Encaustic tile is nothing new. They’ve been around since medieval times, but they’re currently enjoying a bit of a moment. Whether in intricate curlicues or modern geometric patterns, they always have a certain ‘been here forever’ rustic charm. Quynh and her family certainly understand the tile’s ‘forever’ charm – they come from a long tradition of tile making in Vietnam. “M&A Art Tiles (61 Xuan Thuy, D2) started out a little over a year ago in Saigon, but have a much longer history. It is a family business going back three generations. My grandparents started making tiles in the 1960s in a factory in Da Nang, and it has been in the family ever since,” she says. The factory has since moved to Hue, but not much else has changed. “Almost all of the production process is by hand; the only automation is the hydraulic press. We use a machine for this because it helps to ensure consistent quality so the color won’t fade or be uneven.”
Quynh stocks a range of tiles, created by in-house artists and designers, which are available for immediate purchase, in addition to the custom designs (though this requires an order of 10 square meters and take a longer period to create). For bespoke patterns, the artwork is first traced onto paper then metalworkers bend strips of metal to form a mold, carefully following the original drawing. The mold is vital in creating the matte finish. While normal patterned tiles are lacquered or glazed, the design and color in encaustic tiles is built up using pigmented cement that is pressed into the surface of the tile. Because of this, the tiles do not need to be fired, creating the rustic look.
The tiles can also be backed by wood to create wall hangings or purchased singularly as statement pieces – great gifts for any budding interior designer. In addition to the larger tiles, they also produce smaller ceramic ones that can be combined in a variety of ways to add color to any room. The 10x10cm tiles (VND70,000 each) make for a funky coaster set. The larger 15x15cm tiles (VND150,000 each) can also feature as part of a place setting, as well as being purely decorative. Like the rectangular tiles (VND350,000 each) they feature rich colors and raised and recessed details that draw the eye.
The ceramic wall hangings (VND850,000 – VND1.5 million) are great gifts for art lovers. Reminiscent of classical mosaics, the hangings are entirely customizable. They come in two sizes and are assembled from various sizes and designs, capable of being tailored to individual taste. Don’t worry, you don’t need to completely redesign your home to enjoy these cool art tiles, though it is always tempting to give yourself a grandiose Christmas gift!