Terra Cotta means “Baked Earth” in Italian. The iron content in the clay determines the rich color. Terra Cotta is a porous tile that needs to be sealed like natural stones. When Terra Cotta was first used in homes, wax was often used to protect the floors as modern sealers did not exist. The process of waxing Terra Cotta tiles is still used today as it enhances their patina, without making them shiny.
Evolution of Terra Cotta
In the 1800s, there were over 500 Tuileries (Terra Cotta factories) in France. These quarries were often located nearby river beds, as 150 years ago they did not have trucks or heavy equipment to help with this process. Once the clay was extracted from the open-air quarries, the soil was sent to the factories where the clay was crushed into a fine powder. Rocks and pebbles were removed and then the clay was screened to determine its quality. The powder was then mixed with water and placed into molds. When the mixture has dried, the Terra Cotta is removed from the molds and placed inside the oven, this process in called kilning and the clays baked at around 1000°C.