We're SO excited to have just launched our brand new Color-It tool! We have been handmaking Cuerda Seca's at Fireclay for over 15 years. Using techniques that date back to 15th century Spain we are able to produce these beautiful handmade accent pieces. With over 100 patterns and 80 lead free glazes to choose from your options are endless. What are you waiting for? Color-It!
Recently in the Aromas factory, Fireclay Tile installed a new wastewater reclamation system for our automatic glazing machine. This machine produces wastewater that has over sprayed glaze in it. Our new system provides us with a more efficient way of collecting and re-using that wastewater.
The wastewater is pumped from our collection trench into the tank pictured. After a day or so, the solids from the glaze separate from the water and settles to the bottom of the tank. The "clean" water is then pumped out of the top of the tank and used to clean the automatic glazing machine, which sometimes happens twice a day. The used glaze that has settled to the bottom of the tank is then drained out and mixed into our clay mixes for future tile orders!
Very cool stuff!!
Wastewater tank outside Fireclay Tile factory in Aromas, California
Side view of Fireclay Tile's wastewater tank where glaze solids settle in the wastewater
Fireclay Tile is excited to announce a new position at our Aromas factory to help our company. While we are a leader in utilizing recycled materials in our products, we feel we have room to grow in our overall manufacturing operation in becoming a recognized leader in sustainable manufacturing. Jason Paskus, who previously ran our Crush Recycled Glass factory, has taken on this new roll. We interviewed Jason to learn a bit more about him and his goals in this new role:
Tell us a bit about you and your interest in sustainability and sustainable manufacturing?
My passion for sustainability began in the early 21 century, while I was working as a carpenter for a small family owned construction company. We where known to be a very skilled group of guys that catered to the higher end of the building industry, residential and commercial. Unfortunetly, high end construction normally means larger projects, more square footage, more materials and in turn more waste. I worked on these job sites and watched the 20 yard dumpsters roll in and out almost daily filled with whatever we could jam in them.
During those years, the construction industry was booming and we were not the only outfit that was producing a ridiculous amount of construction and demolition waste. I started "dumpster diving" in our dumpsters for any kind of useable material. Whether it was wood or metal scrap, left over wires or pretty much anything that either had a bit of value to it or could be re-used. The idea behind this not being to start a personal collect of "garbage", but if I could gather enough of one type of material, I could either sell it in bulk or build up enough of a type of material so that it made sense to re-use them.
So I started selling the metals to scrap yards to be re-melted in to new metal. I used wood framing members, called "cut offs" for blocking for cabinet installation and other odds and ends around the job site, and the list goes on and on. My boss at the time, started to look at what was going on and realized that if the entire crew paid attention to the waste generated and what was done with it, we could save a quite a bit of money in materials. We also saw that we could devert lots of landfill waste if we sorted out all of our waste materials and utilized some of the new recycling programs that the area dump had recently implemented, such as wood/concrete recycling, sheetrock recycling and so on. So I built some basic boxes out of scrap wood that all the different materials could be sorted into. Then, created the pick up and drop off schedule and put the system too work at the job site.
Not only where we able to use every last drop of materials ordered for a specific job, but we were able to carry over materials to other jobs and save money there as well. The material that did go to the landfill, was recycled back into raw form by the municipality. The team had a great sense of accomplishment and the word spread fast. I was asked to create similar systems for other job sites around the area. After helping set up about 3 other systems, the initiative kind of just took its own shape and before I knew it, most contractors in town started recycling their waste in the same manner. A friend of mine around the same time started a word-of-mouth, cash only, used materials shop out of his barn. Selling everything from used doors and windows, too the kitchen sink. All scoured from the local demolition/construction projects.
As my construction career continued, I paid much more attention to not only waste in general but the types of materials that myself and my co-workers were working with on different job sites. I began to work exclusively with construction companies that took a more sustainable approach to building. In 2006 a twist of fate took me out of the construction industry and put me back into school where I dove head first into a ciriculum filled with all things sustainable. From solar energy design classes to entire building envelope analysis and everything in-between. I focused my studies on sustainable building materials as well as waste management, which in my opinion go hand in hand.
