We are the inventor of coloured clay plaster finishes and pioneers in clay plaster and paint since 1990.
With all natural raw materials from carefully selected Western European clay and sand quarries Tierrafino develops high-quality clay products in the warm colours of the earth. Our mission: to make an essential contribution to the beauty, health and sustainability of our environment by creating spaces in which we can truly feel good.
for many generations to come
Carl Giskes: The man who conjured fossil tones from earth.
After completing his training in engraving and decorative paving, Carl Giskes (1949, Krefeld) decided to go out and see the world. He left for Africa in the early 1970s and spent the next seven years exploring the continent by foot. First he walked down the eastern side, from Tunis to South Africa. A few years later he travelled along the western edge of the continent, starting in Morocco. On this journey he encountered buildings made out of clay for the first time. The most overwhelming of these were in Djenné, a city built entirely from clay and generally acknowledged as one of the wonders of the world.
Clay. A singular product of nature.
“The warm feeling you have when you live in clay, in the so-called developing world, is not something you experience in the West,” Carl Giskes explains. He lived with local residents in the rich warmth of their clay houses. But what makes clay so special? Clay is comprised of 50% oxygen, 40% silicon and 10% minerals, trace elements and enzymes. Clay, or mud, is 30 times more breathable than brick and 100 times more breathable than concrete. The amount of silicon in clay or mud is the same as the amount of silicon in the human body. Their inner electricity is also the same. Clay absorbs 30 times more moisture than ordinary gypsum stucco.
Building with clay began in Germany in the tenth century. The castle and other half-timbered buildings of Quendlinburg are now World Heritage Sites.
Encountering Joseph Beuys.
When he returned from travelling around Africa and Asia in 1977, Carl Giskes began to work with the famous German artist, Joseph Beuys. The artist asked Carl to run part of his Free International University of Creativity and Interdisciplinary
Research (FIU) in Castle Eifel. However, this plan didn’t materialise.
For Documenta 7 in Kassel in 1982, Beuys conceived a social sculpture. He gave his pupil Carl the responsibility of finding 7000 basalt stones from German quarries and transporting them to Kassel. These stones were then used to construct a triangular mountain on the grass in front of the Friedericianum, the main Documenta exhibition building. Each basalt stone, weighing 450 kilos, then had to be placed beside each of the 7000 oak trees which were planted around Kassel that summer.
Carl Giskes delves deeper into clay construction.
In Kassel, Carl Giskes met clay buildings architect, Klaus Johannes Eckert, an admirer and student of the Egyptian architect Hassen Fathy. He also got to know Gernot Minke, the first professor of clay architecture at the University of Kassel. Carl Giskes had found his inspiration and spent the next few years learning all he could about building in clay.
In 1986 Carl moved to Amsterdam where he worked on creating the Adobe Pavilion at the 1990 conference “Art Meets Science and Spirituality in a Changing Economy”. Among the many panel discussions that took place here was one between the American artist Robert Rauschenberg and the Dalai Lama.
Carl Giskes decided to stay in the Netherlands and in 1992 he founded the company Leembouw Nederland, which later became Tierrafino. It was the first company in the Netherlands to focus exclusively on the production and distribution of clay products and triggered the realisation that clay was a beautiful and healthy building material. Moreover, Carl Giskes was the first person
in Europe to introduce natural earth colours to stuccos and paint. He tirelessly set about publicising his products through lectures, demonstrations, workshops and courses, and not without success.
“A growing number of architects came to realise that clay is above all a healthy choice of material,” Carl Giskes recounts. And some of these architects, such as the Swiss architects Herzog and De Meuron, carried considerable weight. The press was also unanimously positive about his products. One journalist wrote that he had, “taken the use of clay to new heights of elegance and sophisticated beauty”.
Factory, showroom, studio, laboratory, testing ground and classroom.
Tierrafino has been based in Archangelkade near the Minerva Docks in Amsterdam since 2008. In its factory and office spaces, Tierrafino demonstrates how organic building materials like clay, straw and lime plaster can be used to create healthy interior climates with the welcome side-effect of natural colours. In collaboration with the company Leemwerk, Tierrafino built a rammed-earth pavilion inside the warehouse and finished it off with tadelakt during a series of workshops.
All Tierrafino products are produced in the factory and distributed from there.
The factory also serves as a showroom, studio, laboratory, test area and classroom. This is where new products are conceived, developed, tested and displayed. And workshops, meetings and exhibitions by artists are regularly held here.
Tierrafino is a brand in motion. Carl Giskes and his colleagues are constantly looking to improve the products and to develop new ones. He fervently believes in his mission: to make an essential contribution to creating a beautiful, healthy and environmentally-friendly living environment in which people feel truly at home.