Floored by tradition

Floored by tradition


Floored by tradition

The scope of architecture has today extended beyond the intrinsic need of providing shelter. Its expression is extensively being moulded by the building material industry, which is launching enticing dream surfaces and materials by the day. The decision to make the right pick is challenging and crucial as it determines the making or marring of a space.

Distinct handmade tiles

This is true of the options available for tiles too. While the lure and variety of machine made tiles is plentiful and popular, there’s a space in the tile industry for traditional handmade tiles. These tiles that have their origins from across the country are keeping alive century-old processes of handcrafting tiles, all with a distinct texture and character. Involving the efforts of many artisans and craftsmen, these handmade tiles bring in that human touch making each of them unique symbols of Indian heritage too.

Variations lend character

One needs to be aware of certain aspects of these traditional handmade tiles before choosing them. Variations in shade and finish are inherent in handmade tiles giving them their character. Slight surface imperfections and bumps can occur naturally during the firing process of tiles. These imperfections are not defects but are distinguishing features that add to their beauty and uniqueness and in no way affect the integrity of the tiles. The tiles are literally works of art and vary slightly in colour and shape.

As the handmade tiles are handcrafted and not generally mass produced, one needs to plan a lead time of four to six weeks for delivery and six to eight weeks for custom-made requests.

Most of these handmade tiles do not need polishing as they are usually glazed. A daily mop should keep the sheen intact. These tiles are known to age beautifully and the more one walks on them, the more sheen they gain.

Traditional handmade tiles in India come with their share of disadvantages though. Owing to rising cost of raw materials and dearth of traditional craftsmen, those who were in this business have given up. Another aspect of the tiles is that they give an uneven finish, as they are handmade. It may not result in a very even surface eventually when it is laid out. Only a skilled labourer with deft hands can lend a good finish.

If the aesthetics of the traditional handmade tiles suits the décor that you aspire for and if you are ready to scout for that extra bit for these rare yet beautiful ethnic tiles, you have made a difference in more than one way!

Athangudi tiles

Athangudi tiles are one such popular handmade decorative cement floor tiles, originating from a village called Athangudi in the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu, the land of Chettiars. Traditionally adorning Chettinad houses, Athangudi tiles made of sand, cement and baby jelly, are prepared through a fascinating process with just bare hands, a clean glass and a mould. No special machines are used and certain designs do not even need the mould.

“The mould of a design is placed on a piece of glass. Colours, synthetic or natural, are poured into different compartments of the mould and spread evenly.

 A dry mix of sand and cement is then sprinkled on it, topped by a wet mixture of sand and cement. Once the tile is evenly laid, it is eased out of the mould and allowed to dry overnight. The next day, it is transferred to a water tank for curing.
After two days, it is laid to dry. It is then burnt and glazed,” explains Iyyappan of Shivam Shakthi, a supplier of Athangudi tiles.

These tiles are eco-friendly too as they do not reflect, radiate or conduct heat and have minimal wear and tear. It is believed that the local sand is the secret behind the tiles’ texture.

Being about three-fourth inches in thickness, these tiles are heavy and do not need machine polishing. A cleaning with husk is enough to give it a good finish.

The making of a single Athangudi tile takes about seven to ten days, necessitating a planning of a couple of months lead time for their procurement. A play of base colours, typically red and yellow, with conventional flora and line-drawing designs mark the conventional style of Athangudi tiles. Priced in the Rs 35 – Rs 60 per sq ft range, several vivid shades and custom patterns can also be obtained by mixing colours to this base.

Capt Poornapragna, who has opted for Athangudi tiles flooring in the family area of his residence says, “Vibrant colours and designs of the Athangudi tiles add to the aesthetics of the house.”