Vives Ceramica and Designtra: Traditional Materials with a Modern Approach
Join us for brief chat with Rodrigo Vives to learn more about the values and materials that make Vives one of the finest ceramics-makers in the world
For nearly 60 years, Vives Azulejos y Gres has fostered a family legacy built on impeccable ceramic craftsmanship and a passionate vision for the future of tile.
Those six decades have brought relentless refinement and technological progress, giving rise to a second Vives generation that has taken the company’s reins determined to sustain their roots while boldly defining the new era of Spanish artisanry.
It all starts with their clay, which they source near their factory in the ceramics hub of Alcora, Spain—one of the few places in the world that has preserved centuries of tradition.
Designtra is thrilled to be the sole authorized distributor of Vives products in the United States. American architects and designers, no longer limited to the offerings of scattered retailers, now have the entire Vives menu at their fingertips.
To someone unfamiliar with the Vives name, how would you describe what the company is about and the goods you produce?
Our company is a family business working in tiles since 1957, when my father and my uncle started our factory in Spain. That mantle has been passed down to five of us in the second generation of ceramics craftsmen. You can imagine the technological evolution we’ve seen, and the resulting variety that comes with that. For us, quality is always first. We have created an amazing array of products over those decades. We strive to be at the forefront of ceramic design. Our focus lately has been on ceramic wall and floor tiles as well as porcelain tiles in a wide range of sizes and designs.
You’ve been in the Castellón region of Spain for more than 50 years. What makes it such a unique and fruitful hub for making ceramics?
Like the handful of other truly great ceramic hotbeds, Alcora sits in a small area (20 kilometers around) where artisans have built up the centuries of knowledge and skill needed to craft the finest tiles, from start to finish.
That knowledge dates back to a bygone era when ceramic artisans had to have easy access to the base clay and other raw materials. Ceramic-makers today don’t face that limitation, but we choose to stay true to our roots and remain in Alcora. That has allowed us to sustain the best virtues of that old way of doing things while also advance them into this modern age of ceramics.
What does the Vives name mean to you?
Our family has been entrusted with a legacy that’s a half-century in the making. The most important thing for me is to sustain the Vives name by maintaining the credibility and respect it has in the tile industry.
What is the Vives foothold in terms of production and distribution?
At this moment we have about 265 employees working in our factories. We export our tiles through more than 2,500 distributors into more than 100 countries.
In what sense do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?
It’s not only about taking financial risks. We believe deeply in carrying on the legacy of our name and of our family. And we also feel a deep debt of responsibility to our community and to the hundreds of people hard at work in our factories.
When we found Designtra two years ago, it opened up an entirely new avenue for us to reach American markets. We’re so excited that Designtra has given us the freedom to sell our tiles in a whole new way, which gives the end consumer the freedom to choose the tile they like from a vast menu of fashions and styles—not merely what’s available at the usual retailers, which tend to carry a narrow selection.
What trends are you currently seeing in the stone and tile market?
What I see is trends going in two directions. One is coming back to the small tiles—up to 20 by 20 centimeters—imitating the artisanal or handmade feel with a big range of colors. The second trend is the much larger tiles in neutral colors of stone or concrete, in designs catered toward residential or commercial uses.
What is your favorite Vives product?
One of the best for me is Mármara Natural, which I have in my home.
What is the most popular?
Tiles are becoming more and more an integral part of home décor—not simply something that covers the wall or the floor. At the same time, the popularity of any given design doesn’t last as long as it used to. Nowadays, the wood or concrete look is all the rage.
How you have managed to come up with unique textures like the Bunker hexagon tile and Okinawa Carbon?
When we saw that geometric figures were coming out in the decoration of our Bunker tiles, we loved the look and decided to offer that as its own style. It’s been so popular that we’ve extended that style into several other series.
Okinawa Carbon looks like charred wood. It’s something we tweaked and redesigned for more than two years until finally making it available to the public last summer. We are delighted with the results.
Are there any other unusual materials on the way (or already available) that you’re excited about?
We are working on new products every day. We’ve just finished a batch of new ones—a series we call Fusion—that we presented at the most recent Cersaie exhibition in Italy. Some are quite unusual. I’m sure they’ll generate a lot of excitement and expectation among tastemakers and our clients alike.