TCAA, NTCA Establish Historic Partnership to Elevate Tile Trade

Joint promotion of association recognition programs offer opportunity to demand installation excellence.

The Tile Contractors’ Association of America (TCAA) and the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) are pleased to announce a major initiative that will take place immediately. In an attempt to raise the level of integrity and professionalism in the tile trade, and to present project owners, builders, architects, and design professionals an opportunity to demand installation excellence, the two associations have agreed to mutually promote and market their company recognition programs. This partnership is unprecedented in the tile trade, and as such, carries with it historical significance.

The TCAA “Trowel of Excellence” and the NTCA “Five-Star Contractor” programs have separately been acknowledged in the tile industry as worthy efforts to recognize companies that demonstrate a proven track record of success and ethical business practices. By promoting the two programs together, the top companies in each association that successfully complete the criteria for acceptance into these exclusive groups will be presented with unique opportunities for marketing and business development.

“The word quality just shouts out!” said John Trendel, president of the TCAA. “The only two nationally-recognized ceramic tile trade organizations joining forces to offer building owners and architects rigorous certification of member companies cannot help but raise the level of quality for their ceramic tile installations,” he said. “Building owners and architects will have an unsurpassed level of comfort that their projects will have the highest levels of quality at the national, regional, and local level.”

“I’m excited and energized by our partnership with NTCA to jointly promote these two outstanding programs,” said TCAA executive director Carole Damon. “By working together to increase the professionalism and expertise of tile-installation companies and giving architects and project owners a road map for selecting the right tile contractors for their projects, we take a giant step toward ensuring quality craftsmanship in every installation and increasing consumer confidence in the durability, beauty and value of tile. It’s a win-win for everyone in the industry and we’re proud to be part of this effort.”

Leaders of both the NTCA and TCAA have been working on this initiative for several months, and have established several goals and objectives they hope to accomplish. To be clear about the strategy, the group has included several representatives from some of the top tile- and installation-material manufacturers in the U.S. industry.

“I am excited about what has been accomplished to date and I’m looking forward to where this leads in both our associations’ efforts to acquire work for our membership,” said NTCA president Nyle Wadford. “The synergy produced from the allegiance of labor and manufacturing for the benefit of both, once again demonstrates the power of unifying for similar goals within the industry.”

Perhaps the most important goal currently set forth to be accomplished is to create an opportunity for those individuals involved in the specification of tile and stone to demand installation excellence. Language is currently being developed for consideration in several important standards that will provide them with this quality option.

“For far too long, we have heard the complaints about the quality of installation on certain projects in our trade,” said NTCA executive director Bart Bettiga. “In our current economical times, we have seen the emergence of unqualified companies being hired and performing work that they were incapable of successfully completing. By presenting this option for excellence to architects, design professionals, and residential and commercial project owners, we are elevating our trade to the level it deserves.”

The associations will continue to grow and develop this initiative. Currently, there are approximately 50 companies in the two programs that have been approved in the recognition process. This number is expected to increase as the awareness of this effort becomes clearer. Additional goals underway include the specification on national accounts, incentive programs from manufacturers who recognize the groups’ efforts, and jointly-promoted educational efforts to the architectural and design community. The leaders of both associations will continue to work closely to further develop these plans in 2012.

For more information on the TCAA Trowel of Excellence Program: http://www.tcaainc.org/trowel-of-excellence.php

For more information on the NTCA Five-Star Contractor Program:
National Tile Contractors Association
Bart Bettiga [email protected]

Tile Contractors’ Association of America
Carole Damon [email protected]

2012 Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Awards

As a next step in honoring outstanding installation and design using tile, natural stone and mosaics/glass, the TileLetter Awards – now in its ninth year – has evolved into the Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Awards for 2012. The competition honors achievement in the outstanding use of materials and the synergy between installation and design, and will be sponsored by its founding publication, TileLetter, and the new NTCA quarterly publication, TADA: Tile for Architects, Designers and Affiliates.

The CID Awards competitions are open to architects, designers, builders, contractors, distributors, retailers, installers and other professionals whose project demonstrate design and installation excellence in residential and commercial projects, giving special recognition to stunning natural stone, ceramic tile and mosaic tile/glass.

