic waste material
Flooring and furniture is created from cuts of ceramic tile on its side- Once again finding solutions for production waste
Incorporating a ventilated facade in a curved wall installation to highlight the aesthetic versatility of ceramics while showcasing a solution that can provide 18-30% energy reduction for a building
Each installation was so visually captivating I found myself spending over an hour of my limited free-time at the show learning about the creative process that instigated them. The depth of inspiration behind each exhibit was staggering. Each singular installation posed so many questions and challenges to the viewer you could feel the creative juices flowing through everyone in the space. As the center of the Fair, Trans Hitos was the main meeting  point, always full of people and buzzing with energy.
Some installations like 'Sound Field' took inspiration from natural environments. In this case, bull-rushes at the side of a lake
Each perspective in the space provided a unique multi-sensory experience
The gargantuan central exhibit 'Rice Field' was amazing
The graphic representation of a rice paddy was so good I almost expected to hear the hiss accompanying the breeze
Both a meeting point and pathway between the pavilions, everyone took note of this design
'Pixel 3' was a preposition for an exterior shelter for cars or people with personality
Reminded me of Space Invaders... I LOVED it!
The student project section was extremely interesting as usual. Some of the proposed projects and their materials have translated to actual new product by ASCER manufacturers. A symbiosis common in Spain, students provide new inspiration that is taken very seriously by the manufacturers. Some of the most innovative solutions and product has been inspired by student projects.
Unbridled imagination captivated passersby throughout the day
Got my juices going, I never fail to be inspired or challenged by Trans Hitos.

Why am I a lifelong ceramic tile nerd? Because of companies like Ceracasa. Not to leave out the many brilliant manufacturers out there- Don't worry you will all get your turn in the spotlight.

This industry, based on a natural 2000+ year old product has been in a constant state of progress for my entire life. The rules change every few years as the industry leaders from associations like ASCER (Tile of Spain, internationally) push the boundaries between the possible and previously impossible.

Thanks to another 'Reign in Spain' A&D press junket, including a visit to Cevisama I was introduced to another paradigm shifting innovation From Fran Raya at Ceracasa.

Custom installations can be created with Ceracasa;s EmoTile Digital glazing systems
Each of the innovations from Ceracasa follow a simple line of reasoning. It seems to me they must sit around brainstorming all the reasons someone may have for NOT selecting ceramic tile in a given space...

And then they figure out how to create a product that takes away that reason.

  • Designers didn't like the inability to create custom ceramics for corporate and even residential clients.
Enter- EmoTile: circa 2006 (digital glazing technology) which allows for any custom design to be glazed on a ceramic tile program. Prior to digital glazing, around 300,000 (or more) square feet had to be produced to justify a custom tile program's production.

BionicTile takes inspiration from a leaf's surface structure to harness the power of Titanium Dioxide within the glaze to purify air
  • Sustainable Design platforms maintain that our buildings were causing too much strain on our environment and their negative effects must be minimized

Enter- BionicTile: circa 2009 a material that traps greenhouse gasses in the glaze structure and through a chemical reaction between solar energy and titamium dioxide in the glaze- transforms those harmful compounds into benign nitrates.
Ecom4Tile demonstration setup at Ceracasa's booth
  • People have always complained tile is too cold to the touch so they don't use it for comfort reasons in many spaces.

Enter- Ecom4Tile: circa 2011. New for this year and garnering a coveted 'Alfa de Oro' for innovation, is Ceracasa's latest marvel. A new nano-technology material that stays at the same temperature as the ambient room temperature (the PCM's functioning range is between 18-22 degrees Centigrade)

This revolutionary product uses PCM's (phase changing materials) within the body to store and radiate heat energy.

These particles store latent energy and as they change state from solid to liquid they give off the surplus energy as heat. Creating a warm, comfortable surface to the touch.

Like Titanium Dioxide this is not a new idea, but it's application in ceramics is revolutionary. Think of the heat packets that you can buy to keep your digits warm when you're skiing these use PCM's to generate their heat-energy.

