Nemo Tile + Stone Launches E-Commerce Business; Unveils Revamped Website

New Interface and Refreshed Site are Designed to Make Shopping for Tile Easier Than Ever

New York, New York — Last month, Nemo Tile + Stone, a New York City-based provider of top-performing surface materials, was excited to unveil its new e-commerce store and revamped website, nemotile.com. Advanced in capability and contemporary in aesthetic, Nemo Tile + Stone’s new online presence and interface provides consumers and the interior design and architecture community with a new way to shop for and specify products from the brand’s extensive library of tile and stone offerings. Providing an additional avenue to Nemo Tile + Stone’s five showrooms located throughout the Northeast, customers can now explore the latest styles in surfacing online for residential, commercial, and hospitality projects. 

website screen shot of Nemo Tile
Nemo Tile + Stone launched a new e-commerce site and website last month.

The launch of the e-commerce platform emerged in tandem with the arrival of an entirely refreshed website for the family-owned, 99-year-old brand. In addition to the new online capabilities for buyers, the reimagined website is equipped with improved navigation, imagery, and visualization tools aimed at enhancing the overall user experience. The updated website boasts a plethora of user-centric features highlighted through interactive development tools now available at the click of a mouse. Amongst the new features, users will find personalized search tools that refine a search by size, shape, color, and material. This personalized approach is then expanded upon once a product page is selected. Each individual product page holds numerous images in silhouette and lifestyle frames to allow the user to easily visualize the potential of the product in the space they are designing. 

screen shot of Nemo Tile + Stone Visualizer
Nemo Tile + Stone’s Visualizer allows users to select a tile and instantly see it rendered in up to sixteen different residential and commercial spaces.

Nemo Tile + Stone’s commitment to the user’s experience is at the heart of another new feature, the Visualizer, which allows users to select a tile and instantly see it rendered in up to sixteen different spaces, inclusive of both residential and commercial options that range from kitchens, bathrooms, and foyers to retail and restaurant settings. Users are also able to upload an image of their very own space and render design possibilities in a truly bespoke fashion. Overall, the 3D visualization tool provides a virtual view of a product’s design potential and offers a digestible way for users to see the variety of applications possible with each product. 

“The idea behind the new interface and the launch of e-commerce for Nemo, was and is to provide our customers a premier experience beyond the walls of our showrooms,” said Matthew Coburger, Director of Product Merchandising, Nemo Tile + Stone. “Each new feature offered on the website is designed to provide users with a way to thoughtfully and productively specify the products they’re interested in for any number of project types.” 

The new platform is designed to evolve with Nemo Tile + Stone’s ever-growing product offerings and allow users to easily connect with the brand’s rich product portfolio, including new additions such as the Dash collection, a series of modern porcelain floor and wall tiles rooted in muted earth tones and pastels. Sleek, contemporary style and uniformity were also given immense attention in the refresh of the website and its dedicated design inspiration pages. Equipped with an active blog featuring Nemo Tile + Stone installations and set alongside a section designed to showcase the brand’s Instagram page, @nemotile, users will be able to further understand the vast array of design possibilities afforded by Nemo Tile + Stone’s product offerings and company know-how.  

To see the website first hand, please visit www.nemotile.com

Where there’s tile, there’s beauty

Life can be beautiful. Maybe you’re not feeling that so much this year, but it’s my observation that where there’s tile, there’s beauty!

This month’s issue focuses on artisan tile installations and decorative tile – breathtaking installations that bring form and color and poetry to settings, sometimes literally. For instance, you’ll find a story in this issue about the ALMA (Apprenticeships for Leaders in Mosaic Arts) Summer Institute, that employs youth aged 16-25 each summer to conceptualize, design, create and glaze mosaic tiles, then install them in public sites around Albuquerque and other cities in New Mexico. 

Another stunning project detailed in this issue is the Corte Madera Pool Grotto, a spectacular example of tile setting by Heritage Marble & Tile, Inc., from Mill Valley, Calif., which won the Coverings Installation & Design Award for Residential Tile Installation. In addition to the level of precision required in this design, challenges along the way required complex on-site adjustments to complete the job within the desired time frame. 

Any trade needs new blood to keep things fresh, and the tile trade is no exception. In our Business section, tile artisans Lee Callewaert of Dragonfly Tile & StoneWorks and Joshua Nordstrom from Tierra Tile talk about how to attract young people to the tile trade, and why it is a great option for those seeking a career that allows them to exercise their creativity. 

