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As Seen On: The New York Times

April 23, 2006

Finding the Elusive Mexican Tile - The Thrifty Millionarie


The New Youk Times
By Tracie Rozhon


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Ola Azul Border Talavera Mexican Tile


Mexico is world re known for its skillful artisans in a wide variety of fields. Mexican writer Alberto Ruy Sanchez Lacy called Mexican tile a "chosen skin". Tiles have embellished numerous public and private spaces though out Mexico.


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... So I did a Google search for Mexican tile, and found Tierra y Fuego... Besides offering-sized square tiles and every bullnose and border tile you ight yearn for, Tierra y Fuego, based in San Diego, also sells drawer knobs, house numbers, sinks, and switch plates - all in handmade, handpainted ceramic.


Company representatives seemed responive when, by e-mail and phone, I asked questions about the tiles. Was the yellow the way the way it looked on the color chart, or was it more mustard? ("No, it is pretty much the way it looks" - the somewhat predictable answer.) Was the white a real white or a creamy white? ("Creamy white.")...


I ordered two cases of tiles from Tierra y Fuego. They arrived, and I was delighted. First, they are Mexican tiles exactly as I remembered them: almost no edge was perfectly perpendicular with another, which is why people mount them with broad spaces, between them. (You can still make a straight line on the wall, but you have to vary the spaces between them a bit, to make up for the slightly different shapes.) This is not a look for perfectionists, but I like these tiles precisely for their irregulatiry. In a house like mine, from the 18th century, the look is the same as it would have been back then.


I also love the colors. The ivory ones, labeled just "white", have the color of divinely heavy cream, the kind you want to lap up but know how bad it would be for you. And they sometimes have tiny cracks in the enameled surface. The yellow ones I ordered - called "Mostaza," or mustard - have the deep, deep yellow, as intense as a daffodil in the raking light of a sunset. The ones called "special green" are a bit more expensive because they have layers of different velvety greens.


The day after I placed the initial order, I called to ask for four additional patterned tiles, just samples, at $1.35 to $1.75 each; I wanted to check the craftmanship of the company's more intricate designs. But my amended order must have been misplaced - the four tiles weren't sent with the main shipment. When I called about the problem, however, the representative was polite and the four tiles were sent almost immediately. I got them several days after the big order, with no extra shipping charge.


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