Ecom4tile is the very definition of value-added material. Not only is it warm to to touch , but that creature comfort translates to benjamins in your pocket too! The high thermal mass inherent to ceramic tile makes them a perfect heat-sink. No matter if you are heating or cooling a space the PCM's work with the thermal mass of the tile to keep the temperature even and comfortable, reducing the need of heat or AC.

Ceracasa's current test data is based on a benchmark of 1000sft of material and shows around 16% savings on energy consumption annually. As another added bonus this is not a finite number. The effect is cumulative, so the more of this product in a space, the better the energy savings become.

As with all leading manufacturers, Ceracasa is committed to bringing quality products to market only after extensive research and testing. So you must be a little patient as Ecom4Tile will not hit the market for another 6-12 months. But rest assured it is on the horizon with plans to introduce in the North American market too!

But what about the cost you say? Ecom4Tile is estimated to be a paltry 15-20% more expensive than Ceracasa's traditional material of similar characteristics. A premium that can be absorbed over a period of time in energy savings alone and eventually pay off the entire installation. While I haven't figured out how long that will take yet, I can promise you I will be doing so and sharing my findings shortly.

... Challenge Accepted!
The Aparici group of companies has always been among the best innovators in the industry. The three companies' names are synonymous with highest quality and cutting edge design.
Land Porcelaico
I have spoken about their hexagon tile before but it bears a deeper look.

This is the first time in the industry that a dry-press, large-format, fully-rectified hexagon has ever been produced. Sure it looks pretty but after speaking with some of the reps and technicians, I realized just how much went into the development of this new material.
Creating the shape is easy. A regular hexagon can be created with nothing but a ruler and protractor. The most difficult and all encompassing challenge to producing this material is dealing with the six sides and obtuse 120 degree angles.

Every piece of machinery in a tile factory is designed to handle square or rectangular formats and right angles. To produce this new hexagon material, every phase of the production process needed attention and subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) tweaking in order for this to work.

The two most difficult obstacles to overcome were the kiln and the rectification saws. In the kiln this material is so much more delicate than a square or rectangle because of the sintering process. As the greenware sinters in the kiln, things are moving within the body of the tile as fedspar, sand and clay are fused together to become a tile. This process is complicated with more corners and angles and the chances of deformation are much higher.

Rectifying (cutting off all sides of the tile to create a perfectly uniform shape) was another conundrum. Requiring three precise 120 degree turns of the material to keep the tile uniform.
This level of quality manufacturing process is not achieved by guess and by golly. You're not going to find a product like this from the guys in the orange vests, peddling what we call 'baked dirt' at $1.25 a square-foot. But with a quality manufacturer and distributor in your pocket you can dream big and create amazingly dynamic spaces. 
I find it hilarious that we have spent decades in the industry trying to create perfectly square, perfectly flat material and now the innovators in the industry are doing everything they can to cut, twist and bend those shapes into anything but.

This is why I love this material... there's always a new horizon to explore. Everything changes every year I go to a European fair.

What do you think?

The whole world is obsessed with thinner versions of everything from TV’s to cell phones and even our own bodies. Throughout the past few years, ceramic tile has followed suit with the advent of slim tile. Porcelains became offered in 4-6mm thicknesses instead of the traditional 10mm. These new thinner tiles offer many economical and environmental benefits to the end-user:
•    Lower fossil fuel consumption for both production and shipping translates to a product with much lower embodied energy.
•    Less virgin resources are consumed in production including clay, sand, minerals and water.
•    Lower resource consumption is leading to lower cost for both manufacturer and consumer.
•    Lower mass means less static stress or dead load on building structures and faster, easier installations.
•    Thin profile makes tile-over-tile installations possible in more instances and saves expense and landfill burden from removed substrates.
thinner wall tiles hit the stage
Not just for porcelain anymore, the slim tile revolution has reached traditional white bodied wall tile this year. Porcelanosa Group and Aparici are both producing thinner, large-format wall tiles. Porcelanosa has dropped their wall tiles from 13mm thickness to nine and Aparici has reduced theirs from 10mm down to seven. All of the added benefits of a slimmer product noted for porcelains apply to these even lighter wall tiles as well.

tile over tile installations and more
In short, it seemed like a cure-all solution for the field of ceramics in many situations. The one problem remaining was floor installations. The thinner porcelains required a perfectly prepared substrate and 100% mortar coverage to perform on floors; even then they are not recommended by many manufacturers for floors in most situations. Even though slim tile had so many non-traditional applications such as furniture, flooring remained a glaring bald-spot keeping slim formats from many specifications.