To be eligible, projects must have been completed within the past two years (Jan 2009 – Dec 2011) and be located in the U.S. Both the installer and designer of the project will be recognized. Multiple entries are accepted and encouraged; each entry requires a separate set of entry materials. Entries must be received no later than February 1, 2012 by National Trade Productions, the company that manages Coverings. The competition is free to enter.

Projects will be judged on their levels of creativity, craftsmanship, and outstanding use of ceramic tile, natural stone, and/or glass and achievement within residential and commercial project categories. Of particular interest are projects that demonstrate an original or unusual use of materials, incorporate an innovative technology, reflect installation excellence or successfully combine aesthetics with function in a unique and interesting way.

An independent panel of judges for all award categories will evaluate entries using a blind format based on Excellence in Execution + Installation, Inspiring + Original Use and Overall Design + Purpose.

The installer and designer of the Grand-Prize-winning project will receive $1,000 each. Additional cash prizes in residential and commercial categories will be awarded as follows:

Residential Tile, Natural Stone, Mosaic Tile/Glass ($500 each)
Commercial Tile, Natural Stone, Mosaic/Glass ($500 each)

Winners must attend the awards reception during Coverings on Thursday, April 19th, 2012 in Orlando, Fla. If winners are unable to attend, the project will be disqualified and a new winner will be awarded.

For entry information, visit www.covering.com and click on the CID Awards link at the right or visit www.tile-assn.com.

Custom Building Products unveils CUSTOM
 Technical University

Custom Building Products (CBP), a leading manufacturer of tile and stone installation systems in North America, plans to unveil a new facility, CUSTOM Technical University (CTU), in Q1 2012. The 12,000 square-foot-plus facility, based in Santa Fe Springs, California, will offer a wealth of information resources and host a broad range of events, including industry committee meetings, trade association events and trade technical presentations developed specifically for the contractor. CTU will also provide Continuing Education Seminar (CES) programs for accrediting members of the architectural community.

CUSTOM Technical University will be a unique venue for discussions, lectures and training programs. David deBear, manager of Construction Services has been a long time proponent of the field training programs for Custom Building Products and has been a key player within CBP’s training development team to foster proper curriculum structure and information integration for our valued contractors. The experienced team of architectural consultants and Technical Service representatives along with Mike Micalizzi, CBP’s Technical Services director developed customized content that will focus on the latest industry standards, guidelines, installation techniques, new products and best practices for the contractor, distributor, architect, design and engineering communities.

“Custom Building Products’ top executives Tom Peck, president, CEO and Dean Leffler, executive vice president have driven the development of this program and have provided outstanding support throughout the design, development and construction process.” said Will White, Custom’s Technical Services training manager, who will supervise CTU’s programs, activities and curricula. “It reflects our company’s ongoing commitment to providing the industry with outstanding expert technical support, ongoing information and the latest in product innovations.”

Training remains a core objective for Custom Building Products and a substantial part of the company’s support program to its customers. The construction of this new facility will provide the opportunity to generate well-thought-out, properly-designed programs in a comfortable and accessible environment.

The new facility, designed by Ware Malcomb, a renowned architectural firm and winner of two 2011 Society for Marketing Professionals (SMPS) awards, will house state-of-the-art facilities, including a product-applications room where attendees will have the opportunity to use and apply materials and methods discussed in the various programs. Laboratory tours of Custom Building Products’ Research & Development facility will also be available, affording guests the opportunity to ask questions and interact with some of the brightest chemists in the industry.

McCandless Tile, a company that has worked with Custom Building Products for more than 20 years, is doing the tile installation for the new state-of-the-art technical university. “We are installing large format porcelain floor and wall tile in the bathrooms and lobby areas along with glass mosaic tiles as accents,” said Mark McCandless, the company’s vice president and CTU project manager. “We will be using Crack Buster© Pro and RedGard© for waterproofing and crack-isolation, ProLite© and MegaLite© mortar as our setting material, and CEG-Lite™ 100% Solids Epoxy Grout, which we have found to be the best in the market.”

Guests to the CTU facility will be greeted in an open, comfortable reception lobby where they can check in for their scheduled events. A conference room equipped for quick meetings or personal use will be made available to attendees anytime they need access to it. CTU’s guest-relations staff will be on hand to provide any support during the guest’s visit and indoor/outdoor dining facilities will be available on the premise, serving local and unique cuisine.

