The search for authentic, handmade products can lead a designer to unexpected places. Trying to get to the bottom of where a product is made, who's making it and how, might propel the most conscientious designers into exploring the world’s hidden-most corners on a quest for real quality and straight-from-the-source authenticity. It is important for many designers to cultivate relationships with their manufacturers, and assure clients that the materials in their home come from trusted sources. One company has been able to achieve all of the above, and it certainly helps their products leave their own, truly unique mark.
When it comes to handmade and hand-painted tile collections, Walker Zanger has found success with a 120,000-square-foot ceramic tile manufacturing facility in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. The Cerámica Antique facility was acquired by Walker Zanger in 2009, and remains one of the world’s largest artisan ceramic tile manufacturing sites, attracting talented craftspeople from all over the land. This is where the company can experiment with future product collections and where their most popular ceramic tile collections — including Pietta Donovan, Studio Moderne by Michael Berman, Vibe, Robert AM Stern, and 6th Avenue — are made.
The tiles are carefully passed through each part of the process, and painted individually by hand to create truly unique designs that deliver never-seen-before impact, with zero automation. Each craftsperson contributes his or her own unique skill to the process where tiles are touched up by hand up to 30 times.
“In an age of mass production, our San Miguel de Allende facility is a place of inspiration,” said Walker Zanger's marketing director Erika Egede-Nissen. “It allows us the opportunity to offer interior designers the most original, artisanal tile products. Because these products are handmade, we believe people develop a deeper emotional connection to them and view them as well-made.”
The San Miguel de Allende facility is an example of Walker Zanger’s commitment to giving designers access to quality surface products. Thanks to the close relationships they have nurtured over the years with tile craftsman and people running the ancient stone quarries – and their communities – all over the world, Walker Zanger's sourcing is essentially unrivaled. These connections have allowed Walker Zanger's team first access to excavations, where they carefully select the untouched megalithic stone blocks that come right from the excavation site and oversee the sectioning or mapping of the stone. This is all to preserve the natural stone’s beauty as well as its integrity.
“Walker Zanger’s exclusive access to quarries and crafting sites allows the company to create original products that truly stand apart and express a style that is wholly unique to us,” said Egede-Nissen. Walker Zanger also owns several quarries, including a limestone quarry in Oklahoma!
The company’s direct-to-the-source approach and commitment to quality is a key reason why Walker Zanger is not just an importer and distributor of today’s most authentic surface products, but a design collaborator and trailblazer that adds value to any project. With 13 showrooms and slab galleries, as well as 200 authorized dealers nationwide, it’s become a trusted brand where true authenticity is found and design is realized. Today, Walker Zanger products can be found in numerous iconic buildings and cultural landmarks spanning a variety of architectural categories across the country from The Getty Villa in Malibu to Bergdorf Goodman in New York City.