Tell us about this new position and what your role is?
Here at Fireclay, I have had the great opportunity of taking part in the development of our beautiful "Crush" line of tile which speaks to my passion directly. Not only is the product made from waste, but the company who makes it (Fireclay) has a great reputation for being a sustainable factory that produces beautiful products from other peoples waste. So originally joining the team was a "no brainer" for me.
As my I entrenched myself in the position. It became very clear to me that sustainable manufacturing went much further than just making a product out of recycled materials. It speaks to an entire culture of sustainability and efficiency that must be carried by every employee like a badge of honor during their work day. I am going to help Fireclay reach some lofty goals as far as efficiency and sustainability are concerned. As well as creating the first written safety program for Fireclay Tile. Even though Fireclay has a stellar safety record over the many years of operation, it is essential that all companies have a set of safety standards and protocol that will help carry that record far into the future.
What are three key areas in which you hope to focus in this new role?
Key areas that I intended to focus on are in the relm of safety, energy usage, waste generation and management as well as material and manufacturing efficiency.
These tasks have been taken on by some of the larger manufacturing companies in the world but not so much by mid-level companies. These mid-level companies sometimes make the mistake of thinking that sustainability means more dollars spent with more work and regulations. Fireclay Tile and I are firm believers that sustainability will not only result in higher profits, but also a more efficient factory that enables each employee to work not necessarily harder, but better. Again, with an end result of not only more profit but also a higher level of satisfaction in the work place that can be shared by everyone at the company. Knowing that we are doing our part to contribute to a healthy planet that is full of beautiful recycled tile.
If you had one HUGE goal that you would like to see accomplished during your first year, what would it be?
I would love to be able to announce in one years time that all of the waste that Fireclay generates, is being recycled back into our production system for all of our products. Also, eliminating stocking trips to The Boneyard!!!
What do you think other companies could learn from what we are doing today at Fireclay Tile?
I think that when Fireclay Tile is successful in achieving these goals, it will provide an example to other U.S. manufacturers that sustainability can be reached by any company of any size. At the same time, showing companies that complex systems of manufacturing can also be manipulated into sustainable ones. Based on the idea that it starts with raw materials and carries through-out the entire manufacturing process and manufacturing team. Also showing that sustainability is more than just a "green" sticker on a label, or an idea that a salesperson sells to a client. But rather, a culture that radiates from the company so bright that clients can not help but be inspired.
Any predictions for this year's NFL season? Will the Redskins go undefeated?
Unfortunately for Eric...(Redskins fan), his team will not go undefeated but will find themselves in a familiar place by seasons end....looking up from the bottom at the Super Bowl champion New York Giants!!! I do however have high hopes for the 49ers this year...I think Harbaugh will do good things with the team this year.
Any other thoughts you'd like to share with our readers?
This mission of sustainability that Fireclay is undertaking is only going to be achievable if we have full support and engagement from the entire company. It starts and ends with the efforts of every single person. Thats the great thing about it!! We are in charge of our own future! And the future of a great company that we all love! I hope that you all share the same excitement that I have in looking forward too not only the challenge that is ahead of us, but the results that will follow.
Thanks for all your help and dedication ahead of time!
Obama says bring manufacturing back to the United States!
We loved watching President Obama speak tonight on the State of the Union. We took away many key ideas and thoughts, but most important for us were his bullish comments about bringing manufacturing back to the United States. The speech was certainly controversial, but for leaders what decisions are rarely ever purely consensus driven. President Obama believes, and we agree, that it is vital to the successs of our economy and the longterm survival of the United States to have a strong manufacturing base.
President Obama boldly stated that the blueprint for our road to recovery "begins with American manufacturing...So we have a huge opportunity, at this moment, to bring manufacturing back. But we have to seize it. Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: Ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed."
