The Kasai collection from Italian company Ceramiche Refin is inspired by yakisugi, the ancient Japanese method of charring wood siding to add to its durability and beauty.
I was 19 years old the first time I went to a trade show. I had gotten a job handing out fliers at a boat expo, but couldn’t have cared less about the event.
I no longer remember much about that day, but I do recall, very clearly, my unexpected enjoyment of the show itself. I liked the sprawl of it, and the sheer volume of nichey products. I liked the almost palpable hum of business being conducted and feeling that I was surrounded by innovation and expertise.
That day marked the beginning of a real enthusiasm for trade shows. Over the past 30-plus years, in three different jobs, I’ve systemically walked hundreds of shows, big and small. Until recently, I considered myself a knowledgeable attendee.
Then in September I had the opportunity to spend three days at the Cersaie show (pronounced: chur-sigh-a) in Bologna, Italy. Cersaie is an annual event for the ceramic tile and bathroom furnishings industry. As cool as that sounds—who doesn’t like tile—the reality of the show is about five times cooler, and I came away from Cersaie a slightly different person.
A different person. That’s a bold statement, and I don’t make the claim lightly. So how can a bunch of tile, no matter how cool, change a human being? The answer isn’t about tile per se. It’s that Cersaie was the first trade show I’ve attended outside of the U.S. and it expanded my ideas on products, manufacturing, and design.
On the products side, seeing the artistry and nuance of the tiles themselves was inspiring. Many were simple and understated, but of such high quality that just looking at the slabs gave me a visceral sensation of pleasure, like when you see an exceptionally beautiful car.
Italy has been at the forefront of the tile industry since the Middle Ages, and today local manufacturers still take enormous pride in their tile, a hands-on kind of pride, as if they were cooking you dinner. It’s a more personal approach to products and one that fits with our growing awareness of the connection between the goods we use and the people who make them.
Finally, there’s design. Looking at photos of cutting-edge tile is not the same as seeing it in person. The detail, texture, and real-world feel of the slabs can’t be replicated in images, especially with darker colors. I can make a statement like, “Large-format tile is now used in exciting ways as wall cladding,” and most remodelers would reply, “Yeah, that’s been happening for years.” Agreed. But there’s an internal switch that goes on when you see it live and talk through the possibilities with people who are at the source. That switch is made from excitement and awareness and the feeling you get when the square footage of your world becomes just a little bit bigger.
So am I recommending that you actually get on a plane next year and fly to Italy to look at tile? If you have a design-based business, then yes. Cersaie is worth it. And the wine in Italy isn’t half bad either.