NTCA Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year, Commercial
Triniti Vigil, Vice President of Operations at NTCA Five-Star Contractor J&R Tile, Inc., of San Antonio, Texas, was named the NTCA Tile Setter Craftsperson of the Year.
Vigil came to J&R in 2007, after 12 years with Sevilla Tile where he started as pre-apprentice and advanced to apprentice to journeyman tile installer for this residential contractor. He is Certified Tile Installer (CTI) #1144, and has multiple Advanced Certifications for Tile Installers (ACT). He also holds certifications from wedi Corp., Schluter Systems, StonePeak Ceramics, Ardex Americas, Dekton, and in eSUB Project Management.
Nominated by Erin E. Albrecht, M.Ed., Owner and President of J&R Tile, Inc., Vigil was praised for performing his job at an exemplary level, and demonstrating an extraordinary commitment to the local tile and construction community, as well as to the general public.
“Triniti takes it upon himself to demonstrate exceptional quality and craftsmanship to new staff, which is important considering we have a Department of Labor Approved Apprenticeship that was developed by TCNA standards and NTCA University,” Albrecht said. “He leads by example, is at the helm of J&R Tile’s manpower and operations, and shows the value of hiring an NTCA Five-Star Contractor.”
Vigil had a huge role in developing and receiving approval on apprenticeship back in 2017, said Albrecht, and he continues to make improvements to the J&R curriculum.
“He has shown the apprentices the true meaning of craftsmanship, by teaching the foundational skills and principles of mud floor and mud walls, and the new technologies of extruded cementitious foam backer boards, foam shower pans, and integrated bonding flanges,” Albrecht added.
San Fernando Cathedral Courtyard
One of the oldest cathedrals in the U.S. – and otherwise known as The Church of Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria y Guadalupe, listed on the National Register of Historic Places – this project encompassed over 6,000 sq.ft. Vigil led two crews to excellence, in over-100-degree San Antonio summer temperatures, erecting pop up tents for shade for crews. Major mudwork (shown) was required to replace flagstone with 16″ x 24″ x 3/4″ stone, installed with 1/16″ grout joints (shown). Custom 6″ x 10″ slate, engraved with patron family names surrounds the courtyard. Installed with Custom Building Products Natural Stone & Large Tile Premium Mortar, LATICRETE PERMACOLOR grout and LATASIL was used for movement joint installation at all concrete inlays and 8′ in both directions with non-linear movement joints to not disrupt the tile patterns. Lippage was tested by the archbishop and his mother, who slid around in socks when work was complete!
Above and beyond
Vigil’s influence extends beyond his role at J&R Tile to being a positive presence in the local tile community.
Vigil fields calls daily from offices and contractors throughout the city and fellow tile installers who call upon his experience and know-how for information and advice, Albrecht said.
“Triniti is helpful, caring, resourceful, and happy to offer help no matter the task,” shared a local contractor. “Even though he doesn’t need to, he always does so willingly and cheerfully.”
Besides his CTI and ACT credentials, he has been a CTEF Regional Evaluator for the CTI test since 2016, as well as a CTEF instructor. Plus, he is a “walking, talking TCNA Handbook,” Albrecht said. “He does this with class and being a source of information with the right intentions always leaves an impression. He has helped J&R become a go-to for complicated, high-end commercial projects.” In fact, Albrecht credits Vigil with being the reason there are so many specifications in the San Antonio area with qualified labor language. He educates and speaks to architects, engineers and owners, exemplifying a consummate tile industry professional and qualified laborer.
Vigil also pours his passion into his community at large. He is currently serving as a volunteer coordinator working with the non-profit Westside San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, where he facilitated improvements in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods.
