People who live and share the European spirit.
“We can guarantee our customer that, unless it has been copied, no-one else will have a floor like theirs.”
What made the Martí brothers resume manufacture of hydraulic mosaic tiles?
The reason we started up the business again was partly sentimental and partly foresight, because we thought there could be a clientele interested in a product that combined artisan tradition and a certain prestige, like the mosaic.
How is a tile created?
The hydraulic tile is produced by compression in a frame and has three layers, the common element of which is cement mortar. The decorated layer is the most important, and comprises a fluid mixture of white Portland cement, powdered marble and pigments. The pattern is formed by a tin pattern mould, which has the function of separating the colours of the composition.
``It is a totally handmade process.``
What remains of the old manufacturing method?
The raw materials and the production process remain the same as in the time of my grandfather, in 1913.
What lies hidden behind the building of each mosaic?
What lies hidden is the desire to do what we’ve been doing our entire life. We strive to offer hydraulic mosaics that combine artisanal know-how and the very best raw materials.
Have you tried to industrialise all or part of the process?
The process is entirely artisanal. Well-known companies have tried to industrialise some stages of the process, but all have failed.
Hydraulic mosaics are trendy again. Do you think they’ve increased the value of the homes that have them?
Without doubt. The prices of reconditioned properties with hydraulic tiles have increased by 10-15 %, fruit of their artisanal, cultural and historical value.
What countries do you export to?
The intense competition from mosaics produced in former French and Spanish colonies, which are cheaper but of poor quality, has meant that sales have fallen in recent years. Some 60% of our sales are made in Catalonia and the rest are spread all over Spain; we’ve occasionally sold tiles in the rest of Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Canada, the USA, Japan, South-East Asia and the Arab countries.
What kind of spaces do you receive most commissions for?
Demand for the product is varied: from people who want to reform and restore their homes with hydraulic mosaics, to interior designers and architects engaged in the restoration of historical and artistic heritage. Others want to incorporate mosaic into the design of newbuild projects, either residential properties or public spaces in the retail arena: shops, restaurants and hotels.
Artisanal production that still works now, in the 21st century?
Yes. My brother and I have accepted the challenge of promoting the resurgence of artisanal manufacturing seen as old fashioned but which offers infinite possibilities from both the architectural and the decorative points of view. We currently produce more than two hundred styles with different shapes and patterns, from the most traditional, classical models to today’s more modern, unusual designs.
Do you work with any renowned architects?
The Catalan architects Lluís Clotet and Elías Torres, who designed our current collection. And of particular interest is our relationship with the British architect David Kohn, with whom we undertook a residential project in Avinyó Street in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter which won an INSIDE award for Interior of the Year in 2013.
“The design and quality of modernisme coupled with the resurgence of a more contemporary style”
What do you think is the secret to convincing architects to use this material?
The reason for the increasing interest in this sector is personalisation. The fact that a mosaicist produces the pieces one by one allows for small changes in the design or colour to be made. So once the mosaic is complete you can have created a surface that is absolutely unique, that no-one else will ever have.
There’s a new resurgence of craft and its values. What advice would you give to people who are taking up a trade or handicraft?
Be true to the product and clear about exactly what product you’re working with. Then, within this fidelity, be somewhat bold when you innovate.
Tell me some of the emblematic projects you’ve carried out.
The tiles to restore the floors of Palau Güell, Casa Amatller and the Sant Pau Modernista Hospital in Barcelona.
Any dream still to be fulfilled?
That there’s a fourth generation that wants to carry on the profession and enable this historical legacy of Catalonia’s artistic heritage and the Martí family to be preserved.
THE VIENA QUESTIONNAIRE:
The key of happiness …
doing what you enjoy doing, and sharing it
“Noches de bohemia”, by Navajita Plateá
The best conversation is…
the sobretaula – a relaxed chat after finishing a meal
Favourite Viena dish…
country pork sausage in a small baguette