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Sunday, February 25, 2024

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HomeContentMaking “beautiful music” in tile

Making “beautiful music” in tile

Stunning mosaic celebrates client’s passion for the arts

What happens after an orchestra performance? Musicians kick off their shoes, pop the cork on a bottle of champagne, then kick back and relax during an “apres party.”

Long time clients of NTCA Member Dragonfly Tile & Stone Works in Milwaukee are strong supporters of the arts. This couple envisioned a tribute to the orchestra with an ambitious mosaic floor in the 5’x7’ foyer of their historic Milwaukee home that welcomes guests in an unforgettable way. This artisan work and beautiful craftsmanship will continue to be enjoyed for generations. 

Master Dragonfly craftsman Lee Callewaert researched the instruments and hand-sketched drawings, many based on actual physical instruments. In fact, he employed a process of photographing instruments at different angles, then projecting the images and sketching the outlines, adding unique touches and flourishes.

The wing tip shoes were inspired by a story that a client told Lee years ago.

Personal inspiration

Some of the instruments have a personal significance. Lee created the drawing/design for the clarinet from his grandfather’s actual clarinet, so it holds a special place in his heart. And he loves the angle and “perspective” he created for the guitar, which was based on his very own acoustic guitar!

Another element of the design – the wing tip shoes – were inspired by an actual story an elderly client told Lee years ago. “She was talking about the tile craftsman who did the work in her home,” he said. “It was spectacular, by the way. He would arrive promptly each morning dressed in his sport coat and wing tip shoes and politely ask permission to use her powder room where he’d change into his work clothes. At the end of the day he would change back into his jacket and wing tips. I always wanted to be that guy.”

At the Artisans Revolution in Tile (A.R.T.) training in June 2023, Lee Callewaert (r.) showed emerging artisans how to photograph and project images of instruments to get the angle and perspective designed, using instruments from this project to demonstrate the evolution of the design process. In addition, water dyed with a SPECTRALOCK 1 packet was poured out of a champagne bottle to simulate champagne, then photographed and sketched.

Lee worked with the clients to “fine tune” the instrument designs and establish their placement in the field. Careful consideration of materials included red and green onyx, marble, granite, limestone, brass and porcelain. 

“Some of these materials, such as the Michaelangelo marble, the true red onyx and the harvested green onyx, are nearly unobtainable now,” said Jane Callewaert, Lee’s wife and partner in Dragonfly. The green onyx was salvaged from the clients’ old vanity top (hand milled down to 3/8″ from 2 cm) from a powder room Dragonfly updated years ago, giving it new life in this foyer installation. All materials were hand-cut using wet saws, rings saws and grinders. The field marble slab, Giallo Siena (Italy), was sourced and procured from nearby Blackstone International, Inc., in Waukesha, Wis. 

The Callewaerts’ son Shae, a graphic designer, developed vinyl templates from Lee’s to-scale drawings and many adjustments were made over the months to obtain the perfect size, shape and effects.  

The instruments were pre-mounted on LATICRETE HYDRO BAN® sheet membrane for ease of installation. Because the marble field slab was 2 cm, it was decided that a waterjet process for cutting in the artisan features was the most practical. 

Bringing in technology

Dragonfly partnered with Wieland Engineering & Manufacturing in Waukesha, Wis., to design the placement of instruments on the slab and engineer both prototype and final field. The company’s “Kristen Wieland Guthrie proved a noble and enthusiastic artisan partner as we collaborated on this process,” Jane said. She dove into this process, which was new to her.  

“Finally, with the help of Dragonfly Artisan Apprentice, Maria Meyer, and Seth Ready of Ready Set Tile in Colorado, we carefully packed and transported the field and artisan inlays and meticulously installed this artwork,” Jane added.  

The craftspeople mud set the floor with LATICRETE 3701 and prepped with LATICRETE sheet membrane. They set the instruments with LATICRETE MULTIMAX™ LITE and grouted with SPECTRALOCK®1 pre-mixed grout. 

The process of creating and installing the Orchestra Foyer Floor mosaic was lengthy, Jane said. It spanned several years from inspiration to actual install. Since other work was being done in surrounding areas, the final install was intentionally delayed so the area would be undisturbed.

What resulted is a spectacular composition, expertly crafted and set, that is a completely unique addition to this client’s historic home. Jane added, “Long live the artisans through the work they leave behind!”  

What resulted is a spectacular composition, expertly crafted and set, that is a completely unique addition to this client’s historic home.
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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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