…Until now!

Two solutions were unveiled at Cersaie this year allowing slim format porcelains to be specified for new-construction flooring without additional surface preparation requirements.

Numbers don't lie
SlimmKer Floor by Inalco is a revolutionary post-firing procedure done to their traditional dry-pressed slim tile. The ISO (International Standards Organization) test results and accompanying video were literally mind-blowing. Thanks to the adhesion of a patent pending material, this new product achieves triple the bending and breaking strength results than their traditional 10mm porcelains by adding only 1mm of thickness. The video showed an average sized man bouncing up and down on a piece of this material with it bending at least three inches (76 mm) without breaking. The most interesting thing about this new launch is the treatment can be applied to any of their existing SlimmKer products and the cost will still be less than their non-slim tile. Understandably, Inalco was very hush-hush about how they achieved these amazing results but rest assured, as soon as I can describe the process in more detail, SlimmKer Floor will receive its own post.

Laminam pairs photovoltaics for facades
The second flooring solution with slim porcelains was 3mm laminate slab. This style of product has been around for years, but the specialized production and lack of acceptable glazing methods has kept its market small. The material is made from dry atomized clay in an extremely high pressure method allowing for an even thinner material than dry-pressed slim porcelains. The porcelain slabs are pushed through two rollers (top & bottom) and can reach up to ten foot lengths. Like the SlimmKer Floor product, this production method also creates a very high bending and breaking strength allowing for flooring applications. Thanks to digital glazing, rolled porcelain slab has now become a force to be reckoned with. Unlike previous years, where one or two niche manufacturers have offered this style of product; large-scale laminate porcelains were seen in many booths, as even some of the largest manufacturer’s have opted-in. Few factories have the equipment or expertise to create this material, so joint-venture operations have commenced to respond to the increased market demand.

Levantina, among other companies like Grespania and Lea Ceramiche have embraced this form of laminated slim ceramic material. 
advanced glazing with inkjets even allows metalics
As I stated earlier, it is important to me as an ambassador of the industry to highlight the fresh directions our top manufacturers are taking. Ceramic tiles are changing every year and proper understanding of the material is fostered by following the evolutionary process in technology and design. The acceptance and understanding of new products is dependant on all the links of the design chain from manufacturer’s intent through distributor consultants, architects, designers and ultimately contractors, who all need to be well informed. It is our main purpose at P.A.T.T.I to be the bridge across those professions and infuse each link in that chain with our passion and love of quality ceramic tile.

If even one person reads these Cersaie posts (or my past posts from Cevisama) and:
•    Is inspired to use ceramic tile in a new way
•    Is introduced to a new technology they didn’t even know existed
•    Makes a conscious choice to select higher quality material for their next specification
•    Is inspired to go see for their self what the European fairs are all about

I will be content that I have succeeded in my goal.

The next and final installment of the Cersaie wrap-up will follow shortly. Get ready for Economic Strategies and Ecological Solutions.
Frits & Glazes:
With all the new things happening in inkjets, one would be forgiven for thinking there wasn’t anything else new in glazes. However, this year that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Unbeknownst to many who haven’t visited Cersaie or Cevisama, the glaziers and frit manufacturers are the backbone of the ceramic industry. I always set aside as much time as possible to speak with the ‘mad’ chemists from booths like Ferro, Torrecid and Esmaltes because they love to share their knowledge and relish the challenge of answering my toughest questions.
next year's trends show up at the frits booths first
brilliant gloss on glazed porcelains, now single-fired
Super-white, a high-density & viscosity surface glaze has been used in the industry for years as a deep surface finish, polished to a brilliant gloss. Traditionally this glaze is applied after the decorative glaze has been fired since it is unstable at the high kiln temperatures required for porcelains. This second or in some cases third-firing greatly increases the final cost of the product to the end-consumer since the energy required to feed the kilns is the largest cost in the manufacturing process. This year, some manufacturers have succeeded in creating single-fired porcelains with this type of glaze.