As a US manufacturer of ceramic and glass tile, we're making every effort to take Obama's challenge to heart. Last year we added 3 manufacturing jobs, and so far this year another 2 already. These are jobs that pay at least 30-50% above minimum wage, with an opportunity for benefits after an initial phase in period. Initiatives such as tax benefits for small business or manufacturing companies that Obama talked about are crucial to our ability to keep growing, and we fully support any and all of his goals.
Of course we also loved hearing him talk about education and illegal immigration reform, but in truth we believe it all starts with American workers and American manufacturing. Thank you President Obama for making manufacturing such a central part of this years State of the Union.
The Fireclay Tile team recently had the opportunity to visit Kelly Moore Paint in San Carlos, CA. Just like so many people think all tile is made abroad, we thought the same of paint and we were surprised to find one of the most successful paint manufacturers so close to us in the Bay Area. After visiting the Kelly Moore website, we disovered that not only do they manufacture locally, they are also known for having one of the most sustainable plants in Northern California. We thought Fireclay Tile had a very sustainable manufacturing operation, though aftrer our visit to a true expert we realized we have much to learn!
Kelly Moore's plant manager, Keith Hussinger, was kind enough to invite us for a visit, so the entire leadership team and manufacturing managers joined Keith for an inspirational tour of Kelly Moore. But first, a bit of history from the kelly Moore website:
History:Kelly-Moore is one of the largest employee-owned paint companies in the United States. A leader and innovator of waterborne coating technology, Kelly-Moore was the first major paint company to offer recycled paints along with the large selection of colors and decorative sheens. Trusted and preferred by professionals since 1946 as the “Painter's Paint Store” for its high quality, performance and consistency, Kelly-Moore's paints are safe and easy to use for everyone. Kelly-Moore has three strategically located, state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in key markets: San Carlos and Sacramento, Calif., and Hurst, Texas (outside Dallas). Its reputation for quality products is unsurpassed in the industry. The company produces some of the most technologically advanced paint products and sets the industry standard for new product development and quality control. Kelly-Moore has over 150 retail stores in seven states: Arkansas, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington. Kelly Moore has 1,500 employees.
Sustainable Manufacturing: Its main environmentally friendly manufacturing facility in San Carlos is the recipient of five widely recognized green business awards from the State of California and San Mateo County for outstanding efforts to reduce pollution and solid waste and conserve water, energy and other natural resources. California is well-known for having the toughest regulations and inspection processes in the country. Kelly-Moore is proud to have received prestigious awards including the 2009 Large Green Business of the Year award by San Carlos Chamber of Commerce and it is a San Carlos Certified Green Business, California State Assembly.
Keith hosted 5 of us on a full 1.5 hour tour of the Kelly Moore facility. Here's a photographic recap of what we learned!
Air Compressor: Keith pointing out a new air compressor system that has saved the company a tremendous amount of energy. He said it had a 40% per year return on investment! This proved to be a common theme in our tour - Kelly Moore has recently invested a lot in new manufacturing technologies to reduce energy consumption and save money!
Raw Material Storage: We were so impressed by how clean and well organized everything at Kelly Moore is. Their raw materials are extremely well kept, seperated by material, all clearly labeled on pallets. It gave all of us a good idea of how a larger company manages raw materials.
More raw material storage. Not a speck of dust on the floor...literally!
Paint Mixers: Keith next showed us mixing vats. These each hold something like 55,000 gallons of paint. Many of these vats are new and recent purchases, and Keith credits this investment in better vats as allowing them to keep up with the development pace in the paint industry for more eco-oriented paints.
Paint being mixed live!
Super Sacks Recycled: We learned that Kelly Moore recycled everything, or everything that they can. An example are super sacks, which they keep well stacked and organized to be used later. Ramiro, our Factory Manager, was taking a lot of notes at this point!
Signage and Quality: We saw many examples of signs like this throughout the factory, speaking to Kelly Moore's values and history.
Quality Control: The QC department at Kelly Moore checks each and every paint made across a huge number of variables. This ensures that every batch made meets their very strict quality standards, and there is a team that is solely responsible for this.
