February 28th – March 3rd, 2023: the Spanish fair has returned.
Beautiful Valencia offers a less sweet climate than usual, in every sense.
Time to read: 14 minutes.
CHAPTER 1: 2023 BACK IN VALENCIA.
We land in Valencia with a lot of curiosity. In our minds, we have the positive vibes from Cersaie 2022, where the Italian ceramics industry breathed a sigh of relief after facing and overcoming the deadly clay-gas storms.
We were quite curious about Cevisama because at Cersaie, some stands of Spanish brands had given the impression of narrowing the historical gap with the Made in Italy. Hence, the expectation was to see what they do in their own home and the overall level.
In Bologna, apart from Porcelanosa, at least a dozen Spanish companies had showcased well-organized spaces and product configurations that “had nothing to envy, quite the contrary.” The good visibility and face-to-face interaction with “our” counterparts were also facilitated by their prime location in the exhibition areas, benefiting from the spaces vacated by well-known Italian brands, as well as the construction of new pavilions.
Below you will find the account and images of what we have seen and heard. Those who know us are aware that we do not claim to be technical experts, but rather aim to provide our personal and subjective impressions.
THE GREAT ESCAPE.
The key point is that the fair saw the absence of very important Spanish giants, with Pamesa being the most prominent, which was present in previous editions.
It’s undeniable that it was a significantly scaled-down fair both in terms of its size and the quality of the booths. The absences were much more noticeable compared to Cersaie, but it’s the overall setup of the fair and the dynamics of the products on display that raised concerns.
The general mood seemed somewhat desolate, with pavilions thinned out or emptied due to the decrease in exhibiting companies. To this was added an unexpected weather discomfort with the temperature in some pavilions unusually cold, requiring appropriate clothing, far from being an early spring.
Compared to the pre-pandemic edition, the large and welcoming area dedicated to food and conviviality has also disappeared, with food trucks of all kinds and large paella pans distributed free of charge to everyone; in the stands, there was little or no animation and no sign of the show-cooking (which was everywhere).
The scenario makes us wonder about the future and the role that this fair and trade fairs in general will have, as they are currently set up. It is possible that some changes are expected. It is possible that some changes are expected. We imagine that the framework was somewhat similar to what we saw in Italy, perhaps even more festive.
In conclusion, while the trade fair model has changed for various sectors, giving way to alternative setups, it is true that these are situations with different dynamics from our industry. The Italian ceramic industry, built on technological innovation and stylistic avant-garde, should not forgo exposure opportunities like trade fairs, which also serve as moments for sharing and networking. If anything, the downsizing of trade fairs like Cevisama underscores the uniqueness and irreplaceability of events like Cersaie in the ceramic industry.
In the images, you can see Hall 4 with ample open spaces, partially filled by the presence of Indian companies.
KERABEN: The Off-Fair Inside the Fair
It’s worth mentioning right away the original solution by the Keraben Group, which has set up an exhibition space in a “satellite” pavilion of the fair, accessible independently, and will be usable not for 5 but … for 365 days.
The space, called “The Square,” will be active until 2024 and will completely replace the company’s showroom at the Nules headquarters, which is undergoing renovations. In the second part of the report, we will add images and a more in-depth description.
This innovative solution amortizes the trade fair investment in a completely different way, building an important exhibition structure that will be used for a year, with different methods and partly to be discovered.
We wonder if a similar operation could be somehow replicated in our own country, in the Bologna trade fair district where there are peripheral and now disused pavilions that could perhaps be used in this way.
Who might be interested in this? There are several Italian companies that do not have large representative offices with galactic showrooms or the resources and attractiveness to support an alternative open-house to the fair on their own. Others have their headquarters far from the heart of the district and are greatly disadvantaged in terms of customer and architect visits, both during the fair period and on other occasions throughout the year. Reconfiguring the presence at Cersaie with a nice temporary space open year-round, conveniently located for foreign visitors passing through Bologna airport, would lend itself to various types of initiatives throughout the four seasons and, in a more imaginative scenario, even some B2C activities.
In general, the comments from the Italians we met in the aisles were not positive. Many felt that the presence at Cevisama was struggling to justify its costs and might not be repeated by everyone.
Here in Valencia, some Italian companies are also exhibiting, often focusing on original materials to characterize their presence.
Among the proposals that caught our attention, the wallpaper project by Terratinta Group stands out, presenting several ranges of decorations under the brand Sartoria. These were presented in combination with ceramic products from the Terratinta range, creating at least a new and unexplored combination.
