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Maryland tile setter pursues a path of excellence; starts social media group for women

“I’m so passionate about the industry as a whole, and always want to be a part of it,” Michelle Blomquist Hamilton of Tile Maryland/Creative Tile & Stone said.

Michelle Blomquist Hamilton is a relative newcomer to the tile business. She runs Tile Maryland, LLC (soon to be Creative Tile & Stone, LLC) in Conowingo, Md.,with her husband John, and her youngest son Josh, who is learning the trade as a helper. 

Though her time in the industry may be short, her passion for the industry, and tile installation excellence is strong.

“I actually got into the business five years ago when I started dating my husband,” Hamilton said. “He asked me to take over the business and wanted me to run the office. I could not effectively run the business without having full knowledge of it.”

So, Hamilton quit her job in finance and set out to learn everything she could. “I am still learning new things and have become really passionate about it,” she said. “I took my Certified Tile Installer (CTI) test twice and did not pass, and am taking it the end of June. I took it right after my mother passed away and I should have waited but I’ll do it until I pass… I may have convinced my husband to take it as well! 

“The CTI is important to me and to the industry,” she added. “There needs to be guidelines set and standards for tile installation, and the CTI is a good start.”

Hamilton gets tremendous satisfaction seeing the job finished and having a satisfied customer. “I try to do something different on each job to further my skills and make each job better,” she added. 

Hamilton makes it a point to sign up for every training available through the manufacturers and through NTCA. “I stay active in the groups and actually go visit other installers in and around my area to network with them as well. I’ve learned a lot from other installers and always want to try new things and be challenged.”

Tile Maryland/Creative Tile & Stone predominantly serves the residential customer, specifically bathrooms and showers as well as swimming pool tile coping and replacement. Hamilton enjoys assisting in the design process, taking the challenges of being a small business owner in stride – staying up to date with products, proper methods and design trends. 

“I’m so passionate about the industry as a whole, and always want to be a part of it,” she said. “Being challenged and being able to inspire and encourage others are what motivates me.” 

She gets tremendous satisfaction seeing the job finished and having a satisfied customer. “I try to do something different on each job to further my skills and make each job better,” she added. “The organizations and groups I belong to have been a great resource in this regard. Lots of tips and ideas are gained from these associations.” 

NTCA benefits

One of those associations is the NTCA, which HamiIton joined last year. “I wish I had joined sooner,” she said. “The workshops they offer are a great way to learn new things and stay up to date on new techniques. Being a member of an organization like this heightens your professionalism. I think it shows that you are serious about your business and growing in the industry. 

“As a member you have access to not just training, but the opportunity to get credentialing, like the CTI,” she added. “Being a member of NTCA is well worth the money. It is not only a tax deduction, but the vouchers more than pay for the membership expense. “

Tile Chix

Hamilton mused about the advantages of being a woman in the tile industry. “We are often intuitive and good listeners, and this goes a long way to understanding your customers,” she said, noting that she finds most women open and eager to participate in available training opportunities. 

“Because we don’t often come with many years of ‘always did it this way’ experience, I think we do not have as many pre-conceived or rigid notions,” she said. “We are open to new information and practices, which is so important.”

The job above was the most challenging for Hamilton. The customer had removed a wall between the kitchen and formal living room and a small wall at the end of their island, leaving space for seven tiles in the middle of the floor. They had no extra tiles and the only ones Hamilton had access to were the remaining seven between the living room and kitchen. 
“I had to remove those seven tiles – and not break any – and move them to the middle of the kitchen around the island,” she said. “I managed to carefully get them up and didn’t even chip any. It looked amazing, was time consuming and I challenged myself as well. Coming up with a way to transition the two rooms was also a challenge and I used the slate and installed diagonally.”

A few months ago, Hamilton decided to reach out to fellow females in tile via the social media group Tile Chix on Facebook. “I noticed that some women in the groups didn’t post too much or would only comment occasionally,” she explained. “We can support each other and create a welcoming place to learn and grow.” 

Hamilton also hopes Tile Chix becomes a catalyst for young women to enter the trades. “Not all students want to go to college,” she said. “Participating in community events, schools, and Girl Scout camps, career days or other demonstrations at the schools – all these can bring exposure to the trades and welcome more young people in. There are opportunities for a career as a contractor, installer, tile artisan, mosaic artist, designer, or company rep. There are many options in the trades to enjoy what you do and make a great income.”

A third reason for the group is for women to discuss challenges in the industry specific to women. “Having a place to discuss things and encourage each other is important,” she said. 

The rapid growth of Tile Chix made Hamilton realize how many women are in the industry. 

“I’ve seen many talented and creative women and the interaction among the ladies is great,” she said. “Having a great group of admins has helped tremendously. It will be nice to meet many of the group members in person at events.” 

Editor at | [email protected] | + posts

Editor for TileLetter, TileLetter Coverings, TREND and TECH publications.

Lesley Goddin has been writing and journaling since her first diary at age 11, and drawing and sketching since she could hold a pencil. Her penchant for observation led to her becoming a paid professional as a trade journalist, publicist and is editor for TileLetter. She has also written for Guideposts, Walls, Windows and Floors, Floor Covering Weekly, and Low Carb Energy.

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