Metalics reach new heights with better technology
In other single-fired glaze news, many sensitive metallic finishes, with the availability of new minerals, can also be fired with the bisque. This negates many of the acid sensitivities and abrasion resistance problems that characterized earlier metallic glazes. Condensing these techniques to a single-fire not only reduces the embodied energy but in so doing, lowers end-cost of the material for the consumer while providing a technically stronger product.

atomized frits create subtle slip-resistance
Some new innovations in glaze technology were brilliant in their simplicity. We have been atomizing clay in dry-pressed tile for over a decade. Some frit manufacturers have borrowed this procedure for their anti-skid glazes. This dry application of crystallised glass material behaves very differently in the kiln than their water-borne counterparts, providing a very high slip resistance without any abrasive minerals like corundum. This results in a finished material that performs as needed with the least amount of texture making cleaning much easier for the end-user.

extensive testing on the positive benefits are underway
Titanium Dioxide (TiO2) glazes have definitely become a big deal this year. The mineral itself is highly versatile and has been used for a long time as a base for many white paints and almost all sunblocks due to its highly refractive nature. It becomes interesting for ceramics because it also behaves as a photocatalyst, harnessing UV energy to breakdown multiple contaminates much like plants do. Diverse manufacturers are utilizing titanium dioxide glazes for anti-bacterial or self-cleaning properties since occupant health and safety has become a prime-directive for many green building programs.

surface texture of Bionic Tile TM. uses Biomimicry to harness a leaf's potential
The Spanish manufacturer Ceracasa took the world by storm in 2009 with the unveiling of ‘Bionic Tile’ netting them the coveted “Alfa de Oro” (highest industry award for innovation). With a surface texture like a magnified leaf, Bionic Tile dramatically increases its surface area for the sun’s UV energy to work. The reaction between TiO2 and UV energy convert Nitrous Oxide (NOx) a harmful greenhouse gas into benign nitrates. Ceracasa has partnered this year with Universidad Politecnica de Valencia, gathering empirical data on the rate of atmospheric decontamination in various building orientations readying this material for its retail debut. I’d say hypothesising that a city could in fact function like a forest is innovation at its best.

The technology story continues tomorrow with the final post on the impact and evolution of slim product. Hope you all enjoy my Cersaie wrap-up so far. Please feel free to comment or question anytime!
Digital Glazing:
It’s hard to believe that the first inkjet or digital glazing machines debuted a decade ago in Valencia, Spain at Cevisama 2000. Patents have since run out on the technology, lowering prices and involving new minds in the evolutionary process. Consequently, this year digital glazing was almost universally adopted throughout the industry due to the lowered cost of improved machinery.
Durst Inkjet machine
Inkjet glazing operates in essentially the same way as your home or office printer. In a touchless glaze delivery system called (DOD) “drop on demand,” screens no longer must touch the surface of the unfired bisque. Initially, with three or four lines of print heads, these glaze systems combined ceramic inks of CMYK (Cyan, Yellow, Magenta and Black) allowing manufacturers to digitally reproduce image files. With no requirement to produce costly screens, manufacturers could easily and quickly test new designs and ideas. Think of how digital cameras and home photo-printers have revolutionized photography and you have an idea of the impact of this innovation on ceramic tile.

Ventillated Facade for Mahou Beer in Madrid by Ceracasa
Digital image files offer the possibility for custom glazed tiles to now be created at reasonable cost. Without the need to create custom screens for the roto-color machines, manufacturers are able to offer the service of creating custom murals for clients or one-off custom decors at affordable prices. Billboard advertizing installations in a ceramic façade are not an uncommon sight on commercial buildings in Europe, creating possibilities for corporate sponsorship to partially subsidize the cost of a ventilated façade installation.