“CTU will be a networking environment where visitors can share and gain insight, keep track of the latest and greatest technology, standards, techniques and best practices.” said White. “It’s about learning from one’s colleagues. This is an industry that’s constantly changing, and CTU will be a place where you can stay informed and connected.”

Total Solutions Plus Was A Great Success

It began with an optimistic prediction about the future of the tile industry, and it ended with a thought provoking and emotional recount of heroism in the line of duty on Veterans Day. Everything in between was just what the leaders of the tile industry needed as they came together to participate in Total Solutions Plus November 8th-10th in Phoenix, Arizona.

Nationally recognized speaker Dr. Jay Lehr energized the crowd of more than 300 in his opening keynote presentation on the future of the global economy and the role the ceramic tile industry will play in it. Dr. Lehr echoed what many of us in the tile industry have been promoting for some time; the future of tile in the United States is extremely positive. He compared per capita consumption of ceramic tile with other leading countries around the world, and he challenged industry professionals to partner together with one clear and concise message to promote the product over competitive alternatives.

Sponsored by Tile Of Spain, Patti Fasan, considered by many to be the leading passionate voice of professional speakers in the tile industry around the world, followed up Dr. Lehr’s message with strategies that could be implemented to sell the value of tile as a luxury product as a solid investment and design pleasing choice.

Donato Grosser, sponsored by Ceramic Tiles of Italy, shared his channels of distribution and took a glimpse at the U.S. Economy and its roles in the tile industry.

Technical Presentations included several contributions from the NTCA, with Gerald Sloan partnering with NTCA member Greg Andrews on glass tile installations, and with fellow NTCA trainer Michael Whistler on Large Format tile installations. Sloan also worked with representatives from the Materials, Methods and Standards Association (MMSA) on the evolution of grout technology. Live Demonstrations were a highlight of the technical programs.

NTCA member Josh Levinson of Artistic Tile and Recognized Consultant Gregory Mowat delivered an excellent program on stone tile installations.

The conference culminated with a tearful reminiscence of his life in the military and his experience in Afghanistan by former Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell. Luttrell is the author of the book Lone Survivor, and recounts how he survived in the Afghan wilderness for several days and the loss of several of his fellow Seals as they died fighting for our freedom. The book will soon be available in a motion picture and anyone in the room with this patriot while he shared his story will never be the

Over 450 leading tile industry professionals attended the second annual Total Solutions Plus Conference, which took place at the luxurious Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort. Total Solutions Plus is jointly planned and promoted by the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and the Tile Council of North America. (TCNA)

Look for an announcement shortly on the venue and dates for Total Solutions Plus 2012, and mark your calendars now.

NTCA Tile Person of the Year: James Woelfel

Artcraft Granite Marble & Tile Co.’s James Woelfel Named NTCA Tile Person of the Year

James Woelfel, vice president of Artcraft Granite Marble & Tile Co., of Mesa, Ariz., was recently named the National Tile Contractors Association “Tile Person of the Year” for 2011. The award — bestowed annually since 1958 — honors a tile professional who is dedicated to supporting the mission of the NTCA. Woelfel, whose father Butch was the 1993 recipient, becomes the first son of a former Tile Person of the Year winner, to receive this prestigious recognition.

In addition to running the daily operations and estimating at Artcraft, Woelfel is a tireless advocate for strengthening industry standards and methods. He is chairman of the NTCA Technical Committee and serves as 2nd vice president of the association. Until recently, he also served as the chairman of the NTCA Standards and Methods Committee.

Additionally, Woelfel represents the NTCA on the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) Handbook Committee, and serves on the ANSI ASC 108 Committee, making Artcraft Granite Marble & Tile Co., one of two contractors worldwide to sit on all three committees.

Woelfel was recognized for this prestigious honor in front of family, friends and peers at Total Solutions Plus on November 10th, at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort, here. Presenting Woelfel with the honor was his friend and NTCA President, Nyle Wadford of Neuse Tile Service in Youngsville, N.C.

