Ottoman odyssey

Covering the globe, one tile at a time, Turkey is competing to be the world's number one tile exporter.

Lotus tile
Lotus tile

Covering the globe, one tile at a time, Turkey is competing to be the world's number one tile exporter.

Home to some of the world's oldest and best-preserved prehistoric ceramic artefacts, Turkey boasts an unbroken tradition of ceramics production that can be traced back at least eight thousand years.

Each passing year, Turkey advances rapidly down the road to becoming the world's leading exporter of ceramic and porcelain tiles. It currently produces more than 180 million m2 worth each year.

This makes Turkey the fifth leading ceramic tile producer in the world and third largest in Europe, constituting 3.5% of world production and 11% of European production.

The accelerating performance of the Turkish ceramic sector was on display during this year's Unicera 20th International Ceramic and Bathroom trade fair, held in Istanbul during April.

Organisers of the show, the Ceramic Federation, Building Material Suppliers Association (TIMDER) and TUYAP, brought together the largest ceramic manufacturers in the region, attracting more than 54,000 visitors from over 50 countries around the world.

The overriding theme throughout the fair was the comeback of designs, materials and patterns associated with the Ottoman Empire. Individual designers have interpreted this trend in different ways.

A good example of this was the 'Orientile' range by Canakkale Seramik - Kalebodur, created in collaboration with award winning designer Can Yalman.

"These shapes come from the Ottoman designs - tiles from over 300 years ago are being taken, and re-introduced to the market in an innovative way," said Aysen Uz, brand communication manager for Canakkale Seramik.

The 'Orientile' range offers similar shapes and designs to the way [tiles] were years ago.

"Not yet launched and first showcased here at the exhibition, they have received a huge amount of interest," she said.

Part of the Kale group, the largest tile manufacturers in Turkey, Canakkale Seramik's 'Orientile' range includes 'Aya', a droplet shaped tile representing designs traditionally used on kaftans worn by Sultans centuries ago.


'Feza' demonstrates the same idea. Taken from old tile designs, it fits its sharp edges together in a mosaic, proving that shapes such as classic squares and geometric designs, such as diamonds and hexagons, continue to appeal.

Finally, the 'Rumi' tile, which appeared to generate the most attention, is a black square tile with a corner-curve of bright yellow. According to Uz, it was designed with the aim of 'trying to introduce traditionally used colours back into the market'.

While the 1990s were full of cool neutral shades and softer palettes, today's commercial and industrial sectors are clamouring for a punch of colour.

Hot picks at the show included earth tones and sea colours such as emerald green, cobalt blue, chocolate brown, and black, paired with hues such as crimson or bright yellow.

Ege Seramik illustrated this well with its ceramic slabs of red, black and white, in its 'Elegant' series for the bedroom, and 'Scala' for the bathroom.

Bold prints and motifs were also among the latest fashion trends on show. 'Glamour' by Toprak shone with abstract swirls of glittery black on a white canvas.

According to Fatma Avsar, planning specialist of Toprak,'the design compliments traditional aspects of the Turkish tile industry, but with a modern twist'.

Such patterns were not only seen from Toprak. Numerous manufacturers adopted similar details, adding a mix of textiles on to the tiles. Graniser Seramiks had some of the most unusual combinations of fabrics woven on to the tiles.

"These are definitely more attractive where tiles are concerned, especially those with a shine and where textiles are incorporated," said Bora Fistikci, export representative, Graniser Seramik.

"It is becoming a trend worldwide - designs traditionally used on wallpapers, general textiles and materials used around the home are all now making their way in to the tile sector," he added.


In addition, while mosaics were used as decorative accents on most stands, Evi Metal used stainless steel tiles and tile borders to create an urban effect with its 'quadrato' and 'ciottolo' tiles.

Meanwhile, manufacturing products from 11 quarries around Turkey, Armstone and exporting company Travertine Bros had reproductions of tiles made from natural stone, marble and limestone, differentiating themselves from the porcelain and ceramic tiles.

"Last year, most places were [looking for] tumbled and wanting the antique look, similar to that of an old mansion.

In the last year however, people are after more linear cuttings, especially those that live in apartments - those living an urban lifestyle, generally want linear, and geometric patterns," said Baris Isler, regional manager of the natural stone mining and trade company of Travertine Bros.

A trend exhibited by many of the companies was that tiles are getting bigger. Where the norm used to be plain bone white, 12x12-inch tiles, these days, bigger is better. Not only do they make a small room appear more spacious and airy, larger tiles can offer the sought-after spa look.

"Today we are focusing on large formats - and porcelain tiles, especially where large projects are concerned, airports, malls, and large scale residential projects, for example," said Ugur Indirkas, project sales manager for tile division of VitrA.

[Tiles] in sizes such as 60x120, 45x90 - with a metallic, and/or a natural stone look - are the trends these days."

One of the highlights of the show was the 'Kalesinterflex' by Kalebodur, the second producer globally, of the world's first flexible tile.

Offering 15 colour alternatives (in both matt and gloss) that look and feel just like a painted surface, 'this hard-wearing product has many technical advances, and can be produced in measurements up to and including 1m x 3m, and is only three millimeters thick,' said Uz.

All in all, although rustic tiles and designs still have a market, the introduction of new technology, combined with improved designs, means tile manufacturers are aiming to please a wider audience and set new trends.

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