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Ceramic Designs in Valencia: Inspiration & Latest Trends

Living tile ceramics designs in showroom vanity

Valencia is Spain’s third-largest city, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, where modern architecture mixes with ancient art and culture tied to the Silk Road.

Known as “the land of creativity,” Valencia is a 2022 World Design Capital and home to 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city is both forward-thinking in architecture and design and a dedicated steward of its cultural past. 

Silk and ceramics are two artistic pillars shaping the city’s identity and economy. The Silk Road was a conduit for ceramic techniques and materials, making the city and other nearby towns the cradle of European ceramics. 

Agriculture, namely the world-famous Valencia oranges, also drove culture and commerce. Today, futuristic architecture by Star Architect Santiago Calatrava distinguishes Valencia around the globe for its landmark buildings and bridges, which are iconic to the city. 

Journey to Valencia’s Ceramic Tile Designs

I traveled to Valencia to explore its creative evolution from agriculture to artisanship. The timing of my trip coincides with one of the largest ceramic tile shows in the world, Cevisama, taking place annually in Valencia.

To understand the commercial and economic backstory, I  toured the show with Tile of Spain, the governmental agency that markets the ceramic tile industry.

I also toured several family-owned factories to learn about the art and craft of ceramics, and  I spent time in the historic neighborhoods and plazas to understand how ceramics created a sense of place and identity. 

History of Valencia’s Pottery

Valencian pottery originated with the first settlements producing remains dating back 7,000 years. Today, Valencia is home to over 400 ceramics artisans and the world-famous Lladro porcelain company, which produces highly prized and collectible figurines. The Chinese were the first civilization to master the art of porcelain production, combining clay with “secret ingredients,” a technique dating back to the Tang dynasty.

“In the 18th century, porcelain production techniques arrived in Spain when an entrepreneur brought the formula from China. He opened a factory in Alcora where he found quality raw materials, including clay to produce porcelain and pottery, including tiles,” says “Raoul Carnicer, CEO of Cevica.

The Count of Aranda founded the Royal Factory of Earthenware and Porcelain in Alcora in the 18th century. The pottery-producing factory of fine porcelain and earthenware pieces resides in the district of  L’Alcalatén, one of the main tile-producing centers of Castellón.

 “Valencia had a lot of orange groves, and when the land quit performing, some orange growers decided to open up ceramic factories in  Castellón,” explains Ryan Fasan, a tile expert with Tile of Spain. “The modern industry was born here in Valencia, and so it makes sense to have this cluster of industries all working together and in competition.”

Evolution of Ceramica Tile Production in Valencia

Grespania

I toured several family-owned ceramics factories in Castellón, starting with Grespania, a manufacturer of Coverlam, a thin, large ceramic tile and cladding. Owner Fernando Ferrer Hernandez guided me through the robotic-powered plant.

“We have our own clay mines and proprietary techniques that create intricate details in very thin, 3.5-millimeter slabs, which is hard to achieve,” says Fernando, a third-generation owner.  

In the 1980s, the ceramics industry became more mechanized and industrialized, transitioning from handmade tiles. “Initially, here in Castellón, people made handmade porcelain objects that transitioned into floor tiles . Now, we have evolved into an industrialized process where we track every slab that we produce through the entire process.” Fernando says.

Cevica

Handmade tile production does exist in a few factories, including Cevica, a family-owned company making specialty tiles and trim pieces.

“The Castellón ceramic industry employs more than 14 thousand people and exports almost 90 percent of the world’s ceramic tile supply,” says Raoul Carnicer, CEO of Cevica. “A lot of work goes into a handcrafted file to create the depth and saturation of colors. We inspect each finished tile for quality before packaging them.”

My guide, Ryan Fasan, says Spanish ceramic and porcelain tiles are distinguished worldwide for the culture and history infused in modern production.

“The modern manufacturer wanting a handmade look can consult and collaborate with Valencia artisans practicing the centuries-old craft of handmade tile. Manufacturers can buy these handmade biscuits, make cast molds, and produce modern tile,” Ryan says. “Valencia ceramic production is a master of glazing as the world’s largest producer of ceramic tile glazes.”

Lladro Boutique and Museum

Today, the porcelain factory  Lladró, in Tavernes Blanques, is one of the world’s best-known for producing collectible and highly prized porcelain figurines. Lladró’s origins date back to the 1940s, The Lladró brothers built a kiln on their family property in  Almácera, a tiny farming community near the city of Valencia, and created their own formula for porcelain paste.