CHAPTER 2: WALKING AROUND THE TRADE FAIR
Terraces, terrazzo tiles, and cobbles.
Among the most prevalent types seen at the fair, we include terrazzo and terrazzo-inspired designs, granulated textures, and the use of small cobbles and larger stone blocks. These elements were also used as wall cladding in some cases, resulting in creative and visually appealing designs.
The use of digital material applications, especially those featuring sparkling granulated textures, is making its way into the Spanish ceramic scene as well. In some cases, these applications create excellent synergies with graphics and enhance the material perception, while in other instances, an excessive use of granules can lead to over-finishing that borders on being counterproductive.
Arcana exhibits some successful interpretations of granulated textures, resulting in a pleasant floor in their booth and an attractive interpretation of Venetian terrazzo. The presentation of the collection is current and elegant, with products that exhibit a distinct character.
Among the most explored themes in ceramics is certainly wood, the subject of extensive research in search of new inspirations and facets. We remember the interesting glossy wood projects inspired by the world of sailing at Cersaie. In Spain, we noticed some companies taking the direction of bamboo (which is not exactly wood but a woody grass) both as a graphic interpretation and as a material interpretation, with varying results among them.
PERONDA presents its products with sobriety and taste, and here we have seen the best and most in line with our taste interpretation of bamboo, where the evocative inspiration develops in the format and structure.
MAINZU, on the other hand, brings a very realistic and distinctive representation of bamboo, not suitable for all tastes.
WALLPAPER WALL COVERINGS
Decorative ceramic wallpaper-style coverings are becoming more established and are gaining significant space in wall covering projects. These can be found on many stands with dedicated areas. As widely seen in Bologna as well, the inspirations vary in style and level, ranging from flowers to foliage, with animals and even fish. The results are highly subjective in terms of taste, and there are some unaesthetic “stamped” effects, especially on large exhibition areas.
CERACASA dedicates significant space to decorations, presenting them even on the floor, with some interesting color combinations.
APEGRUPO showcases large-format decorations, and the graphics are expressed in full force, with some designs closer to our standards.
LARGE SLABS AND FULL BODY
These types, which identify the technical and aesthetic avant-garde of the ceramic industry, were omnipresent and prominently displayed in Bologna, while here in Valencia, they were decidedly marginal and poorly represented.
The NEOLITH space was one of the few to exhibit slabs in an impactful way. In this booth, a central and imposing suspended structure, entirely covered in slabs, left the area below completely open like a square. Here, we also found the only live show presence in the entire fair (the decorator). In the previous edition we had visited, there was an almost obsessive presence of live cooking shows, completely absent in this edition.
Onyx effect and precious marbles by BALDOCER, in large slabs and classic formats, with some products that appear to be of good quality in terms of color balance and veining, while others may appear a bit bold.
From UNDEFASA, we found the only example of “full-body” presented at the fair in the SOLID+ project.
Pebble floors and Palladian-style tiles
Among the less “usual” products, MIJARES CERLAT presented projects of pebble floors and Palladian-style tiles with a decent overall aesthetic result, thanks to structures with very pronounced relief. This is not an innovative type, having been reinterpreted in past decades, but it did stand out from the crowd of products.
The theme of combinations between collections and materials – omnipresent in Bologna – also finds a natural place among Spanish companies, especially those with wall covering projects that can be paired with various floor collections.
We are visually accustomed to this logic of combinations, which is more dynamic and creative, to the point where single-product rooms appear monumental and heavy to us.
UNDEFASA stands out for its settings with well-matched products and a decent level of styling.
ROCA focuses on sobriety with delicate combinations in pastel and dusty shades.
On the other hand, MAINZU presents highly decorated combinations that are visually less calming.
OUTDOOR PROJECTS, DECKING, FACADES, AND FENCING SYSTEMS
Interesting outdoor projects were featured by various companies, showcasing extensive collections of special pieces for walls or swimming pools. Notably, elevated decking effects were presented as well.
Furthermore, there were systems for creating ceramic extruded wall partitions. These systems incorporated the ceramic finish and a supporting metal component.
EXAGRES stood out with a substantial outdoor project, highlighting their Exadeck floating deck system, which achieved an appealing aesthetic effect. Crafted from extruded klinker, the company offers outdoor floor and wall coverings, façades, and swimming pool solutions. The range is diverse and even includes decorated products, complemented by a variety of well-presented special pieces.
