Meet the Makers
One of the very best things about running Alhambra is the Spanish artisans we collaborate with - and the beautiful surroundings they work in. Most are situated within an hour or two of Granada, home of the 9th Century Alhambra Palace. The Alhambra is often described as the Eighth Wonder of the World on account of its astounding geometric tiles. Driving around Spain, across deserted mountain ranges and through ever-changing landscapes to visit our makers is a perk of the job like no other!
My own journey into tiles started in 2010 when I discovered our encaustic tile-makers, a father and daughter team making cement tiles in a family business generations old. These tiles, otherwise known as 'hydraulic' tiles, are cast in a mould using a mixture of tinted cement, fine sand and ground marble. You can see the different-patterned moulds hanging on the wall behind the tile-maker in the picture below.
The top layer of the tile-mixture is colour-tinted. So, instead of a thin coat of paint or print, the colour is integral to the tile and goes approx 5mm deep. The tiles are not kiln-fired, but dried for 21-28 days in fresh air. The production process is carried out by hand, in the same way it has been for over 200 years.
Our encaustic tile-makers mix their colours from natural oxides and pigments and use materials from an approved quarry which guarantees respect for the environment. Despite the traditional methods, many of the designs are contemporary - and being a small company, almost anything is possible.
Click here for a short film showing the making of an encaustic tile
Gorgeous Granada Tiles
Our wonderful Granada Range comes from the city of Granada itself. Pepe and Maria live on site, enjoy a view of the Sierra Nevada and have prestigious clients all over the world. As well as conventional smooth tiles (and murals, on occasion), they produce authentic Arabic patterns from the Alhambra in relief. All the tiles are handpainted. Once again, the colours are natural, mixed by hand from raw pigments and oxides. The value of the metal can affect the price: as copper oxide (being weighed in the picture below) is expensive, blue and green tend to be the more expensive colours!
See tiles from our Granada Range here
Our Alpujarran GoddessHigh above the clouds in the Alpujarra mountains south of Granada, Fatima Quesada has revived the art of geometric mosaic tile design using authentic methods first employed by the Medieval Islamic artisans who created the Alhambra Palace. She has realised hundreds of incredible projects for clients worldwide, so we are very honoured indeed to be her UK distributor. In 2011, Fatima was awarded the title Maestro de Artesano by the Council of Andalucia. You can see her beautiful 'alizare' mosaic tiles at our showroom in Sydenham, and we can help you realise your own mosaic project, putting you directly in touch with Fatima, and helping with translation, samples and more.
Read more about Fatima here
Our decorative terracotta-makers are as authentic as they come. The two brothers are continuing their father's business along with a menagerie of cats, dogs and geese in the yard. They make the tiles by hand (you can see the handprints) and bake them in a furnace fed with pallets donated by local lorry-drivers. The brothers' main client is the Alhambra Palace itself, where they do most of the repairs. As well as making tiles, the brothers throw pots and hand-paint tiles. Experts in their field, they are currently involved with the restoration of the Cortijo del Fraile in Almeria, the inspiration for Lorca's seminal book, Blood Wedding. The picture above shows antique-style tiles they are making for the roof.
Over coming weeks, we will be publishing interviews with some of these wonderful craftspeople, plus others like our marmolista, Antonio. Keep watching this space!