Every year, members of the ceramic tile industry from all over the world converge in Orlando for Coverings, the largest trade show in North America for ceramic tile, stone and related accessories. It is always interesting to find out what's new in this ever-changing field, and there are always plenty of surprises. This year was no exception; in addition to setting an all-time attendance record, the show also featured more exhibitors and products than ever before, including an incredible exhibit of art and decorative tiles that showcased the artistic expression that tile embodies. Walking the show floor, I was amazed by the sheer diversity of products on display, from the simplest minimalist designs to the most complex artistic creations imaginable. For designers and architects, ceramic tile offers endless design possibilities, as well as environmental benefits and lower lifecycle costs due to its durability and ease of maintenance.

With all these advantages, it's no surprise that the ceramic tile industry continues to grow substantially each year. During 2004, the U.S. ceramic tile industry grew more than 10 percent, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. This growth is the result of several different factors, including the continued strength of the housing market and overall growth of the U.S. economy, which appears to be a recovery phase at this time. These factors are explored in detail in this issue in our second annual Tile Industry Market Overview and Forecast, which was based upon interviews and information from noted ceramic tile industry expert Donato Grosser.

In order to represent the ceramic tile industry in all its diversity, we turn our attention in this issue to the category of art and decorative tile, from handmade works of art to factory-produced designs that embody the same design aesthetics. In this edition of Horizons, columnist Patti Fasan explores the fascinating world of art and decorative tile and shows how these specialty pieces can enhance any ceramic tile installation. This is followed by an Art Tile Showcase which highlights some of the many outstanding tile designs that are available today. There is also a new product section, the Art Tile Collection, which features more innovative art and decorative tile products, and will be featured in subsequent issues.

As the ceramic tile industry gears up for its next major trade show, Cersaie, manufacturers are hard at work developing new products and technologies that will fuel continued expansion of the industry into the coming year and beyond. Despite worries about the weakness of the dollar and increasing manufacturing expenses, the outlook for the future is bright.