Tile Education: A Historical Look At The Original Floor

Ceramics originated in Ancient Egypt around 4700 BC and have been found in the oldest pyramids, the ruins of Babylon, and the remains of ancient Greek and Roman cities.

Tiling spread west from the Middle East, maturing in Persia and becoming popular in Europe during the 11th century, when mosaic flooring and panels became prevalent. ?In the second half of the 12th century, the Moors that conquered Spain, then Al-Andalus, began using larger tiles in decorative installations for both interiors and exteriors. ?In fact, much of what we know of past civilizations is based on what was found in ceramics since they are often all that survives.

The time from 4000 BC up until the late 1800s is called the classic phase of tile, when production was done by hand, while master artists presided over production and installation. ?This is where the European love of ceramics is rooted: ?You can still walk the streets and churches of Europe and see centuries worth of ceramics everywhere.

Kiln transformations of minerals, sand and clay into enduring works of art were what made so many master artists call ceramic their favorite medium in which to work. ?Due to the time and expense of production, church, state and extremely wealthy patrons were the only people to afford this luxury material.

During the industrial revolution the production process for many products was mechanized, lowering costs and making them affordable for broader audiences. ?While the inherent characteristics of ceramics were preserved, the technical quality and unique aesthetics were lost in early modern-production ceramics that began in the late 1800s.

This is where the story of ceramics begins for North America, at the machines rather than the hands of artists. ?In many ways it is why ceramics are still seen as a functional design choice by consumers, used only if budget does not allow for a luxury material.

A sea change for the industry came in the 1960s with the roller-hearth kiln, a series of gear-driven ceramic rollers that transport a layer of tiles through the firing zone. ?This exposed each tile to very similar firing conditions for uniformity, dropping firing to less than 45 minutes.

By the early 1980s, roller-hearth kilns were installed in the U.S. ?The output of the earliest roller-hearth kilns was anywhere from 6 million to 7 million square feet per year. ?Today, the average production is 30 million square feet per year.

Through years of research and development, modern ceramics have reached a point that equals the aesthetic beauty of the classic age of tile. ?Innovations in the production process have created revolutionary materials with the highest technical and aesthetic characteristics while lowering both economic and environmental costs. ?Highly durable and easy to maintain, this age-old material is experiencing a renaissance.?