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HomeContentEditor's LetterThe encouraging power of the artisan community

The encouraging power of the artisan community

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” – Coretta Scott King

I recently had a chance to experience the magic and support of this amazing artisan tile setter community firsthand. I’ve long observed artisans sharing their work on social media. But an opportunity arose that allowed me the unexpected joy of experiencing this community as a participant.

As y’all know, I WRITE a lot about artisan tile setting and tile art, and words are MY tools and writing MY craft. But I was inspired to try my hands at creating a heart mosaic for the repair of the Diversity Mural that Cherie Bosela and Jennifer Kuhns designed and installed in Orlando as a healing response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting there in 2016. I have never worked with tile or mesh or glass nippers or a scoring tool before, but if not now, when?

Finished mosaic heart is ready to be shipped. It will be grouted and installed in the Diversity Mural of Orlando. Fun, problem solving, learning, frustration and joy were all part of making my first mosaic. Great thanks to the artisan community that cheered me on!

It was quite the learning experience, from buying tile (some pre-shaped), to scoring and cutting shapes from stained glass (so satisfying!), to deciding what adhesive to use, to many design revisions. Hands-on experience also gave me a chance to grok WHY specific equipment or tool are so essential. And I had PLENTY of opportunities to learn from my mistakes. 

But what I ALSO learned was what it felt like to be part of a community that enthusiastically, expertly and kindly supports and encourages artisan tile setting and craftsmanship. When I started posting images of my obviously very rudimentary mosaic project (I’m already planning my next one!), I received exclamations of joy and support, suggestions on technique, tile artists sharing their stories or asking questions – for all of which I am deeply grateful. I felt kindly accepted, guided, and encouraged. 

So if you are an artisan tile setter – or an aspiring one – do not stop or pass go. Instead, navigate to the Tile Trade Artisans Guild on Facebook and sign up with as fine and helpful a group of people you will ever meet, who will support you in the growth of your craft. 

In the meantime – in this issue – we offer information and inspiration, such as the Lake Havasu, Ariz., hotel mural by legendary artisan tile setter Gary Drostle, and the many ways SICIS uses glass to bring beauty to a range of industries as well as the Art Glass Panel Installation Training and Certification it is partnering with NTCA on this year. Joe Taylor and Sheila Menzies from Tile Heritage Foundation present the next installment in the fascinating history of tile, and you’ll learn more about the debut of the Tile Artisan Training program that will take place in June at the Dragonfly Tile and Stone Works studio in Milwaukee, Wis.

Gabriel Cortez of Heritage Marble & Tile shares his thoughts as the NTCA Residential Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year. Our Business section reports on tile art and artisan related events coming up this spring and summer, and the recent artisan tile presentation the good folks at Dragonfly delivered to a youth program in tile setting, and why reaching out to young people about the possibilities of artisan tile setting is so important. 

Our cover feature focuses on the energy and style textured concrete tiles from ARTO offered a formerly neglected home in L.A. And six members of the artisan community shared details about their work or that of an admired local fellow artist in this issue’s gallery. 

If you’re attending Coverings, I look forward to seeing you there. If not, always feel free to email me what you are working on. Besides kudos for your work, you will help spark creativity in your fellow tile artisans and those considering joining the trade. 

God bless,
[email protected]

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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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