Launch Slideshow

Ceramica Cumella

Ceramica Cumella

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    Toni Cumella, third-generation ceramicist and owner of the 10-person tile factory Ceramica Cumella.

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    Toni Cumella's son, Guillem, represents the fourth generation of the family's legacy and expertise in ceramics.

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    One of three 1,500-square-meter (5,400-square-foot) floors in the factory.

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    The extruder uses a variety of dies, many custom made for each project.

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    Dies for the extruding machine line the shelves.

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    This machine sprays glaze using multiple arms to accommodate three-dimensional pieces.

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    Prior to firing, which the factory typically limits to a once per piece, the formed clay awaits in a heated dryer to decrease its moisture content. These pieces are designed for a perforated screen wall for a private residence.

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    Some ceramics pieces are extruded with knock-out pieces to provide structural integrity during the manufacturing process.

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    Glazing contains different minerals to produce its color as well as frit to achieve its designated finish (e.g. glossy or matte). Cobalt is used to produce the blue hues.

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    Glazing color tests.

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    A record of colors used for a project.

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    An unfinished art piece by Toni Cumella's father, Antoni, hangs in Toni's office.

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    Examples of Ceramica Cumella's work.

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    Ceramica Cumella's work includes the decorative tile on Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia.

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    A mosaic of the tiles used on the tile roof of the Santa Caterina Market in Barcelona. Ceramica Cumella used 67 different colored glazings in the iconic roof.

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.