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Material World – Tile Basics with Clay Imports

Friends of Matriarchy Build, Clay Imports, the POC-led, family-owned tile company based in Austin, TX give us some basics on clay and cement tiles. We love their unique custom tile options and their focus the Mexican artisans producing their tile.

The characteristics of these tiles, selecting the right tile for your project and links to installation guides are detailed here courtesy of Alexandra Rowland of Clay Imports.

Let’s get started

Whether you’re taking on a project from scratch, remodeling, repairing, or crafting a small DIY project, tile setting can be approachable for everyone.  This article is here to prepare you for understanding the tile mediums Clay Imports produces and to guide you to the right material for your project. 

Let’s start off by categorizing our specialty materials: Terracotta, Hand Painted Clay Tiles, and, Cement tiles. There are unique installation methods for each of these materials, but knowing the differences between them is a great starting point.


Clay Imports’s “Cotto Sienna Square” tiles
Clay Imports’s “Cotto Sienna Square” tiles

This material comes sealed or glazed. When sealed and not glazed, the tiles will show their natural clay color and when glazed, will have a solid color applied to the surface. Because we use 100% local Mexican clay and age-old tile making techniques, each piece will have its own unique characteristics. The terracotta collection adds beautiful organic textures and color to any installation, not just limited to flooring!

It’s important to note that while all Saltillo tiles are made from terracotta clay, not all terracotta tiles are Saltillo tiles. Saltillo tiles are sourced exclusively from Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico. They are produced of pure natural clay and are 100% handmade. Due to the handmade production process, terra-Cotta Saltillo tiles vary in size and thickness from piece to piece.

(Check out the Clay Imports guide for Saltillo installation here. )

Hand Painted Clay Tiles

Clay Imports’s “Talavera Tula” tiles

100% handcrafted, Clay Imports’s collection is a nod to the art of Mexican Talavera, Iberian Cuerda Seca techniques, and old world hand painted terra-cotta.

Clay tiles can come in a solid color, flat pattern or a relief pattern. They will show minimal variation in colors and design, so no single tile will be identical piece to piece. This is a result of the handmade process and the nature of glaze firing.

(Check out Clay Imports’s guide for Clay Tile installation here.)

Cement Tiles

Clay Imports’s “Catalonia Midnight” tile

Chances are, you have admired cement tile for quite some time now. Being fashionable since the 19th century in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, cement tiles are now in homes, restaurants, hotels, and other thoughtfully designed spaces all over the world.

With their myriad customization options, cement tiles have the remarkable ability to morph from style to style, making them a staple in the interior design world. But it’s not always the best fit for your project. Because of the porous nature of this material, we often inform people of the way this type of tile ages as opposed to our clay tiles. Although it is suitable for many applications, it is expected to patina and blemish over time. That quality is fitting for those who like the aged characteristic, but it’s not for everyone!

One remarkable quality of our cement tiles- at Clay Imports, our cement tiles don’t use glazes or kilns. Our craftsmen create these beautiful cement-based surface products 100% pollution free.

(Check out the Clay Imports’s guide to Cement Tile installation here.)

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