Our Member Spotlight, Shawn King of Shawn King, Inc., exemplifies this principle. A true artist, he chose the world of tile setting to practice his art in a new way, executing kitchen and bathroom remodels from his New Port Richie, Fla., location. 

Bart Bettiga wraps up his One-to-One interview with legendary industry expert Dave Gobis in this issue. And if you are feeling a hankering for all that great education and training that NTCA is known for, fear not – our Training and Education feature details fabulous online opportunities for you to learn from NTCA Workshops and take part in NTCA Roundtables Live. Plus, learn about a new NTCA VIP Text Messaging Program that alerts you to educational opportunities in your area, virtually and – God willing – when our trainers get back on the road. Just text NTCA to 31996 from your mobile phone to get connected!

Hope you find some content in this issue to inspire you, lift your spirits, and remind you that you are part of a timeline of stunning workmanship and craftsmanship, with a rich history and a bright future.

God bless,
[email protected]

Respect and skill distinguish Florida tile contractor

CTI #1511 – combined with treating people right – makes Shawn King, Inc., a client’s delight

Shawn King, owner of Shawn King, Inc., New Port Richey, Fla., is a State Certified (CRC #1331429) residential Certified Tile Installer (CTI #1511), specializing in bathroom remodeling. He’s been in and out of the construction industry for 30 years, initially going to work for a friend who has a tile business out of necessity. “I quickly found that it was a way for me to create!” he said. “Life just got too busy and I did not have enough time to do my artwork, so I’ve been able to transfer that creative nature into my tile work.” Being a tile setter allowed him to channel his creativity into his tile installations.

He is all about continuing his education, and decided to open his own business about five years ago. To that end, he joined NTCA two years ago, as a way to connect with tile industry professionals, amp up his education and, “hopefully contribute in some way.” He’s helped with three CTI exams in Florida. He says his NTCA membership gives him an “immense amount of knowledge whether through the website, phone call or regional training.”

In addition to the skills and expertise he brings to his tile jobs, his business model is very relational, with respect for his client at the front and center of all he does. This makes him stand out from other installers and tile contractors in his area: “I return phone calls,” he said. “I show up on time, respect and protect their homes and communicate with them during the process.”

In fact, his greatest joy is in “creating a memorable experience for my clients,” he said. He receives comments like “‘We’re going to miss you,’” and “thank you cards expressing gratitude for giving them more than they were expecting.”

And his CTI credential helps him set that stage of professionalism and excellence for his clients. “Taking and passing the CTI has given me an additional tool in my tool box,” he said. “I use it to show potential clients that I am one of almost 1,700 people in the country who are passionate enough about the craft of tile to test their skills against industry standards.”

King brought in another CTI to help on a recent project – Melissa Swann, CTI #1670. The kitchen backsplash and shower job required King and Swann to demo two brand-new, never-used showers due to improper installation methods on the substrate and tile. The result was two beautiful showers and glowing praise from the client.

“The challenges we faced were pleasing a client who has a sour taste for tile guys and had done her research on the John Bridge forum because they had been burned and had not been able to use their showers for a year,” he said. “We were able to restore her faith in tile people. I am confident that she will recommend using Certified Tile Installers to all of her friends and family. In the end, she wrote an amazing thank you letter to Melissa and myself.” See excerpts below:

As you know, over the past year, we have hired a series of Florida general and sub-contractors that continually failed to deliver the quality and service we expected as we completed our whole home remodel. Time and time again, we reiterated we were interested in quality – not speed – because we were willing to pay for it to improve our ‘forever home.’

Our experience with the company we hired to install Schluter shower systems and tile our bathrooms and backsplash was disastrous. When that tiler quit, we set out to find a Schluter expert that was also a Certified Tile Installer. Our Facebook virtual meeting was a great introduction and your trip to look at our job in person sealed the deal. We knew we had found the right person for the job and you were worth the wait.

Thank you. Thank you for planning and thinking ahead, for protecting our home as you worked, for your Schluter and tiling expertise, for your artistic attention to detail in setting our tile and for your consistently cheerful disposition. You (and Melissa – thanks for bringing her with you!) have been such a delight to have in our home.

You are at the top of our very short list of professionals that we would use again. Although we know that you have plenty of references that are delighted with your work, please add us to the list. We would hire you again in a heartbeat and would be happy to share our experience with prospective clients. 

While we’re sure you won’t miss the two-hour round trip commute each day, we are going to miss having you around. We will stay in touch via Facebook. 