Digital image files also provide stone-looks, woods or any other natural-reproduction and the ability to offer unparalleled variety. Imaging programs can split the master file into nearly countless unique screens for individual tiles. Aesthetically, this provides exciting opportunities for design professionals to specify the exact desired look in a higher performance material. Environmentally, it offers the choice to do so without extracting 2 million year-old stone or killing a single old-growth tree.
Tau shares a look at their large-slab master image file for a stone line
DOD Digital glazing makes these formats possible
The concept of a touchless glaze delivery had even bigger implications on the industry than I had thought at first. I always understood the possibilities opened by being able to glaze a highly textured surface. This year it became clear that the touchless advantage of digital glazing was at least partially responsible for the slim-tile revolution we have seen flourish over the past few years. The slimmer porcelains are even more delicate in their un-fired state (greenware) than their traditional 10mm thick counterparts. Many traditional glazing methods like roto-color screen printing would damage the un-fired surface texture during glaze delivery. The advent of digital glazing allowed limitless potential when decorating these delicate slim porcelains; creating both technically and aesthetically revolutionary product.

Roto-color and Digital; together at last
The machines themselves have been improved upon this year as well. The original printer’s limited size made large formats difficult to produce. It is now possible for the new generation of machines to apply glazes to tiles as big as 24x48” and some manufacturers are even creating larger modified custom machines. The original three and four color machines are making way for new five and six color incarnations, creating deeper colors and higher resolutions. In fact, most new machines can achieve up to 1000dpi (dots per inch). HDTV’s are 720 to 1080dpi to put this number in perspective.

Enhanced resolutions and 5-6 bar machines can create 90% +/- of pantone colors
Manufacturers have even started to experiment with the inks they are using in their printers. Greyscale machines are being setup with white inks and traditional CMYK is being replaced with custom color registers to give manufacturers more options for the range they can produce. In fact, with a six-color bar machine manufacturers are now able to reproduce nearly 90% of the Pantone color catalogue! The advent of greyscale heads and white inks are allowing for the deep but greyed out color palette that has proven to be so popular this year. There are even tandem glaze delivery machines being introduced that pair roto-color and digital together to harness the benefits of both in a single pass.
Land's booth showcases the breadth of applications for didgital with slim-porcelain
Yes, That's porcelain tile! a beautiful stone look digital glaze on this breathtaking installation spanning a 40m long wall is possible only due to advanced digital glazing. Land Ceramica had the other exhibitors green with envy over their striking booth design that brilliantly highlights their creativity and skill with new technologies.
Limitless potential + good value = happy consumers today
Regardless of all of the above improvements, inkjet decoration would still be here to stay because it is providing manufacturers with one very important benefit – production cost savings. With low setup costs, faster production rates and easier reconfiguration for different programs, digital glazing helps to mitigate production expenses by minimizing down-time. Every manufacturer is looking for ways to reduce production costs in light of the troubled economy, not just for their own bottom-line but for their price-conscious customers. In a one-two punch, inkjet glazing provides consumers with exactly what they are looking for in 201l - unparalleled aesthetics, individual expression of style and good value.

  Innovation & Technology

Visual trends and colors are fascinating. The optical impact of a ceramic tile program is indeed the eye candy that attracts us all but it’s the underlying technical ingenuity and innovation that has made the field of ceramic tile so important to me. The breakthroughs in production processes leading to dynamic changes in the product have been progressing exponentially for my entire life. I remember my first day as a showroom rep, only 14 years ago, being amazed to see the new wall tiles reaching the (at the time) staggering proportions of 8x13”! Less than two decades later, we have a completely different story. It has become one of my life goals to showcase this cutting-edge of the industry to North America, to elevate the profile of ceramics in the minds of architects, designers and contractors.

