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HomeNewsArtisan tile setter presence strong at Coverings 2024

Artisan tile setter presence strong at Coverings 2024

A phalanx of artisans made a strong showing at the Coverings 24 Expo at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Ga., last week, from artisan tile setters who were graduates of the Artisans Revolution in Tile (A.R.T.) class in June 2023, to those registered for the upcoming class, supporters, other tile artists and tile makers and technical experts.

Panelists included (l. to r.) Matt Blood, Josh Vassallo, Trevor Hook and Chris Osterritter

A group of “A.R.T.isans” — graduates from the A.R.T. class — presented an hour-long panel discussion, entitled “Artisans Revolutions In Tile (A.R.T) Training: What’s All the Excitement About?” at the Artisan Showcase in the Art Tile Village.  

Maria Meyer, Artisan Tile Apprentice at Milwaukee’s Dragonfly Tile and Stone Works — where the inaugural class was held — co-moderated a panel of A.R.T.isans, along with A.R.T. veteran Chris Resti, of Crest Mosaic Tile and Stone, Hilton, N.Y.  Matt Blood, Paragon Tile Installation, Cumberland, R.I., Josh Vassallo of Vassallo Tile, WImberly, Texas; Trevor Hook of Hooked on Tile in Evansville, Wis., Chris Osterritter of Art by Tile in Wilmerding, Pa.,  and Aryk Snowberger of Snowbee Custom Tile in Canton, Ohio all shared their experience of the class, from lessons on marketing and pricing design,templating, material selection and applying templates to the material. They detailed their experience learning new equipment such as the Gemini Revolution Ring Saw, and working with the Inland Craft shapers, and even using wet saws to artistic effect. Snowberger talked about pre-mounting the 107-piece koi mosaic that each attendee created, which makes it easy to transport and install, then grouting with LATICRETE SPECTRALock grout, which allowed the additions of Dazzle glitter and glow-in-the-dark effects to personalize the piece.

The 2023 class was led by Instructors Lee Callewaert and Dragonfly co-owner Jane Callewaert, with Joshua Nordstrom of Tierra Tile in Homer Alaska, supported by Assistant Trainers Maria Meyer of Dragonfly and Seth Ready of Ready, Set Tile and Mosaic, Broomfield, Colo., and personnel from event sponsors NTCA and LATICRETE. 

Meyer described a group project the class took on – an ART logo – and Osterritter even had time to make a mountain lion mosaic to put his new skills to the test. A second group project provided instruction and experience in cutting in a design, and a rogue project by many attendees was repairing a crack in the sidewalk outside the hotel with a  customized ceramic St. Kate logo made during the class.

Lasting impact

A.R.T.isans talked about the impact the experience had on their lives. Hook said he had never felt like he was an artist, but the class “took it to a whole new level.” Resti remarked that “We all walked away feeling like artists.”  Snowberger called the experience “very intense – the greatest thing I ever experienced” and was excited to be part of elevating the artisan tile movement. 

Blood called it inspiring and the “energy in the room was unbelievable.” Vassallo said he didn’t know what to expect, but having a design already selected to work on freed him up  to “apply what I know and zone in to create a beautiful art piece.”

Snowberger called it an A-Z process of making, selling, and producing, as well as instruction to take visual clues from a client’s home and use that to spark conversation with the homeowner. He said it “built confidence and reset our approach towards taking our time and thinking through the project.”

Blood said developing confidence in the tools was invaluable, and what stood out for Resti was the camaraderie. “It was just as valuable as the skills learned.”

Jane and Lee Callewaert with the logos that combine elements from Dragonfly’s and Tierra Tile’s logos, created out of gratitude by the A.R.T.isans for their instructors.

After the Coverings panel, the A.R.T.isans surprised Lee and Jane Callewaert with two handmade logos — one for the Callewaerts and one for Nordstrom.  The logos combined elements of the Dragonfly and Tierra Tile logos into one cohesive whole. Most of the 15 attendees conferred on the surprise via Zoom over the last few months, made their chosen elements, and then the logos were assembled and pre-mounted in their lodging in Atlanta prior to the presentation. One of the  attendees, Lucas Hendrickson of Northwest Artisan Tile Company in Auburn, Wash., is working on crafting signature frames for both logos.

A gathering of artisans

At an Artisans Meet & Greet the next day at LATICRETE’s booth, veterans of the class gathered and mingled with some of the artisans who will be taking the class in June 2024. RonNash, a strong supporter of the movement, displayed a stunning mosaic of Lillian Rothberg, the late co-founder of LATICRETE. The mosaic was created by renowned UK mosaic artist David Arnott, who attended his first Coverings this year, and gave a talk about his process earlier in the week. It will be displayed at the company headquarters beside an earlier Arnott  mosaic of Lillian’s husband and co-founder Henry Rothberg.

Some of the group also took part in another presentation called “The Small Contractor Success Stories: Navigating Challenges and Opportunities.” Vassallo, Blood and Resti shared their wisdom, along with Stephen Belyea of JSG Tile and Stone from Weymouth, Mass. And Meyer, Resti, Osterritter, Snowberger and Vassallo also completed the Emerging Leaders program which started in TISE and wrapped at Coverings. Other artisan talks were held at the Artisan showcase – Jesse Pham and John Morrell from the historic Moravian Pottery and Tile Works in Doylestown, Pa., gave presentations on making encaustic tiles in the technique developed by Henry Chapman Mercer who built the TileWorks. CTEF Academic Director Scott Carothers discussed the history of encaustics and the difference between actual encaustic tiles and cement or other tiles that feature encaustic patterns but are manufactured and installed very differently. And Brett Stern, of Dazed and Glazed in Portland, Ore., gave a talk about the unique process he uses to create his colorful tiles and murals.

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Editorial Director and Senior Writer for TileLetter and TileLetter ARTISAN

Lesley Goddin has been writing and journaling since her first diary at age 11. Her journey has taken her through a career in publishing and publicity, landing her the editor position of TileLetter and its special publications in 2006. Her goal is to educate, inspire, recognize and encourage those in the tile industry -- especially the tile and stone contractor.

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