NTCA brings training to you with virtual workshops and roundtables

New NTCA VIP Text Messaging Program keeps you in the loop for upcoming training events

Here we are, in September, and no doubt you are missing some of the great training opportunities NTCA is known for. But did you know that although NTCA trainers are not physically roaming the country to present workshops and conduct roundtables, you don’t have to miss out on these educational events? In fact, you don’t have to leave the convenience of your phone or computer to take part in NTCA Workshops and NTCA Roundtables Live, all presented virtually.

NTCA Workshops

The NTCA Workshops were some of the most-anticipated training opportunities each year. Now you can enjoy the 90-minute virtual program anywhere you have a connected device, through the magic of virtual conferencing! 

The focus of the programs for this year is The Ins and Outs of Layout, which was developed to help contractors and installers master layout principles that can expedite your projects and create balanced layouts. The program reviews the basics of squaring a room, determining the focal point of the room to properly balance the tile installations, using grid pattern in tile installation and more. These principles are utilized by installation companies of all sizes in any type of job, so take the opportunity to tune into this virtual presentation and up your layout game. You’ll also have a chance to ask questions of the NTCA Trainer, and videos of the tips and techniques discussed will be shared with attendees. 

Visit https://www.tile-assn.com/page/VWSHOP for more information and to view a teaser video of the program. 

NTCA Roundtables Live

In June and July, NTCA Roundtables Live were held virtually in each region, with the Regional Directors moderating. This is a change to discuss pressing topics with peers, NTCA trainers, manufacturers and other industry experts and get answers to technical questions. They started up again in August, backed by the sponsorship of Custom Building Products through the end of the year.  

“Losing that human interaction has been crazy and difficult for all of us,” said Will White CTC/CMT, Director of Technical Communications & Training, Custom Building Products. “This roundtable series provides a way we can all connect. CUSTOM has always held high the standard of supporting the contractor on the job, in the trenches, getting it done day in and day out. More now than ever, creating a forum where we can meet, asking the difficult questions about installation issues, challenges and even experiences on this new way of life together is immeasurable. Custom Building Products and I are very pleased, excited for the growing participation and thankful to the NTCA for the honor to engage and support this new effort.”

NTCA Roundtables Live allows viewers the opportunity to discuss technical topics and answer technical questions with peers, NTCA trainers, state ambassadors, and other industry experts.

Each NTCA Roundtables Live is conducted via virtual conferencing and runs for about an hour, beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern Time (12 noon Central/11 a.m. Mountain/10 a.m. Pacific). There is a general topic set for each meeting; some topics that have been explored in past roundtables include: 

  • Exterior Installations
  • Installer Habits (good and not-so-good)
  • Use of Mastic (when and where – or – when not and where not)
  • Substrate Preparation
  • Jobsite Security
  • Qualified Labor in the tile industry
  • Bring your questions and conversation! We want to hear from you!

There’s also plenty of opportunities to discuss other topics that come up in the group. 

NTCA Technical Director Mark Heinlein co-moderates with the Regional Director, and NTCA Trainers Robb Roderick and Randy Fleming are on hand for technical discussion and questions. While all members from the states in the scheduled region will be invited to attend, non-members can take part as well. And going forward, each roundtable will be open to the entire industry, not restricted by state. 

One big advantage of the NTCA Roundtables Live is the format gives seasoned contractors and those new to the industry positive support through a respectful forum, said Heinlein. 

“The roundtables are really starting to take off, with more and more people attending and engaging in fantastic discussions,” he explained. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to talk about tile in a safe place with industry professionals, without fear of ‘keyboard bravado’ that is sometimes seen on social media sites.” In fact, Heinlein said – although participation powers the discussion – contractors and installers can join the call to just listen if they wish. 

One of the new features of the NTCA Roundtables Live in the second half of the year is the “Ask the REF” feature. This feature poses questions that are derived from the NTCA Reference Manual; participants who answer correctly have a chance to pick swag of their choice from CUSTOM. 

Visit https://www.tile-assn.com/page/RT to register for the NTCA Roundtables Live. 

NTCA VIP Text Messaging Program

Got too much going on to check your calendar to see when Virtual Workshops and NTCA Roundtables Live are available? NTCA has you covered. You can now opt-in to NTCA’s VIP Text Messaging program that will alert you no more than 4-6 times a month when and where our next educational event is – or when our trainers get back on the road – in your area. Just text NTCA to 31996 from your mobile phone and you’ll get a confirmation. You’ll receive notification for the next event and information on how to participate. 

