Everything You Need to Know: Talavera Tile (2021 Update)

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Talavera tile is rich in history, color, and design. With a backstory and aesthetic rooted deep in colonial Mexico, Talavera tiles feature an array of patterns and vibrant colors.

Calling Texas and Mexico home, Talavera tile has been a staple of Clay Imports’s offerings since the beginning. Our tile travels, which have taken us from Mexico to the Middle East, contribute to our deep appreciation of the talavera tile. For us, each individual tile is a work of art with centuries of history behind it.

If you’re wanting to learn more about talavera tile, we’ve put together a full guide for you here:

  • - What is Mexican talavera tile?
  • - How do you make talavera tile?
  • - What makes talavera tile unique?
  • - Where can I install talavera tile?
  • - How do I care for and maintain talavera tile?

What is Mexican Talavera tile?

Most of us associate talavera tile with Mexico - we even have people asking about purchasing “Mexican tile,” when referring to talavera tile, but it actually originated in medieval ages in Spain. Its inspiration comes from Islamic influence throughout the country. Under Muslim rule, glazing techniques and patterns became popular in Iberia (today’s Spain and Portugal).

You can even tell from the Spanish word for tile “azulejo” that it’s derived from the Arabic word for “ornamental tile.”

Talavera tile specifically is named after the Spanish city Talavera de la Reina, which, produced the majority of glazed tile and pottery in Iberia in the 16th and 17th centuries.

 

These tiles represent a ceramic type produced by the workshop of Ibn al-Ghaibi al‑Tawrizi, which operated out of Damascus in the early fifteenth century before relocating to Cairo. On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 454.

Through the Reconquista, Spaniards adopted tile making techniques and later brought those to the Americas. The “New World” hub of Talavera pottery was Puebla, a city founded shortly after the arrival of the colonizers. Still today, we associate the beautifully ornate, and often blue and white Talavera Poblana with this city and its rich colonial history.

The popularity of patterns quickly spread across all Mexico. Other regions began crafting handmade, glazed decorative tile. As a result, Talavera style is deeply ingrained in Mexican design and gives you that warm, classic Mexican aesthetic.

Today’s main hub for Mexican talavera tile and pottery making is the small town of Dolores Hidalgo, just outside of San Miguel de Allende, in Mexico.

A tiled facade in downtown Puebla, Mexico. Photographed on our latest trip to Puebla.

HOW DO YOU MAKE TALAVERA TILE?

At Clay Imports, skilled artisans handcraft each of our Talavera tiles in the town of Dolores Hidalgo using a mix of regional red clay. 

The most traditional form of a Talavera tile is a square. Artisans, either hand cut or extrude clay to size and fire the bodies. Following the production of the bodies of the tile, artisan glaze it by adding decorative patterns through stenciling or screen printing. Afterwards, they fire the now colored pieces in a kiln.

In addition to traditional Talavera tile, we also produce textured Relief Tiles inspired by Islamic cuerda seca (“dry cord”) techniques. These types of tiles are the most time and labor-intensive of all of our offerings. The artisans meticulously sketch and hand paint each intricate design. The hand-crafting process of fabricating a relief tile may take upwards of 20 times longer than a solid color tile.

WHAT MAKES TALAVERA TILE UNIQUE?

Each piece is handmade! They are not mass produced.

As a result, each Talavera tile features natural variations and imperfections which give your install an authentic, rustic appeal. 

A beloved characteristic of Talavera tile is light crazing over time, where you will see very tiny cracks start to form in the glaze. That is natural and adds to the design element.

Square Talavera tiles are the most common and measure approximately 4x4” or 6x6” with an approximate ¼” thickness.

Colorwise, bright and vibrant is the norm, intensified by a high gloss finish. The texture of a Talavera tile is usually smooth, though we offer a variety of stunning Relief Tiles, too.

WHERE CAN I INSTALL TALAVERA TILE?

Talavera tile is one of the most budget-friendly tile options and packs a big design punch. You can install it inside or outside as long as you’re not exposing it to extreme freezing temperatures.

You’ll see talavera tiles often adorning stairwells, creating a Mexican-inspired kitchen backsplash, or even brightening bathrooms. At times they’re combined with other types of tile as accents.

Better yet - talavera tile is very functional and is very easy to care and maintain over the long-term.

The "dome" tile was inspired by Ottoman tile adorning the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

HOW DO I CLEAN AND MAINTAIN TALAVERA TILE?

Simple! Just like any other ceramic tile - use mild cleaners that are non-acidic and clean on a regular basis.

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