Black & White by Besso Ceramique

WOW: What a Website!

Black & White by Besso Ceramique
Black & White by Besso Ceramique

While researching for Diary of A Tile Addict, I spend a long time online, wading though ceramic tile manufacturer’s websites from across the globe.  If they share one common weakness, it is that too many are created in either the web designer’s or the manufacturer’s image: but don’t really engage with the customer.

It’s an easy mistake to make.  It is all too easy to get obsessed by brand bibles, fancy graphics, beautiful photography, downloadable PDF brochures, etc … and fail to really understand the user experience.

So when I came across www.bessoceramique.co.uk I was totally blown away.

Besso Ceramique is a small artisanal producer of hand-made ceramic wall tiles situated near Dinan in Brittany, France.

As the web address shows, Besso understands the appeal of its exquisite ranges to a strong strand of UK interior design. This is Country Living territory: the kind of customer that made Fired Earth such a powerful retail brand in England.

Besso Ceramique is different to most tilemakers because it glazes using natural metal oxides rather than synthetic colourants. All Besso’s tiles are hand-made in the company’s atelier in Brittany.  It is a slow process, resulting in just seven square metres a week. However, if you think this means that tiling a kitchen will require a second mortgage, Besso’s price list may surprise. Retail prices start at around £2.95 per tile: surely exceptional value for objects of such rarefied beauty.

But what really sets this website apart is the way it holds the customer’s hand and guides them through the process of choosing and using these hand-crafted tiles.

The text is clear, informative and avoids the all too common tendency to talk down to customers.  Here the approach is we’re experts in tile design and manufacturing and we want to share some of our expertise with you so that your kitchen or bathroom tiling will be something that exceeds your expectations and will be a source of joy and pride for many years.

It is excellent on colour selection; clearly demonstrating the differences between opaque colours and ‘brushwork’ effects.  In fact, there is an informative section on glazes and how the ‘brushwork’ look is achieved.

We make handmade tiles and every single one is unique.  A part of this individuality is due to the distinct brush lines that give glimpses of the terracotta clay beneath the glaze – an effect we call ‘brushwork’.  Whilst we are perfectly adept at producing completely opaque colour, we find that almost everyone looking at our tiles in the flesh gravitates towards those with at least some degree of brushwork. Initially we tended to reserve the stronger brushwork effects for the deeper colours, but we then discovered that in the paler colours, brushwork could really bring texture and interest to a design.

As this example shows, the text is disarmingly honest. “Given the way our tiles are produced, we should say that if you’re looking for a precise colour match to an existing finish, you’re probably in the wrong website.  Hand-dipped glazing with metal oxide colours can be a gloriously imprecise art – one that sets truly handmade tiles apart.”

On the design front, perhaps the most arresting collection is the new Black & White range where the glaze is a little less high-gloss than on Besso’s colours range.

Besso DesignsAs well as plain tiles there are 15 simple impressed patterns which, together with the variation in opacity from white to almost clear-glazed terracotta, provides an enormous range of possibilities.

We make handmade tiles and every single one is unique.  A part of this individuality is due to the distinct brush lines that give glimpses of the terracotta clay beneath the glaze – an effect we call ‘brushwork’.  Whilst we are perfectly adept at producing completely opaque colour, we find that almost everyone looking at our tiles in the flesh gravitates towards those with at least some degree of brushwork.  Initially we tended to reserve the stronger brushwork effects for the deeper colours, but we then discovered that in the paler colours, brushwork could really bring texture and interest to a design.

Besso Brushwork

How many tile website can you think of that offer a depth of knowledge as the extract below? “The LC50-Cadeuc and LC60-Betineuc glazes need a little explanation.  Both glazes are a mix of high gloss blues with a matt coating of (mostly) titanium floating on top.  The extent of the titanium coating varies as the tiles are dipped in the pot of glaze – the earlier ones getting more of the titanium.  We’ve shown three versions of each of these tiles, but that is just to demonstrate the range of possibilities – actually, each batch varies gradually between the two extremes.  In short, we can’t really supply significant numbers of either extreme – simply because there are only a few of them in each batch.”

“If you have a strong desire for one extreme or the other, we will obviously endeavour to provide as many as we can, but there will be practical limits.  We think a mix of them works best anyway – but then I suppose we would say that wouldn’t we.”

Besso PatternsWhen it comes to showing and explaining pattern, this website is the best I have ever come across.  It covers both random patterns and geometric patterns in great and useful detail. Even better it allows users access to downloadable image files that allow home owners to produce their own layouts from scratch or simply tweak one of the examples Besso provides.  Users can download the whole colour palette and/or sub-palettes such as square tiles, brick tiles, and black & white tiles.

The tutorial text is really enticing. “If you’re going down the brushwork route, things get even easier as tiles of the same colour can look very different and, with most patterns, a run of just six tiles like this can be repeated without a pattern emerging.  Scroll down to the geometric patterns below and you’ll see even a two-colour chequerboard starts to look random with brushwork tiles.”

“Once you have some colours in mind, you can look into how you want to arrange them. Essentially it’s a choice  between mixing your colours randomly or in some form of geometric pattern, but the line between the two can be blurred – particularly if you go with brushwork tiles you intend to layout your tiles though, we can help.  We have our complete colour palette available in the form of miniature tile photos, each with half-width grout gaps super-imposed around them.  If the images are butted up to each other, it gives a good impression of grouted tiles and is the perfect tool to help you test out your ideas – or tweak ours.  We use these images extensively around the site and we now have multiple images of each colour, including brushwork versions, in both square and brick format.

Factor in inspirational galleries divided into brushwork, black & white, earth shades, and sea & sky, and this is a truly fantastic tile retail website. It deserves to sell several times Besso’s annual production … but that’s not really the point. This is a site for tile lovers produced by tile lovers. Just the place for a Tile Addict like me.

http://www.bessoceramique.co.uk

A new post by Joe Simpson, Diary of a Tile Addict, April 2017.

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