Restoring the Lost Art of Iznik Tiles

The 15th and 16th centuries saw great buildings projects undertaken by the Ottomans that resulted in the famous mosques and silhouettes of today’s Istanbul skyline. The interior spaces of these monuments are characterized by their beautiful Iznik tiles. This stunning art form however died in the 18th century and was not resurrected again until Professor Dr Işıl Akbaygil decided to focus on recreating an art that had been long lost.

As a result of the professor’s interest and efforts, the Iznik Training and Education Foundation was established in 1993. The Foundation and Iznik Tiles and Ceramics work together in concert, reviving a method of ceramic manufacture from the classical period and working with raw materials obtained from Iznik and its surroundings.

Most tiles are made from terracotta. Iznik tiles however are made with the stronger, more durable quartz. To make the tiles, the quartz is first pulverized into a powder, which is then used in a paste. A minor material used is in the paste is glass, which comes from recycled bottles in Turkey. The paste is then formed into square tiles. Once formed, the forms are left to dry for around 20 days (depending on climate, humidity at that time of year). After that initial drying, an underglaze is applied. This also dries for another 10 days. The tiles are then fired in a kiln, much as they were 400 years ago. The only difference today is the use of electric kilns.

To create the repetitive patterns, holes are put in a wax paper and lines applied with charcoal to establish the shape of the decoration to be used. Colours are then are handpainted for each section. The last phase involves the application of an overglaze and the tiles are fired one last time, resulting in the tile’s shiny patina.

Today we talk a lot of about parametric design, which relies on computer algorithms and mathematics. But these tiles have a unique mathematically inspired patterning of their own, reflecting perhaps a more philosophical view of the world.

You can discover more about these tiles and some specific examples and details of each tile within our collection.