H.B. Fuller Construction Products Hosts Exclusive All-Star Contractor Council

H.B. Fuller Construction Products recently hosted an exclusive All-Star Contractor Council at its company headquarters in Aurora, IL. Top flooring contractors throughout the United States and Canada were selected to attend the three-day event where they exchanged knowledge, shared insights and built relationships with the manufacturer and fellow attendees.

In attendance was NTCA President Nyle Wadord, NTCA First Vice President Dan Welch, and NTCA 2nd Vice President James Woelfel, as well as NTCA Five Star Contractor John Wirtz.

“The All-Star Contractor Council is an action-packed event that allows us to connect with some of our top customers,” stated Rose Mary Clyburn, president of H.B. Fuller Construction Products. “Not only does the event provide these premier contractors with education and information to help advance their businesses, but it also offers us the opportunity to hear their feedback and insights on how we can best meet their needs.”

In addition to the learning opportunities offered throughout the event, the All-Stars also shared best practices, which allowed all attendees to benefit from the collective knowledge and experience of each other, as top-performing professionals. According to attendee Dan Welch of Welch Tile and Marble, “The event was top-notch, and all of us agreed that it was an invaluable experience for both the contractors and the product team alike. From the caliber of the contractors attending to the excellent educational opportunities and the VIP treatment during our stay, the All-Star Contractor Council exceeded our expectations.”

The River of Life and LATICRETE

The River of Life and LATICRETE flow together in an epic mosaic mural commission

In the “River of Life,” London mosaic mural artist Gary Drostle explores the relationship of a Midwestern American town and its people with the river that slices through it. Descending southeast to join the Mississippi on eventual passage to New Orleans, the Iowa River defines both the history and future of Iowa City and those who call it home.

In a brilliant display of color and craft, the University of Iowa mosaic art mural sparkles with life and wisdom from the floor of the main causeway as the signature design element of the new $59 million, 20,000 square-foot wellness center on the flagship UI campus.

In a story told through elegant andamento (the visual movement created by placement of the tesserae in the pattern), this 2011 TileLetter Awards Commercial Mosaic/Glass winner evokes the inherent alliance between nature and man, river and city, in a mosaic art masterpiece installed with premium materials manufactured by LATICRETE.

Drostle’s spectacular, 12´x47´ (3.6mx14.3m) creation is a testament to the enduring beauty of mosaic fine art, enriched by the spirit of LATICRETE people and the performance of LATICRETE® products. The project, from concept to grouting, touches on the evolution of the centuries-old craft and shines a light on how LATICRETE materials and methods have earned a loyal following among the world’s most-skilled mosaic artisans.


For over half a century, LATICRETE has exclusively focused on driving demand for tile and stone with innovative product design and systems developed for efficient, permanent installations. LATICRETE has also supported the industry with product donations and a host of other free tools and services online, adopting a company-wide approach to the cause.

For the River of Life, LATICRETE co-owner Henry Rothberg arranged to donate the specified products for the mural installation, and then became one of the biggest supporters of the project online and in blogs.

With premium, polymer-fortified thin-set mortar and the latest breakthrough in cement-based grout from LATICRETE, a special team of highly-skilled mosaic artisans completed the elaborate installation using the traditional two-step method direct over masonry. Sent from London packaged in 16 boxes and paper-face mounted on 200 sheets, the River of Life now rests in a cropped field of terrazzo as the centerpiece of the three-level wellness and fitness facility.

The balance of life

In spectacular tesserae, Drostle examines his vision of wellness as a wayfaring voyage through time that parallels the twisting, turning Iowa River. The field of river-blue, hand-cut porcelain mosaics interspersed with Bisazza glass highlights, allows Drostle to weave the River of Life in and out of lighter and darker textile-patterned sections in search of a life in balance. The 3/4” mosaics were hand-cut to a “3/4”x3/8” basic building block,” said Drostle; some were additionally trimmed to fit various joints and the perimeter tiles were left as 3/4” square tiles.

The river encounters well-being when it drifts into an earthen-yellow background of French Winckelman unglazed porcelain mosaics. The earthen background derives its patterns from Native American and Amish quilts, symbolizing the rolling plains of the heartland. In the outer-lying edges beyond well-being, the river flows into deep-gray despair, just as life out of balance will. Each line of tile depicts a single life; some end prematurely or drift away as in real life.
“The river symbolizing life is an ancient image connecting our most ancient cultures: the river as the bringer of life and purification,” said Drostle. “I imagined the ground the Iowa River flows over as the rich pattern of human existence, culture and knowledge. The river travels through light and dark patterned sections of well-being and in some parts, the blue lines break out completely, portraying the extremes of a life not in balance.”

