Interview: Joana Jervell Photos: Courtesy New Terracotta
Suggesting new interpretations and challenges in the world of handmade tiles and ceramics, New Terracotta combines its 100% Portuguese essence with a contemporary and sophisticated approach. Founded in Mortágua in 2014, the values of design, innovation, luxury and sustainability it promotes have already earned it a number of awards. Its unique and personalised pieces do not pass unnoticed. A project that is worth getting to know better through the words of the company’s chief executive, Isabel Leitão Cymerman.
What do you think is New Terracotta’s DNA?
New Terracotta is a profoundly Portuguese artisan ceramic project. Its premise is simple: to fuse ancient techniques with contemporary aesthetics to bring a new dimension to the tile.
What differentiates New Terracotta is that it elevates something as utilitarian as terracotta tiles to an art form. Our idea of “utilitarian luxury” — sophisticated simplicity executed in a pure manner — contrasts sharply with other brands, and our frame of reference is far from that of traditional cladding.
A beauty free from stereotypes, the power of relationships and sustainable development are the pillars on which our activities rest. We want to be involved in building a more beautiful, just and balanced world.
What do clients value most in your pieces?
The soul, the imperfection, the beauty and the rigour. No two pieces are the same: irregular edges, uneven surfaces and small imperfections all contribute to the charm of each piece.
How many people are in your team today?
More than 60. All our employees are brand ambassadors and each recruit is trained with a focus on the company’s values and a profound knowledge of its product line. We want our employees to be naturally passionate about the brand and for this to come across in both the products we make and the shopping experience we offer.
What should we know about the production process?
We produce artisan terracotta in a factory on a human scale (neither too big, nor too small): everything is handmade, respecting process times and people’s characteristics. We are a truly customer-focused brand. Our world is bespoke.
We combine the traditions of ancient artisans with a modern and open vision in an enormously flexible factory where everything is made to measure without limitations… Only a material as malleable as clay allows the highest level of creative freedom in projects.
What projects are we mainly talking about?
Our client list is varied and we work on as many big projects as we do small ones. We help small studios and we work with the biggest names in architecture. We also have a collaboration programme with designers. Our approach is truly collaborative and experimental, with a genuine satisfaction in working with others. By establishing a new dialogue between those who produce and those who create, New Terracotta supports and promotes the work of both established and emerging designers.
What can you tell us about the wide range of knowledge and colours you work with?
We like to think of ourselves as colour alchemists. We always try to be at the forefront of the various expressions of colour, creating a balance between pigment, glaze, texture, history, science and emotions.
From architecture to design and restoration, there is a growing appreciation of the tile, which has been endowed with new applications and possibilities. Are we living in exciting times for tiles in Portugal?
Undoubtedly. We are a country with a great deal of tradition and knowledge in the realm of ceramics, but today we also have people with a much broader vision of tiles. There is a new way of seeing ceramics as no longer a simple covering, but as a manifestation of modern culture. And this is the context in which we place ourselves: as an artistic project combining technology, craftsmanship and experimentation.
Do you have any works you would like to mention?
In addition to many private projects, we have supplied hotels, restaurants and shops. There is perhaps one iconic project — the Sustainability Pavilion at Expo Dubai.
Is the overseas market still a good bet?
In essence, we are a company looking out to the world. We operate in almost every country in Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands. We are also highly focused on the Middle East and Asia. In the United States, we have had the good fortune to work with leading architects and interior designers.
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