Trainers are looking forward to seeing you, talking with you and answering your questions in these new, age-of-COVID, virtual formats. Take advantage of this new format to pump up your tile installation know-how, coming soon to a phone, tablet, or computer screen near you. 

The butterfly effect: Monarch migration mural by ALMA Summer Institute transforms convention center

Young apprentices create and install colorful handmade mosaics that inspire, celebrate and honor

ALMA Operations Director Margarita Paz-Pedro with the in-process mural and a butterfly. 

Back in 2015, TileLetter covered the Albuquerque ALMA (Apprenticeships for Leaders in Mosaic Arts) Summer Institute for the first time. It had been initially established in 1999 as part of the Mayor’s Art Institute, under Mayor Jim Baca. Housed at the Harwood Art Center from 2008-2015, it afforded young people aged 16-25 from high schools, college, and the community the opportunity to conceptualize, design, plan, hand-make and glaze tiles, and install them in various sites around town as part of a paid summer apprenticeship. 

Flash forward to 2020 – I revisited the ALMA (almatile.org) program, which is now its own non-profit, operating out of a new studio. Back in 2015, the mural was installed on the exterior walls of the Albuquerque Convention Center. This year, the program returned to the Convention Center with a mural of migrating Monarch butterflies that weaves words and imagery into a graceful swirl of color, shapes, and meaning along the East wall. 

ALMA (which means “soul” in Spanish) is now operated by a handful of lead artists and three co-directors: Cassandra Reid (lotustileworks.com), Executive Director; Vanessa Alvarado (blubirdtileart.com), Outreach Director; and Margarita Paz-Pedro (paz-pedro.com), Operations Director. Alvarado took the lead on this project with expert consultation by Reid; Paz-Pedro handled the installation. 

Paz-Pedro toured me through the jobsite one warm day in mid-July. She has a BFA in Ceramics from the University of Colorado at Boulder, holds a Masters in Art Education from UNM, teaches full-time high school art and ceramics at La Academia de Esperanza charter school in Albuquerque’s South Valley, and does her own tile mosaics and functional wheel-thrown pottery – all while helping to lead ALMA. Her love for tile was ignited by her grandfather – who, after retiring as an engineer – became a “tile fanatic,” Paz-Pedro said. “He bought scrap tile and mosaics, and tiled EVERYTHING in the house – walls, floors, garden – as a hobby.”

(l. to r.) Margarita Paz-Pedro, Tori Lucero and Atom Vigil work on the mural installation in July.

Paz-Pedro started making tile in college, pieces she could hang on the wall that incorporated motifs from her Native and Mexican roots. When a teacher discouraged her, she lost momentum for a while until she rediscovered tile designs from pottery in 2009 that coincided with her teaching, and then her ceramic work started taking off. Through her involvement with ALMA, she’s helped lead projects around Albuquerque and also in Las Cruces, N.M. 

Poetic inspiration

The process for this mural began in February and involved a series of workshops led by local poet Jessica Helen Lopez that allowed apprentices to explore and envision themes for the project. Almost 320 clay letters spell out the poem that was developed in the winter, and the words wind through the mural as a graphic element. In this time of COVID, all initial work in March, April, and May was done via Zoom and Google Docs.

Then came the process of making tile and glazing it. Hundreds of butterflies, flowers, and geometric pieces, as well as signature Monarchs, were made of a sculpture clay by New Mexico Clay, and layers of glazes by Coyote Glaze, Spectrum, Mayco, Laguna and Amaco applied. 

Apprentices adorned white stoneware butterflies with names of Native tribes.

Again, COVID necessitated the purchase of cleaning materials and masks, the latter of which turned out to not be as onerous as expected. “At first masks were itchy, but wearing them for 1.5 months, and installing, they are almost second nature,” said Atom Vigil, one of the apprentices working on the 2020 project. 

When it came time to install the mural, apprentices worked from
6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to avoid the summer heat, which can get intense in the high desert, even though the jobsite was protected by an overhang. 

Inspired by ceramics

The five apprentices that worked on this project come from a wide range of backgrounds, all of whom were returning from past year’s projects. TileLetter spoke with lead apprentices Tori Lucero, who is in her 6th summer with ALMA, and Vigil, who joined ALMA in 2018.

