Ladrilleria Favilli: Where Italy Meets Nicaragua

Ladrilleria Favelli workroomThe 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.Tile selection  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.Using the press

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!

Pouring the colored cementWe 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 motifAdding the 2nd half -wet concrete and dry.  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.on the line

Finished productThe 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?Finished tiles

By Richard and Anita, January, 2014

 

28 comments

  • Thanks for sharing this artisan factory. I love supporting local and handmade, and always enjoy reading the posts of others who do the same! How beautiful it would be to use these tiles in a kitchen or bath-the process looked so involved and your great photos help to understand it.

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  • hello! I’m Elisa Favilli…

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    • Hi Elisa. Any relation to the Favillis in Granada?

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    • YEAH!! He was my great-great grandfather

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      • We hope you enjoyed the post as much as we liked visiting the tile factory and learning about your family. You’re great-great grandfather was an amazing man and you have much to be proud of. Thank you for taking the time to comment. Anita

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      • Mine too for real. Lina Favilli Phelan my grandma just recently died at 96 years old in the Bronx NY. She use to tell me her dad was from Italy pizza and had a tile factory in Nicaragua. I often wondered where the other half came from. She looks 100% exactly like him so that confirms it for me. I did some research and found out more.

        Mario Favilli-Bendecchi was born in San Lorenzo alle Corde, Pisa, Italy in 1888. He migrated to Nicaragua in 1908, and established himself in Granada in 1910. He rented space in the home of your great-grandmother, Amalia Lejarza-Garcia, wife of Crisanto Ortega to use as his studio. Crisanto would often travel out of town. One thing lead to another and Mario and Amalia produced three children: Lina 1915 (my grandma), Graciela 1916 and Narciso 1919. Crisanto adopted all of them, and I believed registered their births as his own children, giving them full legitimacy and raised them as his own. Soon thereafter, in 1925, Mario returned to Italy and married Clorinda Picasso-Boitano, and subsequently had four children: 1- Luis Augusto Favilli-Picasso 1926, 2- Yolanda Favilli-Picasso 1929 3-Margarita (Maya) Favilli-Picasso 1931 and 4- Herminia (Mina) Favilli-Picasso 1927. Mario was the son of Augusto Cesare Favilli-Barsali and Ercilia Bendecchi (or Bendecci). Clorinda was daughter of Luiggi Picasso-Robelo and Erminia Boitano. He was a sculptor and architect and gained renoun. His children married into the first families of Nicaragua (including Argüello, Chamorro and Duarte) His son married Lillian Wilson-Hansen, from Sweden. He was a doctor, and ultimately lived in Florida. These four were your grandmother’s siblings, your father’s aunts and uncles, and their children were your father’s 1st cousins, your 1st cousins once removed, and their children your 2nd cousins. This information was obtained from dwight Dunn who has extensively family tree information. My name is Mike Caldera from Staten Island NY https://www.linkedin.com/in/mikecaldera you can add me and chat. Amazing what you can find on the net!

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        • Loved reading your email and this history of your grandmother and trying to piece together the different branches of your family – one branch in Nicaragua and another in the Bronx area of NYC. It was fun to go back and read this post about the Favilli family and remember how interesting our visit to the Ladrilleria Favilli in Granada was as well as learning how traditional tiles were made. You and your family have an amazing heritage and I’m glad your grandmother shared some of her history. A trip to Nicaragua might be a great way to fill in more pieces to the family puzzle. 🙂 Thanks Mike for stopping by our blog and taking the time to leave a comment about your family! Anita

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  • I love going to places like this and learning how things are made. Thx so much for sharing.

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  • I VERY much enjoyed all of your photos😉 Those tiles are such eye candy and I just loved watching them being made. Looks like a lot of work and helps me understand why they are so expensive!

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  • It’s so nice that your photo captured the pride of the artisans.

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  • There is a lot of work and time involved in making those beautiful tiles.Thanks for sharing what you learned about the process.

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    • You’re right about the time and work that goes into making the tiles. We had never given a lot of thought as to how tiles were made before our visit to Ladrilleria Favilli and now we are very aware and appreciative of the many types and designs of floor tiles that we see and the creativity that goes into them.

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  • This looks like very hard and yet satisfying work. Curing the tiles for 3 months makes these tiles a lifetime enjoyment for the home owner. I can appreciate hand made tiles even more with your detailed information on how they were made.

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  • Michele Peterson

    I love Latin America or come to think of it any country where the men work without their shirts on🙂 . I remember when our truck broke down and lost its muffler in Guatemala and a team of shirtless (and buff) mechanics arrived on the scene to get it back on the road. You don’t see that at Midas Muffler. It looks like these guys had fun posing for your pots while they worked!

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  • Jorge Greco Rodriguez

    What an awesome post

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  • Anita and Richard, All I can say is Wow! I had no idea how the tile-making process worked. It’s certainly labor intensive, but what a beautiful result. Wonderful post!🙂 ~Terri

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  • I’m impressed – really didn’t know how tile was made or how the design was put together. Thanks for sharing these interesting adventures and the pictures are wonderful.

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  • The blog was very interesting, with great pictures.

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