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HomeBusinessTile artisan training: It's a Revolution, Part II

Tile artisan training: It’s a Revolution, Part II

You may have recalled reading numerous TileLetter articles last year about the Premier Tile Artisans Training aka A.R.T.: Artisans Revolution in Tile (just search for Tile Artisan Training in tileletter.com to catch up!). 

Sponsored by NTCA and LATICRETE with generous support by ARTO, Tile Tools and other suppliers and enthusiasts, it was a smashing success, with 15 emerging tile artisans coming from all parts of the country for a four-day program that provided experienced tile installers with information and hands-on training to produce and install their own hand-cut, custom tile art features. Participants learned to identify opportunities to market custom work, methods for designing, processes, materials and tools for producing hand-cut mosaic art, and best practices for standards-based installations.

Master craftspeople Lee Callewaert of Dragonfly Tile and Stone Works in Milwaukee, Wis., (where the training was held) and Joshua Nordstrom of Tierra Tile in Homer, Alaska, were the major presenters, with essential support from Jane Callewaert, Lee’s wife, partner in tile, and organizer extraordinaire, and assistant trainers Maria Meyer of Dragonfly and Seth Ready of Ready Set Tile of Broomfield, Colo. Since the training, many of the participants have gone on to incorporate artisan tile setting in a major way in their businesses and have branched out to other opportunities (more on that later).

Fifteen tile professionals descended upon Dragonfly shop in Milwaukee last June to learn how to design, market and create hand-shaped mosaics.

Well it was so nice; we’re going to do it twice. June 10-13, 2024 marks the second edition of A.R.T., again at the Dragonfly shop in Milwaukee.
Here’s the roster of the 2024 class:

  • Anthony Oliver, Oliver’s Tile, Woodland, CA 
  • Bobby Bell, Bobby Bell Floors, Louisville, KY
  • Corwin Hall, HardCor Flooring LLC, Hudson, WI
  • David Daubenschmidt, Hammer &  Sage LLC, Bend, OR
  • Dustan Morgan, Morgan Tile, Chicago Park, CA 
  • Hector Ruiz, HR Til,e Rifle, CO 
  • Jacob Wiseman, Madison Pro Services, Madison, AL 
  • Jan Hohn, Hohn & Hohn, Inc., St. Paul, MN
  • Jeff Occhipinti, Columbia River Tile & Stone Inc., Milwaukie, OR
  • Jeff Roesner, Artisan Wood Tile Stone, Huntsville, AL
  • Joppe Aguirre, Cascadia Tile Company, LLC, Redmond, OR
  • Kris Kemp, Kemp Tile, West Monroe, LA
  • Matthew Pokusa, MD Henry Construction, Natrona Heights, PA
  • Natalie Hall, Artistry In Tile, Hudson, WI
  • Shanan Hehir, Shanans Absolute Tile, LLC, Manchester Ctr., VT
  • Vladimir Blashchishchin (Vladi), Hawthorne Tile, Portland, OR

This event was publicized on the Tile Trade Artisans Group and Tileletter.com with eager tile setters waiting in the wings for a chance to apply to the class. But even with requirements of a minimum of five years as a tile installer, an application with a statement of intent, and a $1,000 fee to confirm participation, the class sold out in a flash!  Currently, there is a waiting list for this and future Tile Artisan Training events.

Lee and Jane Callewaert and Joshua Nordstrom issued a joint statement about the upcoming class:

Trevor Hook of Hooked On Tile completely focused on creating his koi template.

“The 2024 A.R.T. class is filled with an esteemed group of experienced craftspeople who are ready to take their work to the next artisan level. We are excited to spread the love for artisan tile work again with the 2024 program. 

“New this year, Ron Nash, LATICRETE, will join our panel on Marketing Artisan Work, and one of our 2023 A.R.T. graduates will join us to learn the ins and outs of the artisan trainer role as we work to expand the network of trainers. Dirk Sullivan, Hawthorne Tile, will join our backstage support (he’s willing to clean buckets but his presence will be a contribution much beyond). 

“Again we welcome the amazing support from Lesley Goddin, TileLetter Editor, Sharon LaRiviere, LATICRETE Manager of Digital Marketing, and our seasoned Assistant Trainers, Maria Meyer, Dragonfly Artisan Apprentice, and Seth Ready, Ready Set Tile. So many other supporters help to make this intense training possible. It would not happen without NTCA and LATICRETE. The support for the artisan movement in tile is strong and growing. We are honored to be a part of it.”

Upcoming attendees speak out

Templating was just one of the many things taught at the first A.R.T.class – here Lee Callewaert (foreground) and Joshua Nordstrom instruct the class on templating techniques.

Learn more about this training in the spring TileLetter ARTISAN issue. But here’s what a few participants are looking forward  to about the class:

“I want to be doing a different kind of work where there’s more design and art involved and reaching higher end clientele,” said Natalie Hall, of Artistry in Tile. “I want to be the one creating the designs and also installing them. I have been really interested in doing mosaics and I have so many ideas for what I want to do with them, I just need help getting started and some methods and products that will make my life easier. From everything I’ve been reading, this program seems like the perfect catalyst for me and what my goals are.”  

“I absolutely love tile!” exclaimed Kris Kemp, Kemp Tile & Flooring. “I would love to be able to create custom works of art that are made to last the test of time. I would love to be able to leave my mark on the world and bring art back to the trade. I don’t have experience creating mosaics and would love to learn how to properly create such work.” 

“I would like to have my brother, Mike Wiseman, learn how to make custom mosaic to support himself,” said Jacob Wiseman of Madison Pro Services. “My brother Mike was in an accident eight years ago and with only one leg, is still recovering. He used to set tile. The government said he wasn’t disabled and now I support him 100%. It would be amazing for him to support himself, and to work with his passion, tile. I learned a lot from my brother. He taught me mud. I would like him to take the class, as well. But if not, I will teach him.

Concentration was intense as students got familiar with new tools – here’s the ring saw brigade.

“I have a recognized apprenticeship program with the Alabama department of apprenticeship, and would like to be training future certified tile installers on custom mosaic,” Wiseman added.

“I feel this is a great way to help with career transition to the more artistic side of tile installation,”  said Jan Hohn of Hohn & Hohn, Inc. “I’ve already had a request from a client to do a mural. I’d like to gain more knowledge about tools and techniques.”

For more information about the upcoming program in June and future tile artisan training classes, contact [email protected]. 

Attendee Chris Stover of Stover Tile and Design snapped this birds-eye-view of all the premounted koi drying in the Milwaukee sunshine.

Sharing knowledge

Four of the original A.R.T, students will demonstrate the process of making hand-shaped tiles at the upcoming TileFest in May.

As mentioned, students from last year’s class are incorporating more tile art into their projects. And several attendees are taking things to the next level. 

A small cadre of emerging artists is currently working on a demonstration to be presented during TileFest, at The Tileworks (Moravian Pottery and Tile Works) in Doylestown, Pa., May 18-19. Matt Blood of Paragon Tile Installation, Cumberland, R.I., Chris Resti, Crest Tile and Mosaic, Inc., Hilton, N.Y., Aryk Snowberger of Snowbee Custom Tile in Canton, Ohio, and nearby Chris Osterritter of Art by Tile in Wildmerding, Pa. (Pittsburgh area) have been developing a program that will illustrate the necessary steps to create mosaic art to festival visitors. They will travel to Doylestown and show visitors and tile enthusiasts the artistic and creative possibilities in hand-shaped mosaics, and the degree of personalization it can bring to projects. They also are carrying on the knowledge that was imparted at the training, a key goal of teaching fellow tile setters these time-honored techniques.   

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