The use of ceramic tile can be traced back to the creation of clay roof coverings many centuries ago, but it is still popular today as technological advances in tile have meant that it can be used on walls, floors, ceilings, fireplaces, in murals, and even as an exterior cladding.
Our English word ‘ceramic’ comes from the Greek word ‘keramos’ meaning pottery, but its origin is an old Sanskrit root meaning ‘to burn’. This is because of the fact that tiles were fired in a hot oven to ensure that they were dry enough to withstand the elements.
While early tiles may have been baked in the sun, the use of kilns were later employed to harden the tile body and to create a decorative surface glaze.
Over time, design traditions for ceramic tile and, later, porcelain tile, have included not only typical roof tiles, but have developed to become ornamental as well as utilitarian. Brightly colored brick-and-tile panels have adorned homes and public buildings from Spain to Turkey, while mosaic tiles were commonly used from the bathroom to the dining room in the Roman Empire. In Burma, glazed ceramic plaque tiles were used to tell mythic stories in temples and shrines.
Where are we going with tile technology?
Technological advances in tile in our century have meant that ceramic and porcelain tile can be used on walls, floors, ceilings, fireplaces, in murals, and even as an exterior cladding on buildings. New techniques make it easy to create the symmetry and wonder of ancient styles of tiling, but without all the work.