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Unique Mosaics Master Class

Opening new doors of creativity

Where tile artists gather, positive feelings, camaraderie, mutual support and inspiration ensues. 

That certainly was the case in June 2023 at the Artisans Revolution in Tile (A.R.T.) Premier Tile Artisans training in Milwaukee, where 15 tile setters expanded their skills and their artistic prowess.

Students each worked on creating a piece of the Tile Tools logo during the class.

The phenomenon repeated itself in September of last year, when some artisan attendees of that Milwaukee event – and several others – came together in a full-day class of 10 at Unique Mosaic’s South Salt Lake, Utah studio. Here master mosaicist Angie Halford Ré taught her students tricks and techniques that can be applied to creating custom inlays, commercial logo floor mats and special projects for walls and floors. Attendees learned each step of creating a mosaic tile logo, as well as mosaic art terminology, how the flow of mosaic tile affects the design, key aspects of pricing, design, planning mosaic materials and mounting techniques. 

The group worked on logos of two major event sponsors, Tile Tools and TEC. Early in the day, each person focused on creating their section of the Tile Tools logo to prepare it for mounting. After lunch, the class got a lesson in working with a pre-made TEC logo, with each artisan mounting a section of the logo into place on a foam board. Ré will deliver these two finished pre-mounted logos to the sponsors at TISE in Las Vegas this month. 

The mounted TEC mosaic.
Joppe Aguirre mounts a portion of the TEC mosaic logo, as Anthony Oliver (l) and Lucas Hendrickson look on.

“I wanted the master class to open new doors of creativity to tile installers of all skill levels,” Ré said.

From the profusion of glowing comments shared by attendees, it’s clear Ré met her goal!

Joppe Aguirre of Cascadia Tile Company in Redmond, Ore., was searching for inspiration for a customer’s pool bottom when he stumbled across the class description on the Global Tile Posse Facebook group. 

“I learned a lot in the class and met some great installers as well,” he said. I learned how to face mount the mosaics with mosaic tape, which was a lot of help because I had no idea how I was going to do that with [the pool] mosaic. The class gave me the confidence I needed to tackle my own project. I set it a few weeks ago and feel great about how it turned out.” Aguirre also feels inspired to pursue more mosaic projects. 

Instructor Angie Ré (front) guides (l to r) Jennifer Barker, Sal Azzolino and Anthony Oliver through mounting the finished face-taped TEC mosaic.

Jeremy and Jennifer Barker of Bathmatic Custom Tile and Shower in Gastonia, N.C., attended to keep their minds open to new possibilities like mosaics and to further their education. Jeremy learned about symmetry, placement and methods in his first ever mosaics class. 

Jennifer said she surprised herself with realizing her potential with mosaics. “Setting pans with pebble rocks have always been my favorite because I hand-set each individual pebble or rock,” she said “I never realized it was because I have a passion for mosaics.” She noted that an initiative she has with Jeremy called Put Tools in Schools shows kids that tile transcends bathrooms, floors and kitchens. “You can literally create an art piece,” she said.  

Added Jeremy, “I want everyone to realize how powerful these trainings are and how getting involved will change your ways of thinking. You will find inspiration and insight by networking with others in the industry that are facing similar visions.”

H.B. Fuller’s Chris Kain (r) talks about the company’s modified silane adhesive, TotalFlex XMS and its excellent performance with glass tile. The group used TEC SuperFlex thinset to install the logo.

Josh Vassallo from Vassallo Tile & Stone in Wimberley, Texas, attended the Milwaukee class and found Ré’s class “gave me another style in creating custom mosaics,” he said. He took the class to “dig deeper into the world of mosaics. I’ve found that when I’m creating art it compels me to go deeper. I just want to learn as much as I can.”

Lucas Hendrickson of Puget Sound’s Northwest Artisan Tile Company, which he recently formed with business partner Danny Mecca, also jumped at the chance to follow up the Milwaukee training with Ré’s class. “It’s a different style of mosaic than I had learned previously and I wanted to add to my repertoire of skills,” he said. The collective wisdom of the group was inspiring – as was the wisdom of his teacher. Together with the hands-on experience of learning a different mosaic style, his confidence expanded for his ongoing mosaic projects. 

Sal Azzolino of Argo Tile & Stone, San Francisco, Ca., works on his pet portrait mosaic.

Mecca also attended and found that reconnecting with his creativity and passion about the art world brought balance to the project/construction side of the industry, while honoring the craft’s artisan and historic roots. He was reminded of how his undergrad work in photography and design awakened his freedom of expression. Being with likeminded people also was a benefit. “What’s most impactful is the community and camaraderie,” he said. 

Logan Bounds, a brand new Certified Tile Installer, and owner of Atlas Tile Co., in Vineyard, Utah, wanted to “explore the option and capability to execute artistic elements in my day to day installs. I wanted to see the different methods used to create mosaics and how others approached them. I also wanted to support a good friend and see how she creates such masterpieces.”

He called this class with “badass” Angie informative and a lot of fun. His takeaway? “The better the planning, the better the outcome.”

In addition to the major sponsors of this Unique Mosaics training, iTile Asheville and Dewalt provided support for the program. 

Pet projects

The next day, eight of the 10 students stayed on to take a private pet portrait class that Ré taught. “It was a blast teaching mosaics to them, specifically with glass and glass tools, and watching their pet portraits come to life,” Ré said. “We all had such a great time working, creating and bonding. I truly missed every single person when they were gone. They left me a little gift of outdoor floral glass artwork that was installed right in a spot that needed a little love, as a beautiful reminder of that amazing weekend [courtesy of Lucas Hendricksen and Josh Vassallo –Ed. note]. Every time I look at it, it makes me happy.”

Power of the group

 “I can’t say I am surprised at this amazing group’s enthusiasm and passion for the tile trade, because truly that is what this group of people do every day,” Ré said. “It made me feel so great to see their devotion and dedication to what they were working on every moment they were here in my studio in South Salt Lake. I’m completely humbled that these tile professionals traveled all the way here to Utah to learn a little something from me. Everyone was working hard, asking questions, learning, sharing, laughing and having a great time.”  

Attendees, sponsors and instructor at the Unique Mosaics master class.
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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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