Stocking Colors: Something interesting about Kelly Moore is they are one of the only paint companies to make stocking colors, whereas most other paint companies use pigments you mix in the paint store. By making stock colors like this, Kelly Moore ensures any paint you buy from them today they will make exactly the same way in 5, 10 or 20 years. Their paint never goes out of style!
Technology: This is another example of technology at work - each valve directs what paint ingredient goes where
Waste Watre: Kelly Moore reclaims all water it uses to clean its paint mixers. This is a huge initiative for them, and one they have received tremendous recognition for. These vats of waste water then get used when making the next batch of that same paint color, also saving them money. Each waste water vat is labeled by paint color, and organized perfectly just like everything else at the factory.
Waste Reduction: Keith told us that in the past 6 years they have reduced their garbage by 85%! That is incredible. They actually were smart enough to go find other local companies to retool their machinery to reprocess and recycle some of Kelly Moore's waste. Unbelieveable smart!
Inventory Management: Kelly Moore recently went through a large Oracle implementation and they can now track each and every paint can throughout its entire operation. It is truly impressive.
This was a picture of the damage from the Loma Prieta earthquake at the Kelly Moore paint factory. Literally paint everywhere!
Dust Collector: Kelly Moore replaced a HUGE dust collector with one much smaller shown here. This had huge economical advantages, as well as environmental for its staff.
Robotics: Keith pointed out certain robotics that Kelly Moore had spent about $1.5M on. He said in its first year the new "toys" saved them $1.3M, not even counting the safer work environment for their staff.
Robotic arm at work lifting paint cans and pallets.
Paint fill line.
The Kelly Moore facility is carbon neutral. Very impressive!
That concluded our tour, and as you can see it left us with a really tremendous impression of Kelly Moore, their paint, and their commitment to a better environment. As a small manufacturer, Fireclay Tile has a lot of work to do to keep up wtih larger companies, but seeing Kelly Moore thriving while doing the right thing gives us even more motivation to keep making improvements.
Next time you are looking for paint, we highly recommend Kelly Moore Paint!
Fireclay Tile has been fortunate over the years to be specified in over 100 high traffic grocery stores and many restaurants and food prep areas. In 2010, we have produced tile for already two grocery stores with several more being worked on, as well as numerous restaurants. Grocery stores include Whole Foods Markets (San Jose, Fairview, Huntington Beach), Metropolitan Market (Seattle), New Frontiers (San Luis Obispo), and New Leaf Market (Capitola).
Debris Series Recycled Tile in the seafood section of United Supermarkets, Texas.
Designers and architects on these projects specifiedFireclay Tile for many reasons including:
Color: At Fireclay we offer over 230 standard colors available on a variety of clay bodies. Our Debris Series Recycled Tile is by far the most preferred, not just due to the high recycled content, but also because of price and size availability (as small as 1x1 and up to 12x12 with everything in between). This range of colors, as well as the ability to specify a custom color or tweak and existing shade, allows grocery stores to truly showcase their brand and create an eye-catching environment worthy of their beautiful meats and seafood.
Durability and Longevity: Simply, our tile is the highest quality, most durable ceramic tile on the market.
Price:Our tile is handmade to reflect “Old World” styles, yet our ceramics technology is advanced and scalable, allowing us to provide pricing that fits company budgets. We will never be as cheap as Dal Tile, but because of the flexibility, customer service, customization, and responsiveness the price quickly becomes affordable, and in the long run due to our high quality and durability, the investment produces far more positive return due to increased customer purchasing. Without naming customers, we have had stores leave us to specify a less highly regarded product in a store, only to come back and admit their mistake and tell us how the lower quality tile actually produced a drop in sales.
Debris Series Recycled Tile featured in Whole Foods - Custom Pizza Oven -Portland, OR
Ease of Maintenance: Tile is a preferred wall and surface covering because it lasts forever (just ask the Romans) and it is so easy to maintain. It cleans well, allows for no bacterial growth, and will stay beautiful for years.
