Fotoceramica is a description of a ceramic product, be it a tile, mug, or other product, which features a photographic image in living color, sepia brown, or black and white, on the ceramic surface. There are two types of Foto, or Photo, ceramica -

1. Ceramic tiles, mugs, or other objects which have had, through various technologies, photographs printed on various media, adhered to the surface of the ceramic. This is essentially a fake form of Fotoceramica as Ceramics implies permanence and there is simply no way that any tile or other ceramic object that has anything stuck to it will last even one lifetime, let alone hundreds of years.

2. In recent years, new types of ceramic surfaces seem to have been developed that enable a small photograph to be developed on the ceramic surface; this technology is not known to this author, but it is almost certain that it would not be possible to use it to create photoceramic or fotoceramic tile murals or monuments.

3. Ceramic tiles, mugs, or other objects that appear to contain photographic images which however are completely made of ceramic ingredients - ceramic clay, glazes, and pigments - and which have the photographic images fused into the tile glaze, in ceramic ink, making these images capable of withstanding the test of time, which in the case of ceramics, might be many hundreds, or even a thousand or more, years.

Most artists or manufacturers who have managed to create true photoceramics or fotoceramica have done so by printing photo-imagery in what is equivilent to four color dot matrix printing - although it is often three - or five - or six color - and is never the standard four color yellow, cyan blue, magenta, and black, because black cannot be used in decorating fired ceramics with other colors - and burned right into the ceramic glaze by transference from a ceramic decal.

Ceramic decals have been used since at least the early 1800's or before, so that an image can be printed, often many times, on special paper printed, also through silk, with ceramic decal gum - which is then dried. Later, the paper is soaked, the decal material containing the image slides off, and is affixed onto the ceramic surface, and fired in the kiln. The decal substance burns up at a lower temperature than that which melts the glaze (or, glass) affixing the image left over into the object.

Virtually all decorated ceramic objects and tiles, if not hand painted, are decorated in this fashion, except for three dimensional tiles, which is another process. In recent years, it has even become possible for a skilled manufacturer to photograph a hand painted tile, turn the photograph into a decal, and make what appears to be many hand-painted tiles, which are really silk screened copies of hand painted tiles. Without magnification, which shows the dot pattern made by the holes in the fine silk, it is impossible to tell the difference.

The larger the image gets, the more difficult it becomes to figure out how to make the dot pattern and how to select the three, four, five or more colors to use, that will result, even AFTER the color changes that occur in the firing process, in the creation of a large, sensual, apparently photographic image spread out over the many tiles that make up a mural. One manufacturer, RUGO of Magoito, Sintra, Portugal, innovated this process in the late 1980's, and based on the genius and 50 years of experience in their lead ceramicist and silk screen artist, Ruy Gomes, managed to produce entire large tile MURALS which seem to contain images that not only appear to be photographic, but often even better, more sensual, more textural, more real.

The Laranjeiras Subway station in Lisbon, Portugal, contains the first major photo or fotoceramic work, with the entire station covered with imagery of ripe oranges and their greenery that appears so real that it looks like orange juice will squirt right out of the tiles at the viewer. This technology was used later in the 1990's and 2000's, almost always on government commission, to produce other photographic tile murals, up to fifty feet tall by fifteen feet wide! This huge example stands by a major freeway in Lisbon, and is a true monolith to ceramic genius.

The current status of RUGO, most lately run by the junior RUI GOMES, is unknown at this time, as they do not have a website. But their contribution to the art of ceramics is historic, and would be widely known if it were not for the fact that Portugal is a very isolated country, and outside of it's wines and standard ceramics, little attention is paid to it. This contributes greatly to it's charm, and to it's quality as a place to live and to retire. RUGO is the greatest ceramic decorator of all time, and their address is:

Casal de Santa Maria Magoito 2710 Sintra, Portugal