An international ceramic exhibition reveals some of the latest developments and trends in the tiling industry.

Each year, it is with great excitement that Cersaie welcomes a host of visitors from around the world. This year was no exception. Cersaie 2014: The 32nd International Exhibition of Ceramic Tile and Bathroom Furnishings opened its doors on 22 September until 26 September to an audience of Italian and international professors, journalists and consumers.

The number of exhibitors increased to 942 from 38 countries, 41 companies and three more countries than the previous year. This included 339 non-Italian companies, demonstrating a total proportion of 36%. In addition, the best represented sector was that of ceramic tiles, with 508 companies, 236 of whom were non-Italian.

Ceramic trends for 2015

Soft, delicate colours; sources of information that range from rustic to refined; and classic yet original shapes: these were the main trends running through the ceramic tiles on display at Cersaie 2014.

The show’s exhibits clearly highlighted the continued search for an essential, natural feel. This finds expression in tiles that represent nature almost more faithfully than nature itself, and in collections that demonstrate refined lines and colours with pride. There were prominent signs of a palpable desire to design floor and wall tiles that embody both these aspects, with a view to creating entirely original products that masterfully combine rustic character with elegance.

But the desire for colour emerges too, in a series of understated monochromes, including matt reds, sugar-paper sky blues, petroleum greens, reticent corals and tempered burgundies. The predominant shades, however, are brown, anthracite, beige and turtledove – whether light or dark, matt or gloss, these are the undisputed stars of the latest collections.

There was a certain uniformity about the accents, which revealed a prevalence of delicate floral motifs juxtaposed with original, abstract patterns, and optical-effect mosaics matched with luxuriant Baroque decorations.

With regards to formats, size and thickness have become an exciting new trend due to technological advancements within the industry. Panels of up to five metres in length, with thicknesses ranging from 4 to 20 mm, are now regarded an established trend, which has prompted designers to think in terms of single, seamless coverings as opposed to the classic reticulation of tile surfaces. Here the industry worldwide can embrace the opportunity to combine creativity with innovation.

Digital technology has a big role to play in achieving all of these trends and, in fact, the words ‘technology’ and ‘innovation’ can hardly be isolated from each other and have become a singular concept, which is also growing at a rapid pace in South Africa. Digital technology gives designers the freedom to become almost obsessive about detail and create products with constantly new styling features and technical qualities.

The Johnson Tiles and Tile Africa combined team returned to South Africa after attending Cersaie 2014, and identified numerous trends that can be customised to suit the design and décor needs of South Africa’s commercial and residential industry. Read more about their detailed findings in the following articles.

Key innovations

Cersaie decided to introduce a major new innovation this year, and that was to include marble, natural stone and parquet, etc. to its usual exhibited products, thereby opening the door to leading companies in these sectors. It also enabled visitors to appreciate the excellence of other surface covering materials besides just ceramic tiles, predominantly Italian.

This decision reflects the desire of the organisers to make Cersaie a single, large venue where Italian and international buyers and architects can meet leading companies in all surface covering sectors, both ceramic and non-ceramic. This vision enables visitors to admire all of the most innovative, modern and original floor and wall covering materials for use in both interior and exterior spaces.

It was initially a tough challenge to continue being innovative while at the same time developing a successful exhibition, but one of the key characteristics that define what Cersaie stands for lies in the very fact that exhibitors embrace market trends and constantly try to meet the needs of their consumers. Consequently, this initiative reflects the capacity for innovation and ongoing development, which has always been a prominent feature of this event.

A youthful approach

An underlying emphasis that streamlined the entire exhibition was its focus on the youth, who are actively embracing the world of décor and design.

For example, on the 24th of September, a conference was led by two Milanese architects, namely Simona Malvezzi and Nadir Bonaccorco, who spoke alongside Fulvio Irace, a prominent Architect and Professor of History of Architecture at the Milan Polytechnic. This forum was devoted to young Italian architects abroad and moderated by journalist Sergio Nava, author of “La Fuga dei Talenti” (The flight of talent), which analyses the flight of young professionals from Italy.

A second example was the conference entitled The Language of Ceramic, which took place at the University of Florence. The speaker was Paolo Di Nardo, an architect and lecturer on the “Design Workshop” course that forms part of the University’s undergraduate students’ curriculum in architecture. He presented roughly 40 architectural projects at the conference, all of which were produced by course students and which made extensive, high-profile use of Italian ceramic.

Throughout the academic year, the students commencing with Professor Di Nardo’s course, followed in-depth studies of ceramic as an architectural material in a series of lectures held at the University. As well as covering everything from the historic and economic background to the aesthetic development of Italian ceramic, the course also included several more specific and technical lectures on topics such as the preparation of substrates and adhesives, the various types of joints used in the installation of ceramic tiles, and the design and manufacture of tiling for various types of surfaces.

A third example demonstrating the above was the conference entitled Ceramic Futures: from poetry to science fiction. This social networking project on Italian ceramics consisted of a few stages, the first stage being that students worked on their own projects and ideas, while documenting and sharing everything on a dedicated web platform and other social networks. Each student had a personal page on this platform, where all the interactions were monitored and reported on while using dedicated charts to document the progression of their projects and the construction of prototypes.

The focus on student involvement and interaction not only highlights innovative conference offerings at Cersaie 2014, but also the importance of engaging the youth to ensure a progressive and inspired ceramic future that extends well into the future.

All of the above offer mere glimpses into Cersaie 2014, with attendees expressing a shared opinion that this year’s event was an astounding success. As such, Cersaie 2015 is set to once again inform, entertain and educate visitors, with the aim to celebrate the world of beautiful ceramics.