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Behind The Scenes

The Fireclay Innovation Lab

By Lindsey |

Welcome to the place where chemistry and color meet. Our in-house Innovation team is constantly at work concocting, weighing, mixing, testing, and tweaking glazes to develop new products and perfect custom color requests. Keep reading to learn more from our Product Development and Innovation Specialist, Juan Carlos. 

Meet Juan Carlos!  

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Can you tell us what you do at Fireclay Tile?
I've been with the Fireclay Tile family for 13 years. I develop all of Fireclay's new glazes and custom colors for commercial projects. I've been working in glaze development for almost four years now. 

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Tile shown: Small Diamond in Bora Bora

What made me initially get into this line of work was that our Ceramic Engineer, Khai spotted me while I was working in our Glazing Department. Khai saw that I had great potential in glaze making and development and became my mentor in the field. 

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Juan Carlos on the glaze line, 2015

What's a typical day like in the Innovation Lab? 
I start my day by reviewing all of our new Custom Requests. I also check the color tests I set up the day before for custom sample creation, color matching, etc. I also support our glaze makers and glaze making department. 

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Aside from color development, what else happens in the Innovation Lab?  
In addition to developing new colors, my team and I work to match existing colors for "Add-On" projects. When someone doesn't order enough tile, and need to add-on, we ask that they first send in a color "Control Sample" so we have a reference to their original order. Although 100% color matching is not guaranteed due to natural batch variation, we always try our best. 

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Take me through the process of creating a glaze color...
Glazes are made from a base of frit (a type of ceramic glass) and color pigments (stains). From there, everything is batched. Batching is the process of weighing our glaze ingredients in preparation for mixing. 

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After batching, our glaze ingredients are well mixed-- we have to make sure that the glaze isn't too watery or too thick. Each glaze color has its own density. 

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Once the glaze is well-mixed, we sieve the glaze with a mesh screen so that there are no lumps. After the glaze has been sieved, we test the glaze to make sure it was made correctly. 

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Click here to watch a video of how the Innovation Team creates a custom color match. 

Behind the Scenes -- Glaze Before and Afters! 

Here's the formula for our glaze Rosemary:

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Rosemary
!

Mandy Moore's Fireclay Rosemary Bathroom

Tile shown: Rosemary 3x6 // Design: Sarah Sherman SamuelEmily Farnham Architecture // Photos: Tessa Neustadt

Here's the formula for our glaze Sand Dune:

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Sand Dune
!

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Tile shown: Sand Dune 2x6 // Design + Photo: The Fresh Exchange // Installation: Shugart Builders 

Here's the glaze formula for Nautical:

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Nautical!
 

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Tile shown: Nautical 3x6

Here's the glaze formula for Crater Lake:

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Crater Lake!

Emily Henderson Fireclay Bathroom

Tile shown: Ogee Drops in Crater Lake // Design: Emily Henderson // Photo: Jess Isaac

What's your favorite Fireclay Tile color?
My favorite Fireclay color is Boundary Waters-- it was one of my first colors that I developed to go into our Blaauw kiln.

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Tile shown: Boundary Waters 2x4

What's something you're most proud of? 
One of the projects that I'm most proud of is for an upcoming airport project in Queens, New York. I developed approximately 28 new custom colors total. The turnaround on the project was extremely fast. In two days I developed four custom glazes. I never thought that I could pull of so many custom colors in such a short amount of time. 

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What's your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is that I'm always getting to learn something new. I love developing new colors and helping out in production when needed. I enjoy being able to see all of Fireclay's different colors, sizes and shapes that are glazed every day-- it's never boring here.  

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When you're not at Fireclay Tile, what do you like to do in your free time? 
When I'm not at Fireclay, I love spending time with my eight-year-old daughter. We do activities together such as hiking, swimming, gymnastics, self-defence, and volunteering at her school. 

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What's your favorite thing about your new, renovated Innovation Lab space? 
My favorite thing about the new space is that the lab is now separate from the Production floor. We have our own tools and our own quiet space for research and lab testing. 

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Want to see more of the Innovation Lab where all new products are created? View our gallery!

Love Fireclay's glazes as much as Juan Carlos does? Order color samples today! Need some color consulting? Simply call, chat, or fill out our Design Assistance Form and one of our talented Design Consultants will get back to you shortly. 

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