The mosaic team

Given the size and incredible amount of detail involved, the River of Life mosaic mural was a project in every sense of the word. The stunning final creation was the direct result of hundreds of days and countless hours of planning, measuring and adjusting by highly-skilled professionals Drostle hired for the architecture commission. In fact, the River of Life gathered some of the world’s best-known mosaic artists to Drostle’s studio by the Thames. The sum total of their expertise and years of training can be found in the greatness of this true work of art.

The experience for mosaic artist and Texas native Julie Richey began with a two-week trip to London in April 2010, well-documented in her insightful and colorful blog at http://web.mac.com/julierichey/www.juliericheymosaics.com/Blog/Entries/2010/4/10_London_Calling.html. Richey had already been enlisted by Drostle for the final application with LATICRETE® products in Iowa, so this visit was important to get more familiar with the materials and finished design.

Richey worked closely on the mural with Guilia Vogrig, a graduate of the prestigious Spilimbergo Mosaic School in Italy. Vogrig, along with Notre Dame PhD candidate Levente Borvak, Richey and Drostle, arrived on the University of Iowa campus nearly six weeks later as the official mural installers after each sheet of mosaics was carefully labeled and packaged for shipment to the U.S.

The LATICRETE advantage

Before coming stateside, LATICRETE technical service experts worked with Drostle and his team in London to create the right materials spec inclusive of the LATICRETE warranty program. LATICRETE® 254 Platinum thin-set was chosen to adhere “Necco Wafer”– thin porcelain (according to Richey) and 1/8”-thick glass mosaics. The versatile, multipurpose thin-set mortar impressed the team even with the delicate task of fixing nearly three-hundred thousand mosaic tiles.

“We went through six, 50-pound bags of LATICRETE® 254 Platinum,” says Richey. “We loved the stuff. It was sticky, pliable and odorless. We set the mural in an assembly-line process, each with a specific job. Moving in rows, left to right in order to work off the fresh LATICRETE mortar, Levente would hand me a section of the mural and I would place it. Gary would follow, tamp and flatten the mosaics, and Guilia would begin to sponge the brown paper with water to relax the pasta amido flour paste from the surface.”

Since the River of Life was meant to spend forever as a conversation-starter on campus, during the final two days the team grouted the mosaics with LATICRETE® PermaColor™ Grout to protect the long-lasting beauty of the exquisite tesserae. Through cement-based technology, LATICRETE developed the revolutionary grout for both walls and floors, inside or out, offering the unmatched ability to lock in consistent color with Kevlar® reinforcement for added strength and Microban® technology for improved stain-resistance. The color Raven was chosen to help carry the mural’s sophisticated andamento.

“I was particularly impressed with LATICRETE PermaColor Grout,” said Drostle. “It has the strength of sanded grout and the finesse of unsanded grout. I was happy to be using products with the latest polymer-cement technology, and noticed the adhesive had excellent strength for the difficult to bond, high-fired and smooth porcelain tiles.”

More than just the skill of Drostle and his team, the elaborate mural takes a close look at the state of mosaic fine art and its place in modern building. The very real contribution of LATICRETE technology ensured the almost-unlimited range of application and mosaic design endures for the time-honored medium, particularly in the context of sustainable today.

The River of Life is a snapshot Gary Drostle took of a singular moment in time about the endless journey of humanity. It’s a graceful, artistic reflection on life in Iowa City, Iowa, and the ties that bind a river to its people. The struggle for inner peace and balance in life told in a mosaic mural story for the ages. Salvation found only through the journey of the river to the sea.

The Female Factor: Tile Industry Women in the Spotlight

According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010 saw 807,853 women employed in the construction trades – 8.9% of 9,077,000 total employees. Reflecting the trend in construction jobs overall, that’s down from 2009 figures, which showed 921,690 women in construction, about 9.5% of the total. In the last five years, the percentage of women in construction peaked in 2008 at 9.7% (1,064,447 actual female workers); but the highest number of women employed in construction was in 2006, at 1,127,904, when women made up 9.6% of the 11,749,000 U.S. construction and extraction workers.