Valencia Hotel Remodel
Located on the San Antonio Riverwalk, this project included exterior mosaics, interior submerged mosaics in a custom water fountain, mosaic tile, handmade Mexican Talavera tiles, porcelain flooring and large-format 3/4″ limestone tile. For the fountains, Vigil instructed the team to remove mesh backing from the mosaics, face-mounting them to achieve the TCNA standard of 95% coverage for submerged applications. By request of owner, Vigil made custom wedi boxes, covered with the mosaic tile, to hide all plumbing fixtures, and attached weights to the underside of the boxes to prevent floating (shown). Vigil also made sure that “cutback” black adhesive from the existing carpet in the lobby was removed from all concrete substrate with mechanical scarification, prior to stone and tile installation. All porcelain and ceramic flooring, stone flooring and steps were labeled prior to installation, and each step (shown) was custom floated mudwork with Ardex AM100 pre-tile repair mortar, that cures in 90 minutes for quick turnaround times.
Twin passions: mentoring and teaching
He is dedicated to mentoring and teaching, mentoring other local NTCA Members and CTIs, inviting them to projects and J&R Tile’s gauged porcelain slab training. He has hosted local workshops at J&R Tile, and provided assistance to visiting manufacturers as well. His fluency in Spanish helps with mentoring the local community in South Texas on proper methods and standards.
“Through many changes at J&R Tile through the years, Triniti has made a difference at our business, exemplified the core values, and has positively impacted the people of our community, as well as having a presence in the tile community nationally,” Albrecht said. “His skills, knowledge, willingness to help others, and dedication to our community make him our NTCA [Tile Setter] Craftsperson of the Year nominee!”
San Pedro Creek
This monumental project grabbed numerous awards including a CID Award. It involved 1,800 linear feet of historic wall preserved, 11 interpretive signs and 16 tile benches with numerous challenges for J&R Tile. Read about it here: https://tinyurl.com/JRSanPedroCreek
And how does Vigil himself view craftsmanship? He took a few minutes to share his thoughts with TileLetter ARTISAN.
What do “artisan tile setting” and “craftsmanship” mean to you?
It is a very high honor to be recognized for a craftsmanship achievement, and I hope to inspire others! To me, it means installation at its best. I also think of craftsmanship as the ability to adapt – to environmental conditions, to changes in the project, to take over for prior leadership and guide a project to an excellent result.
What’s the biggest challenge you encounter as a craftsperson?
Maintaining the ability to install at the level I am capable of, and being a professional and continuing to grow at that level. There are so many different challenges and installation systems, being an expert in all means constant learning and self-improvement.
What kind of training should a person who aspires to be a craftsperson obtain?
Apprenticing under multiple Certified Tile Installers and gaining a foundational knowledge of the TCNA Handbook and ANSI standards are great starting points.
What benefits are there for a young person pursuing a career as a tile craftsperson?
Honestly, I would say it’s a sense of pride. All too long there has been a cancer of unqualified individuals who have not been taught correctly. My old maestro used to say, “You teach them to spread thinset and they think they’re tile setters.” You need to learn to walk before you can run; same with being a craftperson. Mistakes will be made – but that’s okay. It will only help you to sharpen your skills with each boo-boo. I tell every young person who apprentices under me, “The reason I’m so damn good is because I messed up a lot.” So with that, I teach them to take pride in their craft because not everybody can do [what they do].
How important is apprenticeship in the development of craftspeople?
Very important – you need to know how to walk before you can run! Working with a professional and in field hands-on training is the best way of learning, and then applying those skills under supervision.
What kind of joy and satisfaction does craftsmanship bring?
The ability to step back and admire the work that I’ve done and share that craftsmanship with clients.
What is most rewarding about being a craftsperson?
Bragging rights! Not everyone can execute what J&R has done at a high level.
How does J&R Tile support craftsmanship as a company philosophy?
Craftsmanship aligns with our core values: Continuous Self-Improvement, Attention to Detail, Leave it Better, Integrity, Accountability and Hungry for Achievement.
Anything else you’d like to say about craftsmanship?
I’ve been in the game for 29 years, and I’m still improving every day!
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. Other interests include the soft, purring marvels known as cats, labyrinth walking, drumming and percussion, and a range of spiritual, musical and artistic pursuits.