Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Name confusion

This post is really three different posts in one, because in every language there is some confusion about WHAT is a cement tile. As you might have noticed, I have changed the blog name to Cement tiles... after I read in this post, that there is no such thing as Encaustic cement tiles.
The name encaustic tiles was applied to ceramic floor tiles with inlaid colours. And if you read this wikipedia-article, you will find that even this name is incorrect.
We have to dig a bit into the history:
In medieval England they used to make ceramic floor tiles with two colours by pressing a wooden relief stamp into red clay and filling the depressions with white clay. Then the tile was dried, covered with a transparent glaze and fired. Of course, every clay shinks differently when drying, so this was a rather complicated process. Those tiles were mainly used in churches and castles. In the renaissance this floor was not fashionable any more and the method forgotten.
During the Gotical Revival in the XIX th century, many of those churches were renovated  and they tried to reinvent the method of tile making. The architect A.W.N. Pugin copied old floors and designed new patterns and the company of Minton's Ltd invented a process of mass producing ceramic tiles with inlaid colours. Those tiles were called encaustic. (I will have to travel to England to research a bit more on the history, so far my knowlegde is only extracted from secondary sources). As far as I know, cement tiles were not made in english-speaking countries in the XIXth century, so when someone saw those tiles, that looked like the ceramic encaustic tiles, they called them encaustic cement tiles - which is not correct, as they are not fired. In America they are often called Cuban tiles, as Cuba was Spanish until 1898, there is a great tradition of making cement tiles. First the the companies from Spain exported them, later factories were established in Cuba.
To confuse you even more, now to the history of German floor tiles. Here Villeroy & Boch claims that they have invented the making of encaustic ceramic tiles - called Mosaikplatten or even Mettlacher Platten, because the factory of V&B was in Mettlach. They became very famous, were exported all over the world and of course copied. Then came the cement tiles and they were known by the same name of Mosaikplatten. The word Zementfliesen is rather new (I think) and is used to distinguish them from ceramic tiles.
Also France has seen both ceramic (encaustic) and cement tiles, but I don't know enough to tell you anything. Supposedly the cement tile was invented here. - Tomorrow I will write you this post in German and maybe some in Spanish.

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