At Claybrook we are big fans of products that have been produced by human hands rather than conveyor belts and computer-controlled arms. Not that machine-made goods are inherently bad or inferior. Far from it, in order to get the hard-wearing finish demanded by many of us for our homes and projects, products like porcelain are an invaluable tool to ensure stress free living. It isn’t the case that one type of manufacturing is better or worse than the other. There is room for all methods of production in order to deliver myriad styles and choices.
We take a magpie approach to forming our offering; if it is a beautiful tile at a great price we will consider bringing it in, and that includes the products formed by hand.
What constitutes something that is hand-made is rather subjective however. Some tiles are made of clay that is pushed by hand into moulds, fired and then removed by hand, shaped and decorated. Others may be a machine produced uniform base tile, that is hand dipped in glaze, fired and then hand decorated. Other are fully machine made yet with a final flourish of decoration applied by hand using a stencil or transfer. All tiles probably see a human hand at some point, it is just that some are more hand-made than others!
We carry a series of wall and floor tiles in our distinctive collection that can be considered truly hand made. In fact, we have seen this hand-crafted feature to be part of a growing tile trend in recent months. This includes our Moroccan Garden range of hand painted terracotta, as well as Pellezzano, Campinola and Tirreni; artisanal tile ranges with unrivalled depth of glaze created at an atelier in Italy.
These ranges are typical of handmade tiles in requiring a wider grout width to account for the charming rusticated edges. Colour may be ravishing but can also be prone to subtle variation from tile to tile; something that is part and parcel of being hand produced and in our opinion something to be cherished.
We also offer ranges that require a little more attention to detail when it comes to installation due to the materials used.
Cement tile, also called encaustic tile, can be notoriously tricky to seal and install so as not to cause an issue later. It’s not difficult to fall in love with the mouth-watering tones in these tiles, like our Old Havana patterned tile series, but the very nature of them is something to take account of. They are comparatively heavy and require thought pre-installation from an experienced tiler used to dealing with hand finished tile such as this.
Old Havana cement tiles
In order to protect the minerals and pigments used to create the top layer of pattern, the tiles need to be sealed over a period of days rather than hours. This should not be hastened but rather considered essential to create a floor of lasting beauty. The result will be a floor that’s staggering in looks and style yet timeless.
Natural products, though stunning, tend to be more porous. In other words, they absorb some liquids such as wine or oil hence the need for sealing. Stone and cement tiles can vary in how porous they are but generally all will need sealing to protect them from the worst staining. This need not change the colour too much but can deepen the natural hues; something to take account of during the purchase process.
The ultimate in natural tiles must be Terracotta. The use of clay that is formed, dried and fired for use as tiles, vessels or even statues goes back millennia, as evidenced by the 8,000 terracotta warriors in China. At Claybrook, we have long adored this material for its elemental appeal, tactile nature and enduring quality. For creating floors or walls, with functionality but also a distinctively handmade appearance, nothing comes close to Terracotta. We have both hand-made and reclaimed in our collection. It too needs thought when it comes to sealing methods in order to reduce staining, but the chips, undulations and naturally time worn appearance is all part of the charm.
Embrace the natural, but take account that the best things come to those who plan ahead.