Lucero, 25, was recommended to this program by someone who knew of her passion for art. “I have a love for making ceramics,” she said. She dreams of starting her own business. “The installation is my favorite part,” she said. “It’s very calming. “

Vigil, 20, came to ALMA on the recommendation of his ceramics teacher. He is currently studying art education at the University of New Mexico, and his main art form is making functional ceramics. 

“This is a great summer job,” Vigil said. “I love working with glazes to get different colors.” He loves the installation as well. “It’s one thing to see it on paper, and it’s another to see it take shape.” Vigil enjoyed the chance to put a personal touch in past murals, with personally-designed tiles. 

In addition to Lucero and Vigil, apprentices Jacqueline De La Cruz, Jai Salazar, and Jacquelyn Helpa helped give life to this mural. Mosaics were installed with MAPEI Ultraflex LFT and grouted with C-Cure MP Sanded 924 grout. 

 (U.l. to r.) Vanessa Alvarado (Lead Artist), Tori Lucero (Lead Apprentice), Jai Salazar (Apprentice), Atom Vigil (Apprentice) and Jacquelyn Yepa (Apprentice). Members of the team not pictured are Jaqueline De La Cruz (Lead Apprentice), Margarita Paz-Pedro (Lead Artist) and Cassandra Reid (Lead Artist).

The “Migrating Souls of Wisdom” mural was completed on July 22. Inspired by the migration of Monarch butterflies from Canada through the U.S. to Mexico, it’s also symbolic of “transcending borders,” Paz-Pedro explained, honoring the four generations of butterflies that make the trip. Individual butterflies feature tiny letters that spell the names of Native tribes and four generations from the artists’ own families.

This design spreads from last year’s Healing into Harmony mural and incorporates the negative space of the concrete convention center wall as part of the design, versus the edge-to-edge murals the group has created in the past. It even incorporates curved tiles that follow the contours of the walls. 

In her book, The Language of Butterflies, New York Times bestselling author and science journalist Wendy Williams observes that, “the language of butterflies is the language of color.” That is truly the case with this ALMA mural, which uses colorful mosaics to convey a profound message of beauty and meaning – putting the “butterfly effect” into motion, with a single mural that can change lives of young apprentices, and those who stop to view and ponder this work when visiting downtown Albuquerque. 

Stunning grotto project combines custom glass and ceramic mosaic with high-level installation expertise

Heritage Marble & Tile, Inc., wins CID Award for Residential Tile Installation

Only a rendering and preliminary plan of the Grotto were available at the pre-construction meeting.

This Corte Madera Pool Grotto project grabbed the Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Award for Residential Tile Installation back in April, announced during Coverings Connected virtual trade show. This homeowner’s dream project of a Moroccan-style pool grotto was brought to life through the expert installation of NTCA Five-Star Contractor Heritage Marble & Tile, Inc., in Mill Valley, Calif. 

Heritage Marble & Tile was brought onto the bidding process by landscape architect Todd Standley at Simmonds and Associates in San Anselmo, Calif., on the recommendation of tile supplier Ceramic Tile Design in San Rafael, Calif. Ceramic Tile Design provided the custom glass mosaic tile manufactured by Sicis and the handmade ceramic tile from Pratt and Larson that would form the project’s intricate design. The grotto, which has a circumference of 55 ft., would use approximately 500 sq. ft. of tile by the time the project was complete. 

A story pole was attached to the center point of the domed roof, with datum established that would guide the layout. 

Martin Brookes, owner of Heritage Marble & Tile, said that at the pre-construction meeting, the grotto structure had not yet been poured and only a rendering and preliminary plan were available. 

“Numerous pre-construction site visits took place to ensure that all parties were kept up to date about any issues or changes that arose during the project,” he said. “We projected that the project would be completed in 6-7 weeks.”

Brookes explained that the pool grotto shell had been formed with gunite, and did not meet substrate tolerances for both glass and ceramic tile installation. “To address this issue, we floated the walls, trued up the niches and arch, and used a laser level to create critical layout lines,” he said. “The center point of the domed roof was used to attach a story pole, and datum was established on which the layout would be dependent upon. The pool grotto’s structure required numerous hours of preparation to make the walls smooth enough to accept the Sicis glass mosaic tile. Once the walls were within tolerance, LATICRETE Hydro Ban Cementitious membrane was applied, which is specifically designed for pool applications.”