They also refined their manufacturing techniques and invented a single-firing method, replacing the traditional triple-firing. The Lladró factory produces signature pastel-colored, intricate porcelain figurines.

You can visit the Lladro workshops and museum in Tavernes Blanques, located 15 minutes from the city center of Valencia. The museum offers free guided tours of the handcrafted process of creating pieces. You can shop at the Lladró Museum & Boutique.

Museo Nacional de la Cerámica

An abundance of quality clay and skilled artisans make Valencia the epicenter of ceramic and porcelain production. You can trace the origins of the region’s ceramic and porcelain production at  the Museo Nacional de la Cerámica, the national ceramics museum, which is housed in the Palacio del Marqués de Dos Aguas in València city.

The museum houses the largest national collection of ceramics, dating from the 18th century to the contemporary period, and includes pieces by Picasso.  The palace, home to a Valencian noble family, serves as one of the best examples of Baroque architecture in Spain.

Valencia’s strategic location along the Silk Road provided access to merchants and traders not only for silk but also for ceramics and other products. In the 13th century, Valencia saw an infusion of Muslim ceramists from Málagan, introducing a lusterware style.

La Almoina Archaeological Museum

A visit to La Almoina Archaeological Museum provides an up-close look at ancient forms of pottery work such as the Paterna ‘green’ dating from the 13th century.

At Cevisama, I toured the show as a guest of Tile of Spain, the government marketing agency that promotes the country’s tile industry. Tile expert Ryan Fasan offered his insight on a tour of the show, pointing out the latest looks and trends.

  • Mirrored Tiles: Mirrored ceramic tiles stole the show, drawing a lot of attention. The slim porcelain slabs are coated with different mineral oxides to create mirrored surfaces in different colors that work indoors and outdoors.

“An advanced process called physical vapor deposition is used where they actually sublimate mineral particles onto the surface of that porcelain and it creates a mirrored surface,” Ryan says. 

  • Optical Illusions: Tile that plays with optical illusions using subtle shading is another leading tile trend. It uses digital technology to precisely pinpoint the location of pigment colors, finishes and reflectivity to really play with what our eye sees.
  • Realistic Natural Looks: Vein-cut and cross-cut travertine looks are making a comeback, and manufacturers produce realistic versions with pits and texture nuances. Saltillo and terracotta tiles are popular choices for their warm, inviting earth tones.
  • Extruded tiles: also made a strong showing as a building material. Manufacturers can extrude the clay, much like pressing pasta, and make hollow shapes or curved shapes. These extruded pieces work as building blocks to build with ceramic, as opposed to cladding with ceramic. Ceramic Brise Solieus as cladding and building blocks for exterior features.
  • Other Latest Trends: Other trend takeaways from Cevisama include porcelain and ceramic tiles rendered as limestone, metal, or wood designs, and hydraulic cement looks as decorative accents for floors and walls. Instead of a single trending color, tile style relied on a layering of synergistic colors instead of one color.
  • Larger tile sizes of 24 inches by 48 inches edged out the typical tile sizes of 12 inches by 24 inches as popular choices. 

Ceramics Designs in Valencia’s Architecture

To understand how Valencia’s identity is closely tied to ceramics, I ventured into the city’s historic neighborhoods and plazas.

  • The Cabanyal district, which means the small cabin quarter, is lined with ceramic-decorated facades, mostly in the traditional colors of white and green ceramic tiles. 
  • Historic Balconies: Around the historic center, ceramic-tiled balconies served as signifiers of wealth and status. 
  • Train Station, Estacio del Nord: For the most extravagant display of ceramic designs, visit the train station, where its office is clad floor-to-ceiling in colorful ceramic tiles, but a word of advice, no photos are allowed.
  • Mercado Colon: facade is another eye-catching display of ceramic art and a photo opportunity.
  • Horchateria de Santa Catalina: pays homage to Valencia’s ceramic heritage with wall-to-wall ceramic murals and tiles.
  • I suggest ordering a horchata, rice milk or coffee and spend some time admiring the ceramic art and taking mental pictures because no photos are allowed. 
Ceramicsat Horchateria de Santa Catalina 1 1
Ceramic Mural at Horchateria de Santa Catalina
  • The City of Arts and Sciences: Valencia today is most recognizable in photos of its City of Arts and Sciences. This futuristic, exoskeleton-looking trio of structures by Valencian’s native architect Santiago Calatrava is an ideal place to start to see how ceramics remain essential to modern design.

“As Valencia emerged from dictatorship in the 1980s, this idea of “the Guggenheim effect” transformed industrial and blighted areas of the city,” says Adrian Torres, architect, urban planner, and landscaper. Adrian hosts architectural tours of Valencia through his company, Archiguide.  

