Belgium as leader in ceramic tiles

© Roberto Pozzo
© Roberto Pozzo

During the 19th and 20th centuries, Belgium was for many years a reference centre for the production of ceramic tiles. Its impressive production capacity meant that the Gilliot & Cie factory in Hemiksem was at one time the largest tile factory in continental West Europe. Belgian floor and wall tiles were laid in Latin America, Cuba, Aruba, China and Singapore and yet for many years, Belgian tiles were absent from public collections.

A prophet in one’s own country?

Up until the 1990s, there was only limited interest in the history of Belgian tiles. Perhaps we thought our tiles were too ordinary. Whilst Germany had hundreds of tile collectors, there were only a few in Belgium but, according to tile expert Mario Baeck, things are changing: “Interest is growing. Each year there are more and more visitors to the Gilliot Day organised in Hemiksem. We have organised exhibitions on the theme of tiles in Ghent, Hasselt and Andenne and in 2012-2013, the exhibition at the MIAT Museum was an immense success with as many as 18,000 visitors. I have already acted as a guide for Americans, Germans and Dutch visitors to Hemiksem. Belgians could be a little prouder of their heritage.”

© Roberto Pozzo
© Mario Baeck

© Roberto Pozzo

Tile factories in Belgium

In the 20th century, Belgian tile factories enjoyed an excellent international reputation, even in countries far afield. Companies such as Boch Frères, Gilliot & Cie and Maison Helman were leaders in their field. The considerable success of Belgian floor and wall tiles was obviously due to the superb Art Nouveau tiles, which had designs ranging from ingenious geometric motifs and sophisticated coloured tile pictures to elegant floral motifs. These tailor-made works, which were created by design studios or prominent artists, were to be found on facades as well as in interiors and shops.

Wall tiles

The Pozzo Collection comprises mainly wall tiles and also includes tiles made by the Faïencerie de Nimy, the Usines Escoyez in Tertre and Hautrage as well as tiles from factories in Brussels, Hasselt and Kortrijk. In fact the Belgian tile industry prospered in the four corners of our country.

Below is an overview of manufacturers, with the accent on wall tiles, which form the crux of the Pozzo Collection:

© Roberto Pozzo
  • Boch Frères Kéramis, La Louvière
  • Faïencerie de Nimy, Nimy
  • Usines Escoyez, Tertre and Hautrage
  • Céramique Poulet, Forges
  • Majolique artistique J. Parentani, Brussels
  • Henri Baudoux & Cie, Brussels
  • S.A. Manufacture de Céramiques Décoratives – Majoliques de Hasselt
  • S.A. La Majolique, Brussels and Emptinne
  • Vermeren-Coché, Ixelles (Brussels)
  • Manufactures Céramiques d’Hemiksem Gilliot & Cie, Hemiksem
  • Kortrijksche Kunstpotterij – Céramiques de Courtrai, Kortrijk
  • Société Générale de Produits Réfractaires et Céramiques de Morialmé, Oret/Morialmé
  • Maison Helman, Berchem-Sainte-Agathe (Brussels)
  • Maison Guillaume Janssens-Roefs, Berchem-Sainte-Agathe (Brussels)
  • Ceramiekprodukten de Dijle, Wijgmaal
  • Pavillons, Florennes & Cérabel, Baudour
  • Guérin, Bouffioulx
  • Faïenceries de Bouffioulx, Bouffioulx
  • La Céramique de Hérent, Herent
  • Compagnie Générale des Produits Céramiques, Saint-Ghislain

For further information check the articles of Mario Baeck in Industrial Tiles.

© Roberto Pozzo