When Heritage Marble & Tile was ready to begin the tile installation, the project encountered several installation challenges:

  • The mosaic had been carefully drawn by the architect, who had instructed Sicis to cut the niches out during production, thus the tile installation had to accommodate the existing structure. 
  • The niches were not poured in the correct position and ranged from 2-3 inches off-center. 
  • The diameter at the bottom of the grotto was poured 2 inches larger than at the top. 

Brookes said, “To resolve these installation challenges required a cost analysis to determine whether to return the tile to Sicis in Italy to have it adjusted with about a three-month lead time, or make the adjustments on site with our team of qualified installers who held Certified Tile Installer (CTI) and Advanced Certification for Tile Installers (ACT) credentials. We chose to make the adjustments on site, and after much discussion with the architect came up with a game plan: the niches would have to be pieced in by hand and the circles in the mosaic pattern re-worked. This took time but was much faster than the other option of returning the tile to Italy.”

Niches had to be pieced in by hand by installer Gabriel Cortez and helper Ledesmo Calderon.

Brookes said installer Gabriel Cortez – with CTI and ACT credentials – along with helper Ledesmo Calderon took the lead on making these adjustments. “There are few installers I know have the ability and skill like Gabriel to perform this kind of install,” Brookes said. “His attention to detail and focus are exemplary. He is a true asset not only to Heritage Marble & Tile Inc., but to the whole tile community, producing artwork that will last for years to come.”

The Heritage crew began the tile installation by protecting the work area with a structure to maintain a stable ambient temperature. The Pratt and Larson ceramic tile stars on the ceiling and trim were set with LATICRETE Titanium thinset, chosen because of its superior bond strength and workability characteristics. The entire project was grouted with Litokol Starlike EVO epoxy grout that uses Zherorisk® technology – non-hazardous to the environment, non-toxic, non-corrosive and very low VOC. The black grout used on the ceiling contained golden flecks that accentuated the star effect. 

The resulting project took about 12 weeks from start to spectacular finish. “This was a technically challenging installation that tested the focus, detail, and stamina of the installer,” Brookes concluded. “The end result was a stunning pool grotto that exceeded everyone’s expectations.”

Pratt and Larson ceramic tile stars on the ceiling and trim were set with LATICRETE Titanium thinset and grouted with Litokol Starlike EVO epoxy grout. 
The finished stunning pool grotto took 12 weeks and exceeded all expectations. 

Blanke creates transition solution

BLANKE COVE is a new aluminum cove profile

The new aluminum cove profile BLANKE COVE is designed to solve transition problems between inside wall-to-floor tiled corners. Blanke’s cove-shaped profile makes cleaning simple, repels water, and provides an attractive and smooth finish between 90° tiled surfaces. Perfect for commercial and residential installations, the BLANKE COVE is constructed with high-grade anodized aluminum and is currently available in our three most popular finishes – Satin Silver, Brushed Nickel, and Titanium Bronze.

100-year anniversary of women’s right to vote marked by mosaics at Albuquerque gallery

Mosaic of laundry on the line

On August 18, 1920, the 19th amendment was ratified 100 years ago, granting women the right to vote. In this year, fraught with election drama and efforts to turn out the vote, the Tortuga Gallery in Albuquerque, NM is presenting “Many Votes, Many Voices,” commemorating the anniversary of ratifying of the 19th amendment, with works by Mosaic Artists of New Mexico.

12 square mosaics form a quilt themed to women's voting rights
The “Strength of Women” mosaic quilt is a collaborative effort among members of Mosaic Artists of New Mexico

The show, which is open to the public from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Friday and on Wednesday, August 26, includes the work of 15 mosaic artists whose pieces celebrate and commemorate an aspect of women’s suffrage on the path to winning the right to vote. A statement on the gallery’s website (tortugagallery.org), says, “This show is not just visually alluring, it is also an education to read the artist’s descriptions of their pieces and learn more about women’s suffrage through the display, ‘Rightfully Hers’ on loan from the New Mexico Council for the Humanities. All are invited to view the show, make a bid on the collaborative piece, ‘The Strength of Women’ and purchase a mosaic to have in your own home.”

words of a song form the topography of the moon
“Women are Real Gold,” by Cirrelda Snider, inspired by songwriter Kavisha Mazzella

The Mosaic Artists of New Mexico created a unique body of work that expresses ideals around the right to vote. For instance, in “Women are Real Gold” mosaic artist Cirrelda Snider takes her inspiration from songwriter Kavisha Mazzella in a 24” x 24” mosaic piece that evokes topography of the moon along with selections of powerful lyrics from the song. In “Mother’s Washday Prayer Flags” mosaic artist Laura Robbins draws on her experience of being a mother and grandmother of girls, with encouraging messages written on laundry hanging on a clothesline.

