Saturday, July 23, 2016

Tiles for Miles

"These people are obsessed with tiles," I thought, because in Portugal tiles are indoors and out, town and country, fronting buildings and churches, in restaurants, stairwells, kitchens, train stations, bathrooms. There are two kinds: faience, or ceramic tiles made of a special gray clay; and Moorish tiles, much heavier, made of terracotta. Both are hand-painted but Moorish are more likely to be textured and geometric (reflecting Islamic esthetics imported by the Moors who once ruled Portugal); faience is painted with just about anything, cobalt blue a favored color. Blue tile art is called azulejo and dates from the 17th century. People don't do it so much anymore.

Pictured above is an azulejo chapel ceiling (in the seaside town of Nazare; the chapel was just a hole in the wall and I went in and beheld this), and below, a restaurant front in Nova da Gaia; a bunny-themed tile in another restaurant; a doorway with atypical monochromatic tile; a bathroom in one of our hotels in the tiny town of Pinhao; and a sampler from one of my hosts' tile collections, now tiling his kitchen wall. It was I who was obsessed with tiles, and it'd be great if we could put people to work tiling things here.

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