Mexican tiles or Talavera tiles are famed for their bright colors and uniqueness.
No two Mexican tiles are the same because they are all made and decorated by hand. They are mostly quite small – up to 6inches square. As well as minor color variations, sizes can differ. The glaze can appear crazed (*see note below), some tiles are warped or bowed, and it is not unusual to find cracks in Mexican tiles. Even when sets of tiles are produced they are all slightly different from each other.
Mexican tiles are unique and very colorful so they tend to be used to create highlights. A very popular use is to frame house numbers, and yet they lend themselves equally well to covering whole walls in a riot of color. The tiles are waterproof so they are used in bathrooms and around swimming pools as well as in kitchens where they make excellent backsplashes.
Mexican tiles can be applied to any surface that will take a setting adhesive. With standard tiles, it is necessary to use spacers to create space for grouting but the irregular sizes and shapes of Mexican tiles make that unnecessary.
If you are trying to create a particular pattern with Mexican tiles it is advisable to lay the pattern out on a bench or table to see what the final result might look like. If many tiles are warped or don’t lie flat the lay out will show where there will be tiles standing proud and, if that is not the desired effect, the tiles can be moved around to minimize the effect.
Use on a Flat Surface
Mexican tiles have been used to surface tables but when they are used on flat surfaces the tiles need to be supported to prevent a heavy object that has been placed on the table from breaking tiles that are warped. The tiles are unsuitable for kitchen surfaces because they are not smooth and are difficult to keep hygienically clean.
In the Garden
Mexican tiles can be used to create highlights on fountains, garden furniture, patios, and planters. Surprisingly they make very hard-wearing additions to footpaths if they are set in cement or concrete.
As pretty as Mexican tiles are, they are simplicity itself to care for. Tiles that are outdoors can be almost ignored because the normal rainfall is enough to keep them clean and sparkling. Indoors all that is needed is an occasional wash with mild soapy water. Abrasives should never be used on Mexican tiles because they will eventually destroy the glaze and the tile would be spoiled by water penetration.
If you are looking for something bright and different, why not explore Mexican tiles. Maybe you can install one on each of the risers of your staircase or create a colorful panel around your house number or name.
*Crazed – This is an industry-wide term used to describe a random network of fine cracks that can appear in the glaze of ceramic objects. Crazing can be the result of over-heating the kiln during the firing when the glaze cannot expand as quickly as the base material of the object. The apparent crazing on Mexican tiles is usually the result of an over-generous application of glaze which allows the top surface to bake and then is cracked by the lower levels of glaze expanding. The crazing could be limited to small areas of the product where an extra coat of glaze has been made in error. Crazing does not weaken the ceramic object but it should be sealed before use to prevent the penetration of liquids that might weaken or discolor the object.