Mallorcan Tile Works

Ancient tiles find new life

A 40min drive from Palma de Mallorca up the east coast of this Mediterranean island brings you to the small, sleepy, picturesque town of Campos, which in Spanish means countryside or fields. It is on the outskirts of Campos where you will find tiles being made in the same handmade tradition for hundreds of years.
 
 
Huguet Rajoles Hidràuliques, S.L. has grown out of the company founded in Campos in 1933 by Gabriel Huguet and Guillem Mas. Right from the start the company manufactured the products typically employed in the Mallorcan architecture of the time, hydraulic wall, floor and decorative cast tiles and Marbline (marble dust slab) products such as kitchen sinks, kitchen work surfaces, stairs and others. In 1996 the heirs decided to redirect the company back to its roots and offer modern architects and designers a range of crafted products made from the finest of raw materials, offering limitless decorative and aesthetic options.
 
 
The hydraulic tiles are still all manufactured by hand using a process that was already old - excepting one technical advance from the 1840s - when the Moors brought it from North Africa into Spain and Portugal during the 5th - 11th centuries AD; perhaps it had arrived even earlier, brought by the Phoenicians sometime before Roman Imperial times. Many of the original old tile rugs have survived outdoors for centuries in revered sites such as the Alhambra in Andalusia, and there are excellent examples displayed in the Prado in Madrid, still full of colour and life, a testament to the toughness of their structure and the durability of the traditional method of colouration.
 
 
The tilemaker creates a three part layered stack in a (usually) square mould. A sectioned pattern die is placed in the bottom of the open mould. Manufacturers put the colour in the various sections first and then back the tile with other layers of cement products. The liquid colour 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 mould. Generally the biscuit-like tiles are placed in a rack and submerged in water to absorb the correct moisture necessary for the chemical reaction in concrete. The tiles are removed from the water, allowed to dry, stacked and left to cure to the right hardness before shipment.  Each of the handcrafted tiles is 20 x 20cms and 1.4cms thick and weighs 1.3kgs.
 
 
Traditionally these tiles have been used on the floor, in entrance halls or as inlaid carpets in grand salons. The colours have tended to be shades of browns, beige and cream or blues and greens. Geometrics and floral patterns were the most traditional. Now, with a younger generation of manufacturers opening up to new modern ideas, most simple designs and colours are available. This is very true of the Huguet company in Campos who are available to new ideas.
 
 
Getting away from experiencing these tiles as a floor decoration, we can use them as wall decorations as well. Used in a repeat pattern they make beautiful walls that look like hand printed wallpaper.
 
 
They can also be laid in new ways on both the floors and walls. So, instead of doing repeat patterns we can mix them up into asymmetric patterns or lay them as an eclectic patchwork. This would be a good way to use up leftover end of runs mixed in with antique finds in salvage yards.
 
 
It has been interesting to take old traditional patterns and give them a new modern colourway making them traditional yet fresh and modern.
 
 
The wonderful thing about reviving this old handcrafted tile is their longevity and versatility. Modern geometric styles suit most contemporary homes whilst those looking for an eclectic mix of old and new can easily find it with old tiles or re-imagining old styles in new layouts or colours.
 
 
They can also be used for various pieces of furniture both for indoors or outdoors and as they get older they get tougher and develope a patina that requires minimal product for cleaning making them cost effective and environmentally less damaging.
 
 
Above all their beauty is in their individuality as no 2 tiles are exactly the same and their handcrafted nature shines through.
 
 
For more information, visit Huguet Tile Company- Mallorca at   http://www.huguetmallorca.com/en/fr0_cont.html




Can Prunera in Soller, Mallorca is a supreme example of a Modernist mansion with the most beautiful old hydraulic tiled floors. It has recently been restored and is now open as an art gallery. http://www.sollernet.com/canprunera/indexen.html


Designer and author Henri Davies' website is www.tyger.com.

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