Ceramica Cumella is a small business, as owner Toni Cumella and son Guillem graciously explain to participants of the Tile of Spain press tour on its second day. But then the elder Cumella casually mentions some of his clients: Jean Nouvel, Renzo Piano, and Kengo Kuma. And the visitors see the project folios and ceramic samples from past projects: the restoration of Gaudi’s Güell Park, La Sagrada Familia, Santa Caterina Market, and Park de la Diagonal Mar, for starters. Realizing that you're standing two feet away from one of the world’s master ceramicists is something that dawns gradually.
Since 1880, the Ceramica Cumella factory has been housed in a modest warehouse in the city of Granollers, Spain, an hour northeast of Barcelona. With a 10-person workforce, a 16,000-square-foot plant, and one kiln, the facility is able to quickly reconfigure its manufacturing process as needed for custom orders and meet production schedules. Toni, the current patriarch of the facility, represents the third generation of the family business; Guillem, who helps oversee factory operations, is the fourth.
Nearly everything from design to production happens in this three-story building. Working with their clients, the studio uses Rhino to create the digital files for extrusion dies as well as casting or pressing molds. Instead of terra cotta, the factory opts to use locally sourced gray sand. The gres can be fired to a moisture content below 3 percent, subsequently increasing the final product’s durability. Multiple extruders, glazing applicators, presses, and drying racks fill the space, while a large kiln dominates the corner of the bottom floor.
Perhaps the most fascinating objects were displayed artfully on the design and proofing table on the building’s upper floor. From color proofs to project samples, the eye candy was a tactile reminder that the craft of ceramic arts rests in good hands.