Hi-tech and ancient-tech combine to make unique tiles by Austrian family studio


Tucked between the German and Swiss borders and known for supreme skiing is Schlins, in western Austria’s Vorarlberg region. It is also home to an exciting studio founded by a family of artists who use traditional materials and age-old techniques in a very modern expression. Bespoke Bathrooms’ founder Lisa Millbacher has roots in the area too – her father was born in nearby Dornbirn and she will be visiting Karak Tiles later this year.

Earthen materials bond the Rauch family: The applied-artist father builds with rammed earth and the ceramicist mother and graphic-designer son create tiles using Raku, an ancient Japanese pottery firing process.


Starting Karak wasn’t a conscious decision but rather a mother-son collaboration that grew organically. “I was looking for a tile design for our house when I discovered the beautiful patterns our son Sebastian was creating on his computer,” explains ceramic artist Marta Rauch-Debevec.

At first, the two intended to create the tiles only for the family’s villa  built by husband Martin Rauch who uses the ancient technique of compressing loam—typically a mixture of silt, sand, small stones and clay that can occur beneath topsoil—into a building material as sturdy as concrete. Then a book was published about the unique house and “people were asking where we got those tiles…that’s when orders began coming in” remembers Sebastian.



Each Karak tile is worked by hand 36 times before it is used and laid in place. “Unlike industrial methods our handcrafted production allows us to make a genuine response to individual requirements”, says Marta.

“Often we develop our tiles in close collaboration with clients and architects. The process is individual: from design, format and the colour of the glaze to the application of, for instance, adhesive mortar, which allows tiles to be taken down and used again. It is only the process of raku firing that cannot be influenced – which is precisely what makes each tile unique”.



Images: Karak; and @ateljemali