Ladrilleria Favilli: Where Italy Meets Nicaragua
The sign on the building reads Ladrilleria Favilli and the sidewalk in front of the building on Calle Santa Lucia in Granada is a colorful patchwork of tiles in many original and classic designs. We poked our heads in the door to check out the displays of distinctive and traditional patterned tiles and the pretty woman sitting at the desk, Maria, invited us to come in and look around the workspace. While we admired the beautiful tiles she shared the fascinating history of the tile factory and explained and showed us how the tiles were made.
In 1915, leaving war-torn Europe and Italy behind, Mario Favilli, Maria’s great-grandfather, arrived in Granada accompanied by his wife and two children. Mario was an architect and sculptor and, to support himself and his family in his newly adopted country, he brought two hydraulic presses for the making of the tiles which grace the floors of many homes, both old and new, throughout the city.
There are many things that make the Favilli tiles unique. Each tile is handmade: the molds are classic patterns and many were designed by Favilli himself although customers can create their own designs and select the desired colors for a truly one-of-a-kind floor. Favilli’s will then create a template to meet the custom order. The tiles are made out of cement (not clay as we had assumed), are approximately ¾ of an inch thick and weigh almost 8 pounds each. The colored pattern runs halfway through the tile so, needless to say, they’re extremely durable!
We followed Maria into the factory as she gave us an impromptu tour. Sand is brought into the workspace through the courtyard and a worker then sieves it to remove any over-sized pieces of sand, rock or debris. The resulting fine sand is then mixed with water and concrete by hand in buckets and color is added to create a thick, viscous liquid to be used for the design. The liquid is carefully poured into the molds in several different steps as one color after another is added to make the motif. At this point, with the mold halfway filled, moist concrete mixture and then a thin layer of the dry mixture are added. A weight is placed on top of the mold and the whole, heavy load is transferred to the hydraulic press which squeezes out the liquid (about 15 seconds). The template is turned upside down and the resulting tile is carefully removed and placed on its edge in a line with previously made tiles where it will need to dry for at least seven days before it can be laid. The tile must cure for at least three months if it is to be sealed and polished.
The resulting handmade tiles can be arranged in an endless possibility of designs and patterns forming borders and “carpeted” areas on the floor, countertops and bathroom walls throughout one’s home. After all, why limit art to paintings on the wall?
By Richard and Anita, January, 2014