Grespania Venecia, a 12-inch-square scored mosaic series.

Cevisama, which will take place in Valencia March 4-8, has evolved into a truly world-class event. Spain’s showcase of the latest in ceramic tile product developments grows bigger and more elaborate with each edition. And the 2003 staging of the show promises to build on that tradition.

In 2002, more than 84,000 industry professionals attended, including almost 10,000 visitors from 144 different countries. Attendance figures were up by a solid 12 percent from 2000, the most recent comparative year. The number of exhibitors increased to 1,650, and the total net exhibit area expanded to 81,000 square meters.

While this year’s burgeoning decorative trends are moving toward simplicity and subtlety, the corresponding trends in technological advancement demonstrate Spanish manufacturers’ focus on sophisticated production methods and finishing processes.

Aparici Ocean, a coordinated wall and floor tile series with a simulated leather look, includes four wall sizes from 8-by-8 to 12-by-24 inches and three floor sizes (12 1/2, 17 and 18 inches square), all available with rectified options.

New industry data

According to figures released for 2001, Spain now shares the lead in worldwide tile production. Spain’s overall production for 2001, spurred by an 8.8 percent increase in exports, increased 2.7 percent. Exported tile volume grew to 3.7 billion square feet, a figure that accounts for slightly more than half the total 6.9 billion square feet of tile Spanish manufacturers produced that year. Additionally, Spain’s total share of world exports increased to 28.7 percent, nearly 9 percent higher than the previous year.

The recent trend towards increased floor tile production and decreased wall tile production continued. In 2001, the split was 63 percent floor to 37 percent wall tile. Porcelain production also increased, up 35 percent from 2000.

Spain’s exports to the United States continue on the upswing and, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Department of Commerce, tile imports from Spain increased by 17.2 percent during the first nine months of 2002 over the comparable year-earlier period. During the 12-month period from October 2001 through September 2002, Spain’s overall world exports grew by 7.9 percent, but exports to the United States jumped 18.2 percent, according to ASCER, Spain’s ceramic tile manufacturers association.

As is its tradition, Spain’s tile industry continues to direct significant resources toward the development of new processes and technologies, the results of which will be seen this year in Valencia.

Special effects

To achieve the textural effects currently in high demand, new state-of-the-art glazing and screening techniques are being used to create a false three-dimensional appearance similar to the antiqued indentations, deep cleavage planes (on slate tile), and unfilled travertine pore structures that they replicate. While these textures appear to be deeply carved, they are actually smooth to the touch. Because the recessed areas where dirt would otherwise accumulate are eliminated, the tile is more resistant to soiling and easier to clean.

Natural marbles and granites have always been inspirations for ceramic products. In fact, the appeal of a huge, gleaming slab such stones is now available in ceramic tile. Newer production methods for very large-format porcelain tile with rectified edges make ceramic tile an attractive alternative to costly and scarce natural marbles and stones. The colorations and veining effects that are being achieved are almost impossible to distinguish from their natural counterparts, and these larger slabs are now appearing on vanity counter tops.

Wall tile

Wall tile is an important part of Spain’s ceramic tile industry. Spanish manufacturers have been world leaders in the category for years, and they are widely recognized for their efficient, monoporosa (single-fired, porous ceramic) tile, artisan (handmade) and third-fire tile. Currently, the trend is towards larger wall tile formats with rectified edges -- although retro small sizes continue to be popular.

In decoratives, Cevisama will play host to abundant selections that coordinate with all the colors and field tiles in a series, and fancy inserts with sharply defined rectified edges that fit snugly into cutouts in the field tile.

The mosaic look is still popular, but new systems are making them easier to install. In addition to mesh-mounted systems, large 13-by-13-inch formats are being scored to look like tiny individual pieces. An overall grout application then fills the score marks, creating a realistic mosaic appearance. New mosaic lines will be shown in marble looks but will be especially evident in solid colored glass-like tile with smoother surfaces and vibrant colorations.

Most manufacturers now offer fully compatible wall and floor collections that coordinate wear-resistant porcelain floor tile with porous wall tiles that better adhere to vertical surfaces.

Tau Solari, a white-body glazed floor tile with slate finish, is available in beige and black in 8-by-8-, 8-by-16- and 16-by-16-inch modular formats.

Textures and designs

Texture remains strong as a design influence, but the trend -- especially in the more popular rustic and stone imitations -- is moving toward more subtle surface textures and patterns, and smoother edges. Surface textures are still greatly influenced by natural materials. New interpretations -- including woven sisal, coco matting, cork, leather, bamboo, linen, and jute -- will be found everywhere across the show floor. Faux painting effects, wall washes and glaze layers will also be part of the textural landscape, with production techniques incorporating sponge paint and stucco effects on wall tile collections.

An important benefit of all of these tile copycats is that, while they retain the look of their natural counterparts, they offer superior performance and minimal maintenance compared to the materials they replicate. This is especially so when translating exotic wood finishes into tile, borders, listellos, and inserts. Among a variety of effects are the aged appeal of French country pine planks and the elegance of mahogany inlaid with walnut. Similar combinations can also be achieved with terracotta tile, as newer programs recreate the distinctive hand-formed appearance of centuries-old reclaimed tile.

Softer, warmer colors

The color trends of past collections were bold, confident and very expressive. But today’s trends are bringing about softer, more muted colors. Pastels are deeper and warmer, especially in the more rustic finishes. Blue and mauve will be seen in almost every shade from the palest pastels to the most vibrant jewel tones, especially in shades of aqua and lilac. Earthier tones lean more to browns, ochres and greens, and are generally softened by taupe influences. The family of browns has established itself as the “new neutral.” This color category includes chocolate and chestnut browns as accent colors, and limestone, honey or oatmeal tones as the predominant hues in the design palette.

While the prominent color influences are softer, the more vibrant tones can still be found in the retro-sized, small format wall tile and mosaics where varying shades of a single color combine well with plain white tile in geometric layouts. Metallics, which have toned down considerably, are now used more for subtle effects in decoratives -- especially in silver and bronze.

Black, gray and white continue to be strong influences. White, especially, will be prominent in many wall collections where its simplicity offers a setting for a new wave of softly volumetric designs which create an interesting white-on-white effect as the light plays on the raised and recessed areas. Browns, blacks and charcoals will be seen in many trim collections, partnered with lighter field tile.

Developments in porcelain

While production of both glazed and unglazed porcelain is still increasing, the traditional distinction between the two is less pronounced. This is occurring as innovative technologies like dry glazing and double pressing, which fuse the glaze into the body of the tile rather than applying it as a top layer, are being employed more widely.

The majority of today’s porcelains are produced in large-size floor tile, from 16-by-16 inch up to 24-by-24-inch, but modular collections abound that combine larger sizes for floors with smaller sizes for walls and countertops.

Glazed porcelains continue to replicate the textured and matte surfaces of slate, concrete, hammered granite, and other natural stones while unglazed porcelain creates beautiful, highly polished reproductions of exotic marbles and semi-precious stones.

Cevisama 2003 will offer an up-close-and-personal look at Spain’s tile industry and an excellent opportunity to preview the products that will enter the U.S. market in the upcoming months. To obtain more information, visit on the Internet.