Based between East London and Andalusia, artisan makers Bert & May create premium tiles for contemporary spaces and collaborated with The Conran Shop to create a collection influenced by our founder Sir Terence Conran’s design philosophy, ‘Plain, Simple, Useful'.
To celebrate exclusive collaboration as part of London Craft Week, we spoke to Bert & May about the influences behind the collection, the crafting process behind each covetable tile and the importance of hand-pouring.
Can you tell us a little bit about the unique journey that Bert & May tiles make, from initial pouring to completion?
Before the tiles are poured, the materials are mixed together - the bespoke mixture is made up of sand, cement, natural pigments and crushed marble for enhanced durability. Each tile design has its own handmade metal mould. The coloured liquid cement is hand-poured into the sections of the mould to create our distinctive patterns.
The tiles are then manually pressed with a hydraulic press, this takes about 5 minutes for each tile, careful and accurate pouring is essential for this process, and then various natural materials are compacted on to the top of the tile, after which it is comprised with the hydraulic press.
They are then carefully released from the press, dipped in a water bath for four to five hours and left to dry in the Spanish sun for two weeks. One craftsperson typically produces a maximum of 150 tiles a day.
What makes the exclusive The Conran Shop x Bert & May collection 'plain, simple, useful’?
The Conran Shop’s designs sit well with Bert & May, as we like the simplicity of design. All of our designs are from original antique finds, which are reinterpreted onto the tiles you see today.
We love design that arises naturally or spontaneously; this sits perfectly with The Conran Shop x Bert & May collection as it is just that, plain and simple and based on everyday useful shapes.
How does hand-pouring set apart Bert & May tiles from the rest?
The quality of the finish can never be matched by mass production, every tile is hand-poured, they all have a consistent quality, but there are always slight variations in the finish.
These are naturally occurring imperfections that come from the natural materials and the nature of hand-pouring. Our finish is a result of the handmade but also of the raw materials, we feel this gives a softer finish and pared back look, which has become synonymous with Bert & May.
What was the inspiration behind the muted colour scheme and simple geometry of the collection?
Bert & May is all about the natural pigments, this gives a chalky finish to all the colours in our palette. The colours in this collection are taken from the Conran colour palette and reinterpreted into our tiles. The colours all have a chalky finish and subtle feel which softens the geometric shapes. The shapes were inspired by the simple shapes found in modernist architecture, the square, the line and the curve.
What do you think is the main appeal of tiling spaces in the home?
You can make your space truly personal with tiles; they’re not just for bathrooms and kitchens nowadays. We are seeing a lot of tiles making a statement in hallways and even being used as head boards and accent walls. There are endless tessellation possibilities with our patterned tiles, meaning you can create a totally unique curation. The colours in our palette are all a result of natural pigments, giving a chalky and timeless appeal that ensures longevity in our materials.
Bert & May will be giving visual displays at The Conran Shop Chelsea as part of London Craft Week 2018, providing insight into the unique craftsmanship behind each piece from the exclusive collaboration with The Conran Shop, available to buy online and in-store now.
To discover what else we have going on at The Conran Shop for London Craft Week 2018, click here.