The innovation story told at this year’s Cersaie was deep and complex. The industry again finds itself in a state of flux as manufacturers run to catch-up with the latest jump in technology. I started to see this pattern emerging in ceramics, like many other technologically driven industries. The best analogy I can provide is to liken ceramics to computers; every machine generation (which is becoming shorter and shorter) the hardware engineers provide newer technology, eclipsing the old. Software engineers must then struggle to upgrade old programs for the new hardware’s capabilities while finding exciting ways to harness the potential of the new technology in upcoming software. If we were to illustrate the progression in a graph, hardware moves from plateau to plateau in leaps, and software runs in exponential parabolas to catch-up. Once the two meet at the next plateau ingenuity then forces the next hardware leap, continuing the cycle. Ceramics function in exactly the same way as computers; replace ‘hardware’ with ‘production machinery’ and ‘software’ for ‘technical & aesthetic design’ and the situation is identical in both industries.

We are currently in that phase of exponential creative growth. Manufacturer’s R&D teams create new possibilities as they learn the full potential of new production technologies. This segment of ‘The Cersaie Files’ will attempt translate what I learned about new technologies and the fresh directions manufacturers are taking with them. The advancements, as you might have guessed, were plentiful and diverse. However, many of the innovations were predicated by one specific development. I have promised an in depth explanation of digital or ink-jet glazing. 

Peronda's Hollywood glam series
Part 2 will follow tomorrow with ink-jet glazing.
By: Ryan Fasan
'Tree of Life' Prarie Glass design by Wright
Around the turn of the twentieth century, the late American architect Louis Sullivan coined the term “Form (ever) follows function” in reference to changes he was seeing in the design and architectural world. This simple phrase still rings true today. Throughout the evolution of modernist design, architects, designers and manufacturers have been striving to define this simple phrase and manifest its intent in projects and products alike. Both Sullivan and his assistant, a fellow by the name of Frank Lloyd Wright, embraced this simple mantra as distilled wisdom: a central rule that all of their designs followed. However they were not opposed to all forms of ornamentation in their designs, Wright’s prairie glass and Sullivan’s Celtic Revival metalwork are iconic aesthetic signatures that still served a functional purpose.

Once an idea is leaked it begins to take root in different areas and becomes open to re-interpretation. The Bauhaus School and its founders took this philosophy and added to it, embracing an assertion by Adolf Loos in his 1908 essay, “Ornament and Crime.” This created a design style of simple nakedness, devoid of ornamentation for purely aesthetic goals.

Like all good ideas in art, fashion and design, the modernist thought of form following function has had a resurgence happening since the mid 1990's. At first we saw more Bauhaus inspired, minimalistic designs with very little ornamentation or decoration. As the concerns of the environment and economy became top of mind for most folks moving into 2k the focus diverged from stark minimalism to a much more organic design akin to Wright's philosophy.

Today the twenty-first century design language is again re-defining this universal principle, embracing concepts like biomimicry and universal design to add another facet of function to the modern built environment. The ceramic tile industry is fertile soil for this concept to take root, being one of the most highly functional building materials, and indeed has been embraced by many of the industry leaders creating solution based innovative product.
On that note, if I had to choose one word to describe the fair in Valencia this year, Innovation would be it. As promised, let’s take a look at some of the most exciting products introduced at Cevisama in 2010. Manufacturers have let their designer’s and engineer’s minds run wild and pursued many different avenues to provide solutions in the form of new product that promotes evolutionary design. Will we see most of these innovations in the showrooms of North America?

Probably not.    

That is why I felt it was important to give this subject a post to its self. It’s not that North Americans don’t believe the product is worthwhile. Distributors are in business and must adhere to the inevitable laws of supply and demand. The distributors on our shores must commit to lines that they know will sell. In most cases distributors must pay for goods 2 weeks after it arrives in their warehouse in North America; not a lot of breathing room for gambles on revolutionary product. That is one of the reasons we do what we do here at patti. By introducing design professionals to the most current innovations, we hope to create the demand necessary for North American distributors to commit to such revolutionary products.

I feel that now, more than ever, it’s important for the design community in North America to know what’s out there. If you have read my past entries on Cevisama, you know that manufacturers see you as the best way to influence the industry and ultimately the end users. They will work actively to provide solutions for projects through their distribution channels. Even if a product is calssified as a dreaded "Special Order" material it is usually available in six weeks or less from Europe.