- For encaustic painting see Encaustic painting
Encaustic tiles are concrete tiles in which the pattern or figure on the surface is not a product of the glaze but of different colors of clay. They are usually of two colors but a tile may be composed of as many as six. The pattern is inlaid into the body of the tile, so that the design remains as the tile is worn down. Encaustic tiles may be glazed or unglazed and the inlay may be as shallow as an eighth of an inch, as is often the case with "printed" encaustic tile from the later medieval period, or as deep as a quarter inch.
What were called encaustic tiles in the Victorian era were originally called inlaid tiles during the medieval period. The use of the word "encaustic" to describe an inlaid tile of two or more colors is technically incorrect. The word encaustic from Plantilla:Lang-grc means "burning in" from the ἐν - en "in" and καίειν - kaiein "to burn". The term originally described a process of painting with a beeswax-based paint that was then fixed with heat. It was also applied to a process of medieval enameling. The term did not come into use when describing tile until the 19th century. Supposedly, Victorians thought that the two color tiles strongly resembled enamel work and so called them encaustic. Despite the error, the term has now been in common use for so long that it is an accepted name for inlaid tile work.
Encaustic or inlaid tiles enjoyed two periods of great popularity. The first came in the 13th century and lasted until Henry the Eighth's reformation in the 16th century. The second came when the tiles caught the attention of craftsmen during the Gothic Revival era, who after much trial and error mass-produced these tiles, made them available to the general public. During both periods tiles were made across Western Europe though the center of tile production was in England. Companies in the United States also made encaustic tile during the Gothic Revival architecture style's period. The American Encaustic Tiling Company of Zanesville, Ohio, was active until the 1930s.
In both medieval times and in the 19th and 20th Century Gothic Revival, tiles were most often made for and laid in churches. Even tiles that were laid in private homes were often copies of those found in religious settings. Encaustic tile floors exist all over Europe and the United States but are most prevalent in England where the greatest numbers of inlaid tiles were made.
In the present day, encaustic tiles for new and restoration work are still manufactured by Craven Dunnill in part of their original Jackfield works, another part of which is occupied by the Jackfield Tile Museum.
- Haberly, Loyd Mediaeval English Pavingtiles 1937
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