Encaustic Tile

Lynne Kiesling

Sitting here at O’Hare, 6 AM … today’s A Word A Day word is encaustic:

encaustic (en-KO-stik) adjective

A method of painting using pigments with wax fixed onto the surface
by heat.

[From Latin encausticus, from Greek enkaustikos, from enkaiein (to burn in), from en- + (kaiein) to burn. Some distant cousins of this word are caustic, calm, and holocaust.]

This is a great word, and refers to a tile technique that was used to very great effect by tile artisans working during the Arts & Crafts movement. My favorite encaustic tiles are British and American, but you see them in Art Nouveau style in France, Belgium, Hungary, Austria, and the Czech Republic too.

One of the premiere encaustic tile manufacturers in the US in the late 19th century was the American Encaustic Tiling Company of Zanesville, Ohio. The subtle coloring and the texture on this tile is very nice, although such companies also produced vast amounts of more utilitarian tile.