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Artisan Training

It’s a Revolution – and it’s just around the corner!

Seth Ready (c.) will be one of the Assistant Trainers to Lead Trainers Lee Callewaert (l.) and Joshua Nordtrom (r.)

In the February issue of TileLetter, we debuted information about a four-day intensive program taking place June 19-22 at Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works studios in Milwaukee, Wis. The Tile Artisan Training class will provide 15 experienced tile installers with a deeper dive into the world of artisan tile setting and creating their own hand-cut mosaics. (https://www.tileletter.com/tile-artisan-training/

The February story provided an overview, but at only three months away, the program is more fleshed out. Upon completion, participants should be able to:

  • Identify opportunities and approaches for marketing custom tile features and designs to potential clients
  • Design a custom tile feature, border or other detail for a project
  • Use various methods to template custom mosaics
  • Select appropriate materials for an artisan project and be capable of manipulating those materials with available tools, including materials of different thicknesses.
  • Identify most effective tools for different applications and materials and use/maintain the tools effectively
  • Effectively choose and use pre-mounting methods for hand cut mosaics as outlined in the NTCA Reference Manual.
  • Cut (scribe) mosaic into field tile 
  • Install custom mosaics 
  • Understand tile industry standards and the role they play for all tile professionals
The complete process of creating a tile art feature from design to installation will be covered in this four-day training.

This learning experience will include short lectures, live demonstrations, group discussions, hands-on practice with trainer support, and one-on-one consultation with instructors. Hands-on guided practice will be a focal point of the experience, with instructor to participant ratio of 1/3. All participants will create a pre-mounted artisan feature (approximately 18″x18″).

Even during their off hours, participants will be immersed in art while staying at Saint Kate-The Arts Hotel, in Milwaukee’s Theater District. Every aspect of the hotel is inspired by music, painting, sculpture and design, adding to the inspiration students will have each day in the studio, and providing opportunities to connect and create. 

Once the class wraps, participants – many of whom are NTCA members – can consult with instructors as they apply the knowledge and skills in their personal work through follow-up phone/video consults. Participant feedback several months after the program will help refine future training programs.

All participants will create a pre-mounted artisan feature.

This training was conceived and developed by Lee and Jane Callewaert of tile artisan contractor Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works, and Joshua Nordstrom of Tierra Tile in Homer, Alaska, in conjunction with the NTCA. The program is enthusiastically supported by LATICRETE, and by ARTO, who will provide a special dinner for the group. Since this event started taking shape, other companies have come forth to support the efforts. Generous donations of equipment, materials and other support have been provided by Tile Tools, Gemini Saw Co., Inland Craft, J&R Tile, Floor & Decor, and EMI Specialty Papers. And NTCA is giving a free membership to everyone who attends the training. 

Besides primary trainers and master craftspeople Lee and Joshua, Assistant Trainers Maria Meyer, Tile Artisan Apprentice from Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works, Milwaukee, Wis., Seth Ready, Owner, of Ready Set Tile & Mosaics, Broomfield, Colo., Jeff Kimmerling of LATICRETE and NTCA Trainer Hank Boyle, will guide, and support the participants in June. 

Maria Meyer, Dragonfly’s Tile Artisan Apprentice, will join Seth Ready, LATICRETE’s Jeff Kimmerling,and NTCA’s Hank Boyle as an Assistant Trainer for the event.

“If we can inspire a handful of people, and they inspire another handful of people,” that’s what it’s about, Lee Callewaert said. “We’re just here to help give you information tips, tools and methods, so that you’re not apprehensive about trying it. The more we can help you, the more likely you are to give it a shot. You’d be amazed at your daily skills as a tile installer and how they come into play making art.” 

The excitement about this program grows daily, as artisan tile setters return to the roots of the craft and embrace the artistry inherent in the trade. For instance, Lucas Hendrickson, Owner of Sticks & Stones Artisan Builders in Auburn, Wash., said, “I went and bought a truck and all the tools but was swayed to do commercial tile for five years. It wasn’t what I went back for; the art wasn’t there; I couldn’t do it anymore, so I went off on my own so I could somehow someway figure out how to get back into the art side like my uncle did. I have been slowly moving in that direction with networking, education, and getting my hands dirty. Thank you for this avenue; it’s just what I was looking for!”

Matt Blood of Paragon Tile Installation in Cumberland, R.I., said, “As the years pass, I find myself looking for more challenging and creative ways to set my company apart in my area. I have been a Certified Tile Installer and member of the NTCA since 2016, and have found a passion for this industry not long after. Words cannot express my excitement for this training, nor my gratitude for having been selected to attend.”

Chris Resti, of Crest Tile and Mosaic, Inc., in Hilton, N.Y., added, “I want to tap into my artistic side and transition toward more artistic work. I would like to find or establish a market for this sort of work in my area. Doing artistic work is part of my business plan, and this program will help me achieve this. Networking with other artisans and learning the tools and techniques would be great experience for me and my business.”

At this writing, these companies are providing support or funding for this revolutionary class!

“I’m so excited and overjoyed to have joined the NTCA at a time like this, when this group is forming,” said Malachi Hilkey, Resonate Custom Tile & Renovations, Gretna, Neb. “I don’t know what would have happened in my career if I hadn’t been introduced to you folks. With all the love and gratitude I have, it’s a privilege to be here to see all of your guys’ and girls’ incredible skills, imagination and creations!”

Stay tuned for details about this training and for information when another class will be available.

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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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