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The essence of tile and its beauty: Art by Tile

Art by Tile’s Chris Osterritter, with a mountain lion he created during the Artisan’s Revolution in Tile (A.R.T.) Premiere Tile Artisan Training in Milwaukee over the summer.

Artistry in the tile world is one of the many beauties of the trade in itself. Art by Tile (artbytile.com), a tile company out of Wilmerding, Pa., near Pittsburgh,  specializes in custom installs, mosaics and detail, reflecting its company name. 

Chris Osterritter, Certified Tile Installer (CTI) #1800, owns Art By Tile and made the decision to join NTCA two years ago. He saw the value in networking with the tile community and found that to be a prominent part of NTCA. In addition, the educational side of NTCA was beneficial for his business. To him, the greatest value of being a NTCA member is “…the people and ideas it has introduced me to; it would be hard to enumerate. It’s given my business direction.”

As a Certified Tile Installer, Osterritter is hoping to take the Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT) exam soon. “Being a Certified Tile installer has given me the reassurance to know that my installation methods always lead to a proper install,” he said.

Similar to some tile artisans, COVID-19 boosted his business over the past few years instead of hindering it. The fact that everyone was stuck in their homes 24/7 played a large role in this. As Osterritter said, “People have been spending much more time at home, and they want that home to be beautiful, and their own.” 

Osterritter attended the Premiere Tile Artisans Training in Milwaukee in June. “It gave me the confidence I needed to continue pushing my passion,” he said. Sponsored by NTCA and LATICRETE, it was held at the Dragonfly Tile and Stone Works shop in Milwaukee, Wis. Primary instructors were Dragonfly’s Lee Callewaert and Joshua Nordstrom of Tierra Tile, Homer, Alaska. 

 “The things that I learned from Joshua and Lee, I incorporate every day,” he said. “I look at everything now as an opportunity for art,” he said.

One of the most difficult tasks that comes with the tile trade is educating customers and fellow contractors. Fortunately, resources like NTCA make this a little easier for the tile community. Osterritter said, “So few people are aware of the amazing things we can do with tile.” 

On the flip side, one of his greatest joys with working in the tile industry is the completed work and fulfilled customers: “Seeing that finished beautiful job every time and the happy homeowner is one of the main reasons I got into tile all those years ago.” 

An action photo of Osterritter’s son, Mason – then 13 years old – setting artistic tile in a an architect’s office bathroom in the heart of downtown Pittsburgh, Pa.

And Osterritter entered the trade being self taught, for the most part. One of his old coworkers taught him how to mix mortar, start center in a room, and other basic aspects of tile setting. From there, he took every chance he got to install tile and improve on every installation. 

After beginning his own business, he came across Facebook groups such as Tile Mafia and Global Tile Posse. In addition, he found resources such as NTCA, the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), and the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF), all of which have contributed to his learning process every day. 

“It’s been non-stop learning ever since,” he said. “I still learn something new, or a better way of doing things on every job – and I doubt that will stop.”

One of Osterritter’s favorite aspects of tile is mosaic construction. He appreciates the artistic aspect that mosaics provide for him. “Tile installation is for covering surfaces with something that will last for ages. Custom mosaics are a way to express yourself or your locality in solid art that will last forever. Both can be very rewarding.”  

Amanda Mourelatos
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Amanda Mourelatos, daughter of John Mourelatos, Owner of Mourelatos Tile Pro, is a 19-year-old student in her second year at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., where she is majoring in journalism with a communications minor. 

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