Enhanced Product Presentation: The beauty and flexibility of Fireclay Tile enhances the look of grocery stores and restaurants. Ceramic tile is very familiar to customers, and that comfort and ease translates into more sales for stores. With the ability to diversify color selection to really make a statement, different sections of stores can be further enhanced and the customer can better associate surroundings with taste palletes.
Code: Universal building code requires certain materials for food prep areas. Ceramic tile is an easy fit and satisfies food code in any of these environments. Furthermore, with reduced regulation around color index requirements, grocery stores can do so much more with tile to enhance their surroundings. When compared other materials that meet code, the design flexibility weighs heavily in favor of tile.
Debris Series Recycled Tile featured in Whole Foods - seafood section with custom mural. -Portland, OR
As you can see, we think highly of our product, and if you don’t believe us just check out our notable installations. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us and ask for more information.
Yesterday we were honored to welcome the owners of Heath Ceramics, Robin and Cathy, as well as their head of Sales, Christina. Heath and Fireclay Tile enjoy a very similar history. Edith Heath founded Heath in 1948, mostly focused on pottery and then started later to make tile. Paul Burns, our Founder and Chief Ceramicist, learned the art of tile from his Uncle Chester, who owned Stonelight Tile, another legendary California tile manufacturer. Fireclay and Heath actually go quite a ways back, in fact, one of our kilns is a kiln from an old Heath Factory in the mid-west (no longer in operation). We had the chance to visit Heath earlier in the year, and it was great to be able to show off the great work that our team does.
Robin, Cathy, Christina (Heath) and Paul
The tour consisted of some time at our ceramics factory in Aromas, CA, where we showed the Heath team everything that one would find in our Manufacturing Video where we highlight how we make each and every unique order. Much more fun than any part of the tour, though, was when we challenged the three to a Cuerda Seca "paint-off"!
Robin, Cathy and Christina paint Cuerda Seca decorative tiles
Earlier this month as we were scanning through the latest edition of Architectural Products and caught a glimpse of our new Crush Recycled Glass Tile, we were thrilled to see a blurb about Crossville and a new effort they have with Toto to recycle pre-consumer toilet manufacturing defects. Check it out here:
We love this about our industry and about the role that Fireclay Tile plays. Though we are a midget next to Crossville and probably the size of an ant next to Toto, here we are, a small tile manufacturer, inspiring the largest companies to think differently about their waste stream.
We might add that a big difference is that Fireclay is using post-consumer waste vs the pre-consumer waste that Crossville is obtaining from Toto, but regardless it is a step in the right direction.
Here is a look at the toilets direct from the landfill we are using.
Recently Fireclay has started recycling other scrap materials that we were previously unable to, such as bisque fired seconds from all our ceramic lines, allowing us to replace a grog ingredient that we now never have to again purchase or ship. Another great example of how environmental initiatives not only help the planet, but also help the bottom line!
Fireclay Tile has been making handpainted decorative Cuerda Seca tiles for over 15 years. Beyond our natural, lead-free glazes, we paint our cuerda secas onto our recycled Debris Series clay body, creating what we believe is the highest quality, most sustainable decorative tile available anywhere in the world. Cuerda Seca tiles compliment installations and projects of almost all sizes, whether it is a poolside fountain in a luxury hotel or stair risers on your condos front steps, cuerda seca bring elegance and sophistication to your designs. And with over 60% locally sourced recycled materials, it not only looks beautiful but is crafted with our natural environment in mind.
Cuerda Seca is a Spanish term for wax resist handpainted tiles. The technique came from Persia to Spain, and the intent is to ensure the glaze paint does not run from one part of the design to another during kiln firing. Today we use a proprietary formula for the wax resist to ensure both efficiency as well as high quality. Historically, a combination of animal fat, grease and mineral pigments such as iron or manganese were used as the medium for controlling the glaze pooling. Glazes are then inlaid with bulb syringes into areas between the lines, and for our Cuerda Secas we use all of our own glazes creaed for our Debris Series tiles.Thus, there are over 112 glaze colors to choose from!