mosaic of ceramic garments tagged with encouraging phrases hang on a clothesline
Close up of “Mother’s Washday Prayer Flags” by Laura Robbins

In “Proof of Participation”, Erica Wendel-Oglesby creates a panel of flowers. But many of the petals on these flowers are inspired by the outdated practice of dipping an index fingertip in black or brown ink or applying an orange or purple line, signifying that the person has cast a vote. Background colors of purple, gold and white are the colors of the United States women’s suffrage movement.

flower petal motif
“Proof of Participation” by Erica Wendel-Oglesby

In addition to these artists, works by Caroline LaBlanc, Debra Toshimura, Erica Hoverter, Gayle Elaine Scott, Helen Atkins, Kyle Erickson, Marina Rabinowitz, Nancy Holt, Perri Yellen, Terry Storch and Tomas Wolff are on display. A collaborative glass mosaic quilt of 12 squares entitled “The Strength of Women” is also part of the exhibit.

View art online through the end of August  HERE . Call 505-948-8840 or email [email protected],org to purchase a piece.

Green issue focuses on sustainability, eco-friendly and pro-health issues in our industry

Welcome to the August GREEN issue, where we focus on the sustainability, eco-friendly and – especially now – pro-health issues in our industry. 

To that end, NTCA Technical Director Mark Heinlein explores the current state of OSHA’s Respirable Airborne Silica regulation, and how to adhere to the regulation and safeguard your lungs from irreversible silicosis.

Bill Griese, TCNA Director of Standards Development and Sustainability Initiatives, has contributed a story that examines the role ceramic tile floors, walls, and countertops play in green building and health initiatives. He discusses how disinfectants play into the picture, as well as the addition of antiviral testing to the suite of services offered by TCNA’s Product Performance Testing Laboratory.

In our A&D Corner, we talk about demands from the marketplace for products like ceramic tile and quartz surfacing materials that support easy sanitization and contribute to cleaner settings, especially in the pandemic era.

This issue offers a second technical article for your consideration – Joseph Mattice of On The Level Flooring in Greenville, S.C. has penned an article about the travails of using hybrid shower systems. You may be tempted to concoct a Franken-shower, but it could turn out to be more of a monster than you bargained for. 

In our Training & Education section, we explore a learning opportunity you may not know about on Facebook: one-to-one mentoring. NTCA member Brad Denny of Nichols Tile & Terrazzo in Joelton, Tenn., who is a mentor in both NTCA Members Only and Tile Geeks Facebook groups, discusses how the programs work and how to take advantage of industry mentors to support your business. 

Did you notice something different on the cover of TileLetter? Last month we added a new selling/tag line: “The industry’s leading tile installation magazine.” This official statement proclaims TileLetter’s prominence and strength among installation-related publications in our industry. When it comes to all things installation, TileLetter is YOUR magazine!

How have you been faring through the pandemic? Do you know contractors and suppliers are sharing their thoughts in our Contractor Perspective and Supplier Perspective stories, posted regularly on tileletter.com? This is a collection of first-person musings about business conditions, work challenges, and the emotional roller coaster the pandemic has been for many of us. Chances are, whatever you are feeling and experiencing, you’re not alone. Visit the site for some online camaraderie – and share your own stories with us by emailing [email protected].

As summer is winding down, take some time to enjoy the long, warm days and catch your breath before the challenges of autumn arrive. 

God bless, Lesley

Louisville contractor practices unwavering commitment to employees and customers

Vesta Tile & Stone, LLC (https://vestatile.com), based in Louisville, Ky., is a leading regional contractor in the commercial tile and stone market since 2010.  Vesta quickly evolved as a respected regional contractor by inspiring the commitment of its employees and doing the right thing for its customers, which are two of its core values.  As tile products and installation technologies evolve, it has continued to invest in the resources to deliver high levels of responsiveness along with consistent and reliable performance every day.

In fact, as demand for large format porcelain tile continues to grow, a concerted effort has been made to train Vesta mechanics and employ the most advanced installation techniques in this product category. 

Vesta joined the NTCA in 2019 for two reasons: First, for the appealing resources available to members for education, problem resolution, and standards development. Second, the commitment to collaboration with the entire tile industry – contractors, distributors, and manufacturers – was compelling, as well.