Statistics show that the percentage of female carpet, floor and tile installers and finishers hover at about 2.3% of total construction workers, with a high of 2.4% in 2006. Women are most strongly represented as first-line supervisors/managers of construction trades and extraction workers, making up between 2.6% in 2006 and 3.7% in 2010 of total employees.

Most of women in the tile industry profiled in this story hail from marketing and communications, publishing, public relations, media or sales backgrounds and have parlayed their expertise into the tile industry in differing capacities.

Making inroads

Some women have come from a business background, such as Dal-Tile’s senior marketing manager Lori Kirk-Rolley. With a degree in business and an MBA she was attracted by the history of tile plus its fashion connection, the diversity of marketing to architects, designers, builders, and homeowners – and the pedigree of Dal-Tile itself. “Dal-Tile is seen as a design, innovation and sales leader in the tile category, and that made the opportunity even more exciting,” she said.

In college, Crossville’s marketing director Laurie Lyza worked for a family-owned paint and floor covering company as she studied journalism and public relations, with an emphasis on communications and public speaking. She grew up near Crossville and jumped at the chance to work in marketing for this ground-breaking company. Crossville – which has a long history of women in key positions including Mary Yocum and Linda Hennelly – supported Lyza in completing her MBA in marketing, helping to empower her to work with budgets and balance sheets and help Crossville evaluate how initiatives and launches impact the bottom line.

In 1999, Stephanie Samulski, project manager for Tile Council of North America (TCNA), traded in her publishing job for a BAC apprenticeship in Detroit. The training still informs her work today. For eight years she worked on commercial jobs, learning about installation products and systems. This experience helps her field TCNA technical calls and work with labor. Besides her work on installation-based standards and issues, she’s written the manual for the CTEF installer certification program and helped to develop the hands-on test and the overall program, as well as help it grow. She also invested her skills and time into revamping the 2011 TCNA Handbook. “My publishing experience and tile experience combined makes all these kinds of projects the ideal way for me to stay in tile as a career,” she said.

Paige Wadford Smith’s family has been in tile contracting since 1964, where she worked over summers. Her professional background is public relations and marketing, and she brought those skills to Neuse Tile Service in 1995 as initial short-term office help for brother Nyle Wadford: now she’s Neuse’s vice president. “With the current economic downturn, I’ve been able to use my background in marketing and communications to build on our well-established reputation and ramp up our promotional activities fairly quickly and without a great deal of additional cost.”

Likewise, Chris Woefel signed on recently with the third-generation familyowned tile contracting company where hubby James is a principal. She brings her experience as television news anchor, radio reporter, video producer, public information officer, editor, flight attendant, project manager, marketing director and communication strategist to play for Artcraft Granite, Marble & Tile Co., where she serves as marketing director.

As excellent as the NTCA Five-Star Contractor is at tile and stone installation, James realized “our forte is not figuring out what we need to do to communicate with our customers.” Watching Chris’ success with promoting and supporting other businesses inspired him to bring her onboard.

Chris Woelfel added, “Sure there are people who assume I’m here just because I’m married to the vice president, but I laugh and tell them that he (James) is the one who knows he got a bargain. There are plenty of challenges unique to women in business – no matter what the industry – but I have found that navigating through them and coming out in one piece is possible when you have trusted advisors. For me that’s meant some peers – both women and men – and quite a few good books.”

Chris’ camerawoman skills have also benefited NTCA, since she shot video of the Installation Design Showcase while at Coverings 2011 in Las Vegas earlier this year.
Patti Fasan was the first female recipient of the Joe A. Tarver Cornerstone Award from NTCA earlier this year (see TileLetter Coverings 2011 issue, page 74 for background). She’s a passionate spokesperson and educator about tile today through her business Professional Attention to Tile Installation (www.patti-tile.com) and the work she’s done as a consultant for Tile of Spain. She started out 28 years ago in the industry with a distributorship as an architectural rep and became captivated when tasked with replicating a marble zodiac floor. She was empowered by the year-long Ceramic Tile Institute of America course, funded by a Canadian government grant for non-traditional industries for women. “You can’t sell and design with [tile] unless you have installed it… you have a lot more credibility once you know what the installer has to go through to make the design work,” she said. “The installer is the tailor of the industry: I can make the pattern and pick out the ‘fabric’ but unless it can be installed, it won’t work.” What she learned, and her practical, hands-on experience is the basis of what she does today.