In this blog post we take you through a brief glimpse into what Cuerda Seca designs we offer and how to choose the design right for you, how we make our Cuerda Secas, and we conclude with installation pictures that highlight the beauty and diversity one may find by incorporating Cuerda Secas.
Choosing the Right Design
We have created 3 Design Colorways - Mediterranean, Tuscan, and Peacock - on our most popular designs to make the ordering process easier for many. These colorways are based on colors we feel go great together, and the designs create gorgeous patterns and are appropriate for numerous settings. These colorways are not stocked, but they can potentially be created in less time than our standard 4 week lead time.
The square tiles shown above are available in 4x4 ($24) or 6x6 ($28) and the rectangular tiles are available in 3x3 ($20).
Customize Your Own
We offer over 150 cuerda seca designs which are available to view in our online cuerda seca catalog. We maintain them all as graphic line drawings to allow you the ability to pick and choose colors as you want them. For example, here are 8 popular designs seen in line drawing format:
Each segment within the line drawing can be handpicked by the color of your choice from our 112 Debris Series Glaze Colors. Here is an example of our beautiful San Sebastian design in our standard Mediterranean colorway overlaid on the original graphic with the color key below it. Notice the letters in the graphic on right, which correspond to the colors in the color key below and in the picture on the left side:
When ordering your cuerda seca design, having a color key like the above ensures your unique design will come out exactly like you want it. And if you think designing your own colorway might be too much, perhaps make some tweaks to our Design Colorways to create something unique but guided.
Also, one key thing to note is 32 out of 112 of the Debris Series Glaze Colors have a white engobe base. These "engobed" glaze colors can not be incorporated onto the same Cuerda Seca as non-engobe because of this engobe base layer. Thus, when designing, pay attention to whether the glaze color is engobed or not. We generally recommend sticking to the non-engobed colors to keep it simple.
Our Floreza series was designed with ultimate beauty and flexibility inmind - paying homage to gorgeous flowers, stems, and flower pots. Like our "Design Colorway", we have developed 3 standard colorways, with 18 beautiful pieces to each colorway. The design combinations are truly nearly limitless!
One aspect of the Floreza series that makes it unique is it’s ability to create vertical accents from horizontal boarders.The 6x6 “Pot” tiles allow the floral design to litterally grow to heights of 6”, 12”, 18”, 24” and beyond. Making this tile perfect for unique back splashes, fireplace surrounds, wall and floor designs. Our "Infinity Piece" allows you to take the pattern and continue it literally as high or as long as you can imagine!
Cuerda Seca Murals
We have some stunning murals handpainted and available for order, as well. Murals are based on either a Peacock or Floral setting, and colorways can be customized or based on some existing sets which we have.
Irani Flower Mural
How we make our handmade Cuerda Seca decorative tiles
We make each and every individual handpainted Cuerda Seca tile in our Aromas, CA factory. Our highly trained and experienced painters make each unique tile using either our Debris or Vitrail Series clay bodies as the base, and then apply the appropriate glazes.
As an order comes to our factory, bisqued tile (i.e. pieces of clay that have been fired once to create a hard, durable body) is screen-pressed with the chosen Cuerda Seca patterns. If the patterns are existing Fireclay Tile cuerda seca patterns we have screens ready to go, and if a custom design is chosen a new screen template is made.
After screen pressing the pattern to the clay body, the appropriate glaze colors are selected and then applied to the clay body. We use the exact same in-house Fieclay designed glaze colors on our Cuerda Seca tiles, ensuring we stay true to our commitment to using all natural, lead free glazes. This also ensures that our Cuerda Seca tiles will perfectly match any accompanying field tile you might order.
Upon completing painting, the tiles are kiln fired overnight. They are then packed, and ready for shipment.
Applications for Cuerda Seca decorative tiles
Photo: EcoHaus - Seattle Showroom
Photo: Lisa Moore Home
Photo: Focal Point Designs
We look forward to working with you to help transform your project into something unique and stunning using Fireclay handmade Cuerda Seca designs. If you want samples or a quote, please let us by emailing us!