“To date, we have enjoyed the benefits of participating in regional training programs along with the manufacturers’ material support offered for training,” said Louis Cristofoli, President of Vesta Tile & Stone. “In the future, we plan to make better use of the business management, technical advice, and marketing tools offered.”

Vesta Tile & Stone, LLC is one of the most recent contracting firms to gain NTCA Five-Star Contractor status. Cristofoli explained that “after significant research and due diligence, we determined that the NTCA’s Five-Star Contractor Program offered the optimal combination of resources that could best support our efforts to address and resolve the constraints often faced in today’s dynamic construction environment. The specification community has shifted more emphasis to ensuring qualified subcontractors are selected for their projects and the NTCA Five-Star designation is becoming a key selection qualifier. In summary, we believe the broad assortment of benefits offers a unique opportunity to strengthen our foundation and fortify our brand reputation.”

One of the requirements for the NTCA Five-Star Contractor credential is having Certified Tile Installers (CTIs) on staff. Vesta Tile & Stone has two employees who passed the exam, held at Louisville Tile in January 2020. “We intend to continue having additional mechanics take the exam and ultimately hope to have all mechanics achieve the CTI designation,” Cristofoli said. “The preparation for the exam was enlightening and attaining the CTI designation will be a mechanic benchmark for progression within our company.” Vesta Tile & Stone takes a tremendous amount of satisfaction in its work. “We are extremely proud of the impact we have on the projects we complete,” Cristofoli said. “The ability to elevate the experiences of our direct and indirect customers in the spaces they live, work, and play provides tremendous satisfaction to everyone in our organization.”

Historic Lexington Courthouse 

Photo of Lexington courthouse atrium
Lexington courthouse atrium containing 24” x 24” marble floor laid on a 45-degree-angle pattern, with 3 cm marble tread and risers, and 6’3” x 2 cm marble wall panels.

This renovation project in Lexington, Ky., presented a unique combination of installation challenges. The products and applications involved included: 

  • 15,000 sq. ft. of 24” x 24” porcelain floor tile – 14 common areas and two elevators.
  • 2,000 sq. ft. of 12” x 24” porcelain floor tile and 4,900 sq. ft. of 2” x 2” mosaics – eight gang restrooms.
  • 2,200 sq. ft. of 6’3” x 2 cm marble wall panels – atrium.
  • 350 sq. ft. of 3 cm marble tread and risers – atrium.

The first challenge was designing a logistics plan to efficiently accommodate the delivery, receipt, and disbursement of the materials. There was no elevator available in the four-floor building so Vesta orchestrated the material distribution throughout the building with a crane and operator utilizing the windows on each floor for material receiving.

Next, surface preparation had to be completed prior to the installation of the 24” x 24” floor tile with multiple elevation variances up to 3 inches. The elevation challenges were successfully addressed with both traditional mud bed and self-leveling approaches.

A third difficult situation related to the 24” x 24” tile installation included the layout of two special event rooms involving 2,000 sq. ft. in each room laid on a 45-degree angle pattern and flowing into an 8’ octagon shaped floor. An extensive effort was exerted to use plan layout in conjunction with laser technology to meet this challenge. The project was completed fall, 2018. 

Republic Bank Foundation YMCA

Photo of tile on YMCA pool deck
The YMCA pool deck featuring a 2” x 2” unglazed ceramic mosaic tile.

This was a new 77,000-sq.-ft. YMCA facility in Louisville, Ky. Selected as the project of the year by Louisville Business First, the doors were officially opened in December 2019. The tile products included:

  • 6,200 sq. ft. of 39” x 39” porcelain tile panels – three locker rooms
  • 4,500 sq. ft. of 2” x 2” unglazed ceramic mosaic tile – five pool areas including deck and three locker rooms 
  • 700 sq. ft. of 8” x 24” ceramic white body wall tile
  • 300 linear feet of 1/2” x 12” ceramic wall tile liners
  • 2” x 2” glass wall tile

The project entailed multiple installation method challenges involving substrate preparation, wet area waterproofing, and elevation transitions.

All pool area and locker room floors were mud set. With the specifications for mud-set applications declining over the last several years, Vesta relied on its experienced project manager and crews to lead its younger mechanics and finishers to deliver an excellent substrate on time, ready for tile.

The locker room walls were concrete block and presented significant planar challenges for the installation of the 39” x 39” panels. With all mechanics having received prior training on large thin porcelain tile handling and installation, Vesta was prepared with the tools, equipment, and mortar product to meet the stringent substrate flatness required.

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