The female factor

Many of our featured females point to the innate communication skills of women and the way they can resonate with the female homeowner or decision maker, who drives the majority of tile selection. This comes into play in designing displays, or presenting information without overwhelming.

“In a sense, I represent our primary target audience, and that gives me an advantage in ensuring that our marketing messaging is crafted just the right way,” Kirk-Rolley said.

Smith recognizes the benefits that diversity brings to a company. “Having both men and women involved in any company makes for better decision making and understanding,” she said.

Heavy lifting

Some women struggle with weighty challenges entering the tile industry – literally. “Well, tile is heavy, for one thing!” Lyza said. “There have been times when we’ve been setting up for events and putting displays in place when I’ve joked that my next job will be at a pillow company. Seriously, though, I’ve never felt I couldn’t accomplish anything the men in the industry could, just because I happen to be a woman.” That acceptance is a prevailing sentiment, though Fasan noted that when dealing with European industries, it’s more unique for women to be in the field. Otherwise, a woman’s competence at “heavy lifting” in the range of tile industry roles speaks for itself.

“People figure out pretty quickly if you know your stuff or not, whether you’re male or female,” Samulski said. “I just do my job and eventually they figure it out.” It’s rare that she encounters “people who still feel the tile industry belongs to men and don’t want women involved regardless of their credibility,” and is grateful for the all the women who have made inroads in the industry in the last 10-20 years (she references the book We’ll Call You if We Need You that documents women breaking into the construction trades).

A system or network of support serves women in the industry as well as it serves men. “Ours is a challenging industry in many ways, and you’ll need to surround yourself with a supportive network of friends and industry peers who will share your passion and longterm goals,” Smith said.

Lyza concluded, “The industry organizations do a great job of reaching out to women and giving them a place at the table. I serve on several industry committees and when I look around the room during meetings, women are certainly well represented. Even more importantly, we are listened to when we speak and our opinions are valued.”

Accent, Decorative and Handmade Tile

For millennia, cultures have been fir- ing clay at high temperatures and using glazes to create smooth, colorful sur- faces. In the most notable examples of early ceramic tile use that are still visible today – monumental sites such as the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain; the towers of the mountain village of Teruel (at left); and religious sites that span the globe – ceramics are not only used as a surface material but blanket entire walls. These large-scale installations appear in stunning displays of geometric shapes and tessellating pattern: long-standing testaments to the intricate craftsmanship and elaborate detail of these bygone eras. The use of ceramic tile as an accent or decorative piece remains today, adopting modern-day technology, practices and trends to be as stunning as ever.

Hand vs. machine

While much of the handmade tile craft has been replaced by modern assembly line production, there is still a need for the look of handmade tile. Many companies maintain handmade or close-to-handmade operations to fulfill this need.

Tile of Spain-branded manufacturer Ceramica Elias, founded in 1837, offers handmade terra cotta for an extremely rustic look as well as more modern extruded tile, with clean, straight lines. For those who need a handmade look but have limited time, resources or need large quantities, Elias offers their “aged” series of extruded tile that is tumbled to give it worn, textured surface and edges.

As environmental responsibility has increased the popularity of adaptive reuse, some companies are finding a revenue stream in producing ceramic tile that will seamlessly fit within the historic context of the building. For example, when restoration was needed for the Alhambra Palace, a World Heritage Site, companies like Elias and Ceramica Decorativa created tile that flawlessly imitated 500-700 year old tile by using the same manufacturing processes and the same raw material.

Accenting the space

Following modern day trends and applications, ceramic tiles continue to be powerful tools at the service of creativity and design. Aside from technical benefits such as easy maintenance, hygiene and durability, technological advancements in glazing and digital printing allow a multiplicity of shape, color, texture and finish providing unlimited design possibilities.