  • Calatrava: uses ceramic in a contemporary way, in the spirit of Gaudi’s style. Gaudi is a Barcelona architect known for decorating his structures with small, irregularly shaped ceramic pieces used in a montage effect. It uses a similar montage arrangement of ceramic pieces, but in monochrome colors or white or blue ceramic tile combinations.  

Valencia’s Ceramic Legacy

Valencia’s indelible mark on the world of ceramics designs is a testament to its rich heritage and innovative spirit. This historic city continues to lead the way, presenting the latest ceramic tile designs trends at Cevisama that inspire both industry experts and design enthusiasts alike.

The pursuit of ceramic design inspiration knows no bounds, blending the ancient with the avant-garde in a breathtaking display of timeless beauty and bold innovation that leaves an indelible impression on all who witness it.

FAQs About Ceramic Designs in Valencia

What are some popular ceramic design styles?

Trends constantly evolve, but some timeless and in-demand styles include:
Minimalist: Clean lines, neutral colors, and functionality define this aesthetic.
Rustic/Earthy: Natural textures, organic shapes, and a ‘flawsome’ celebration of the handmade.
Playful & Whimsical: Animal motifs, bright colors, and unexpected shapes spark joy.
Geometric & Patterned: Inspiration drawn from tilework traditions and bold graphic design.

How can I incorporate ceramic designs into my home?

Ceramics offer incredible versatility! Consider these ideas:
Functional Objects: Vases, bowls, plates, mugs – daily use merges beauty with purpose.
Sculptural Pieces: Artful statements or conversation starters, adding personality to your space.
Lighting: Ceramic lamps provide diffused light and sculptural ambiance.
Tiles: Accent walls, backsplashes, and floors get a dose of color and pattern.

Where can I find unique ceramic designs?

Explore these avenues to discover ceramic treasures:
Local Craft Fairs: Meet artisans directly and find one-of-a-kind pieces.
Design Shops: Curated selections featuring up-and-coming and established artists.
Online Marketplaces (Etsy, etc.): Browse a global selection of handmade ceramics.
Ceramic Artists’ Websites: Dive deep into individual portfolios and styles.

Are there eco-friendly options in ceramic design?

Definitely! Look for:
Recycled Materials: Artists may repurpose clay or incorporate upcycled elements.
Natural Glazes: Non-toxic glazes provide safe and beautiful finishes.
Sustainability-Focused Brands: Research brands with transparent ethics and practices.

What influences the unique style of ceramics in Valencia?

Valencia’s ceramic designs draw inspiration from a rich blend of sources:
Mediterranean Legacy: The vibrant colors and coastal landscapes of the Mediterranean region.
Moorish Heritage: Intricate geometric patterns and tilework traditions reflect a strong historical influence.
Contemporary Art: Artists incorporate influences from modern art movements, embracing bold forms and colors.
Valencian Tradition: A deep respect for craftsmanship and the region’s long history of ceramic production.

If you want to see more of Valencia’s Attraction, check out these guided tours and activities:

More Design Inspiration For You

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a freelance writer living in Orlando, Florida with many published bylines in magazines, newspapers, and multimedia sites. As a professional lifestyle writer, Karen specializes in art, architecture, design, home interiors and personality profiles. Karen is the writer, producer and host of the streaming series, The Design Tourist (www.TheDesignTourist.com) that brings viewers a global dose of design inspiration with episodes featuring the latest looks and trends from the world’s premiere design events and shows. She also publishes a quarterly magazine on design travel that you can read by clicking the link: https://thedesigntourist.com/the-magazine/ Her journalism background includes seven years on-air experience as a TV news reporter and anchor covering a range of issues from education to politics. Her educational credentials include a Master of Arts in Mass Communications from Northeast Louisiana University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Louisiana State University. Throughout her career, Karen has written and produced dozens of documentaries and videos for educational, commercial, corporate, and governmental clients and appeared in many TV and video productions as a professional host.

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Karen LeBlanc

Karen LeBlanc is a travel host and writer with a popular travel show, The Design Tourist, and a companion lifestyle blog. As a widely published travel journalist and content creator, Karen is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. She also serves as the Design and Travel editor of the national lifestyle magazine, LaPalme. Karen believes that every destination has a story to tell through its local art, architecture, culture, and craft. This immersive creative exploration begins with authentic accommodations where the narrative of place unfolds through art, accessories, accouterments, furnishings, fixtures, and food. 

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