A couple of years ago when I first saw these tiles at the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi here in Chiang Mai, I was instantly intrigued by their origin! I love the Art Nouveau styling, decorative embellishments and wonderful glass like colours. Someone told me they were Burmese but have always wondered where they are actually from.
Since this time, I have seen these tiles all over Asia from Singapore to Tokyo and Malaysia
It wasn’t until I arrived in Penang and saw the tiles being sold individually that I found out that most of the tiles were actually made in Japan from the 1920 to 1930’s. They’re called Art Nouveau Majolica tiles and one of the main characteristics of these tiles are the embossed high relief detailing. I am still not quite certain which are made in Japan and which are from England but I think they’re beautiful especially when used together to create new, exciting pattern combinations.
These type of tiles were usually extensively in Singapore and Malaysia by the Peranakan (Baba or Straits Chinese) in the early 1900s to decorate the interior and exterior walls of houses. They were also used by the Peranakan to decorate their furniture.