Within their booth, EXAGRES also showcased a significant project for partition walls, complete with the supporting system and various accessories.
NATUCER also presented its floating decking project.
VENTILATED WALLS (made with extruded materials)
Perhaps distracted by other products, we had not previously noticed such complex projects for ventilated walls, made with ceramic extrusions. These, while maintaining the graphic rendering characteristics of the material, give the projects a truly interesting three-dimensionality.
GRESMANC Group brings its significant project of ventilated walls made with extrusions. The ceramic is treated with antibacterial properties. Here, ventilated walls finally acquire a very interesting three-dimensionality.
There are countless proposals for stones with a strong character, not always accompanied by a balanced distribution of the graphics in the installation. We were struck by this particular “corten-glitter stone” from FANAL.
CHAPTER 3. OUR NOMINATIONS
Lastly, here are our nominations for the most interesting and enjoyable setups.
Inside the PERONDA booth, you can access the COTTAGE area, which also has its dedicated entrance. This one appears truly pleasant to us, with a warm and enveloping atmosphere, in short, one of our favorites. Interesting combinations with retro-flavored settings, perhaps not for our reference markets but of taste and personality. All in all, the result is very pleasant.
At VIVES, the products have a strong character, and managing to combine various products with a bold character in a relatively small area is not an easy task, but all in all, the presentation is neat and successful. Here is an interesting interpretation of the typical Spanish covering, combining structures, decorations, and colors. The Filippo Soul project with these pop coverings that can characterize an environment with a sober combination is interesting (paying attention to the size to avoid falling into pop-trash). On the homepage of the website, you can find the complete video of the stand, which we find very interesting.
Our personal best-in-class remains HARMONY, which, with the necessary proportions, could be framed as the Spanish version of Mutina. The stand this year presents, with sobriety and good taste, some projects by important designers. A couple of solutions for dividing walls feature a type of product that is not very considered by Italian companies, perhaps because it’s too niche.
KERABEN SPACE: THE OFF-FIELD INSIDE THE FAIR.
As anticipated at the beginning, the KERABEN GRUPO space deserves attention, located within the Cevisama area but on the outskirts compared to the 8 pavilions (4 per floor) of the main structure. From the official entrance of the fair, several advertising billboards invite you to visit area 6. To further attract attention, there was also a small Keraben desk in a high-traffic area.
Keraben Grupo’s setup looks good with a nice layout. Three distinct areas showcase the Keraben, Metropol, and Ibero brands. This exhibition space is named “The Square – Valencia showroom” and will remain set up to be used as a showroom throughout the year. The exhibition area also has its own independent access from the fair district with all the necessary connected and detached services.
The overall look expresses good taste, and all in all, the products are well-crafted and well-presented with some interesting proposals, especially for cladding.
There may be some difficulty in perceiving the values and positions of the three different brands, which tend to overlap. This aspect is not uncommon for many Italian companies as well, and it should not be seen as a deficiency in marketing strategies but rather as a tool to seize opportunities in the market.
The positioning of each of the three brands is identified by a slogan that focuses on the aspirations and expectations of the end user:
- Metropol – a reflection of your style
- Ibero – a reflection of your creativity
- Keraben – a reflection of your elegance
CHAPTER 4. FINAL SANGRIA
In an attempt to stand out or cater to less explored markets, here and there, we are surprised by products and setups with very bold, unique, or unusual characteristics. Beyond the technical execution, the level of appreciation is definitely subjective.
Among the pavilions, we survey surfaces with bright colors distributed in drips or random undulations, halfway between the paintings in the Action-painting style of Jackson Pollock and the Orion Nebula.
Next to it, a sparse granulated texture dotted with agate-like inserts that, from a distance, resemble flying saucers or seashells.
Finally, a rich range of hexagonally decorated tiles arranged in a configuration that raises more than one suspicion among the mischievous.
Sensations ranging from optical to psychedelia with compositions and colors for fearless hearts.
Special mention for the bench-shaped flowerpot holders hanging on the panel (stolen from grandma?).
We are struck by applications of graphics and digital granules in fast and furious mode, but also hexagons with s-composable decorations that create pseudo-pharmaceutical designs.
Styling and objects in many cases have given space to individual creativity, avoiding conforming to Italian standards that favor fashionable and trendy furnishings. Here are the giant ants, the flying ducks, and the palm-shaped lamp that surprised us.
And finally, the bouquets of flowers arranged in a loculus style and the compositions of fish and spoons.
We conclude by presenting a decoration that is a hymn to the poor flower.