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 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 condo's 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 resistant 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 created for our Recycled Clay Body (formally known as our Debris Series). Thus, there are over 40 glaze colors to choose from!
In this blog post we will 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 will conclude with installation pictures that highlight the beauty and diversity one may find by incorporating Cuerda Secas.
Choosing the Right Design:
We have created three 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 that are appropriate for numerous settings. These colorways are not stocked (we make everything to order), but they can potentially be created in less time than our standard four 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 Cuerda Seca Collection. 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 wide range of Recycled Clay Body Glazes. 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 that some of our Recycled Clay Body Colors have a white Engobe base. Most of these "engobed" glaze colors can not be incorporated onto the Cuerda Seca designs. 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 in mind - paying homage to gorgeous flowers, stems, and flower pots. Like our "Design Colorway," we have developed three 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 its ability to create vertical accents from horizontal boarders.The 6x6 “Pot” tiles allow the floral design to literally 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 Recycled Clay Body 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 into 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: Lisa Moore Home
Photo: Focal Point Designs
Pool or Fountain
Like the idea of using Cuerda Seca in your project? Try out our Color-It Tool and order samples online now! Need some help? Need some help? Simply call, chat, or fill out our Design Assistance Form and one of our talented Design Consultants will get back to you shortly.