The old-fashioned view of ceramic as a simple, eminently functional product to be used only in very specific rooms such as kitchens and baths has lost ground as the material has become rich in resources encouraging creativity and exploration on the aesthetic front. With this changing school of thought and the technological capabilities to turn inspiration to reality, designers can work with ceramic under the guise of leather, metallic, wood and textiles.

With this range of possibilities available, designers can create dramatic spaces in all rooms of the home or striking, memorable hotel, museum and office spaces.

Graphic material

Decorative tile does not need to rely solely on abstract pattern. Digital printing technology melds photo- graphic arts and realistic images with the medium of ceramic. Designers can create large or small-scale accent pieces as they would with large wall murals. Now high traffic areas like floors or restaurant walls gain the durability and easy maintenance of tile.

Tile of Spain-branded manufacturer Peronda has reached new heights in whimsy when it comes to its latest offerings. With clouds on the floor and Hollywood glamour gracing the wall, these digital images bring real life elements to a space in unexpected ways.

Designer Andie Day saw just this possibility when she visited the booths of companies like Peronda and Ceracasa at Cevisama, Spain’s international ceramic trade fair held annually in Valencia, Spain. Upon her return to her prominent Boston interior design firm, Andie Day, LLC, she realized her office kitchen backsplash was screaming for a digital print. She worked closely with Tile of Spain and Ceracasa to transform a vintage magazine image into a high resolution digital image which Ceracasa then transferred to the surface of a porcelain tile. The result is an eye-catching focal point that projects Day’s personality, her company logo and her flair for color and boldness.

More mosaic

Early decorative tile was naturally in the form of mosaic – small pieces fitting together to form a pattern or image. Mosaic continues to be a popular and dramatic format used to stand out from or accent a field tile. Modern mosaics go beyond standard 1”x1” square blue and white tiles that you might see in a pool surround. Today’s mosaics are available in rectilinear shapes or in penny rounds and in materials like stone, glass, metal, porcelain or various combinations creating even greater visual diversity. Companies like Tile of Spain-branded manufacturer Onix broke with tradition by introducing new tile sizes such as 1,2×1,2 cm, 2,5×5, 5×5 cm and 2,3×2,3 cm and 2×2 cm considerably increasing the choice of creative solutions for the design of unique atmospheres.

While mosaic tile continues to grow in popularity for its shimmering, jewel- like appearance, it can create additional cost in terms of labor. Smaller pieces mean more lines to grout and therefore more time. Some companies are creating time and cost-effective solutions while still achieving the look of mosaic. Tile of Spain-branded manufacturer Saloni’s Crom Series offers a 7.9”x15.7” accent tile which uses digital printing capabilities to accomplish the look of glass mosaic but is actually a large format white body tile.

The Spanish CeramicTile Manufacturer’s Association (ASCER) is the private organization whose primary objective is to support Spain’s ceramic tile manufacturers and the industry as a whole by stewarding and promoting the Tile of Spain brand worldwide. A strong global leader, the ceramic tile industry of Spain comprises 220 manufacturers concentrated primarily in the province of Castellón. For more about tile produced in Spain, contact Tile of Spain Center at the Trade Commission of Spain, 2655 Le Jeune Road, Suite 1114, Coral Gables, FL 33134. Call 305-446-4387 or visit www.tileofspainusa.com

The Great Recession Not Slowing The NTCA Train

“What this power is I cannot say; all I know is that it exists and it becomes available only when a man is in that state of mind in which he knows exactly what he wants and is fully determined not to quit until he finds it.” – Alexander Graham Bell

At Total Solutions Plus last month, Nyle Wadford (right) takes on the mantle of the NTCA presidency from outgoing president John Cox.

As executive director of the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), I am proud to say to all of our readers that I believe the organization is on the brink of major growth and influence. I do not say this lightly; the road has not been an easy one. Like many of you, the past three years have challenged our staff and Board of Directors like no other time. In fact, in the past two years our association suffered significant financial losses that had us concerned about the future.

Thanks to a hardworking staff — and more importantly, a group of dedicated members of our Board of Directors and standing committees — a clear direction for the association has been selected and a plan of action is already experiencing positive results.

On November 2nd, our Board of Directors met at Total Solutions Plus and formally approved our 2011 budget. In addition, the Finance Committee was pleased to report that a profit in 2010 was anticipated, creating a remarkable turn of events in these challenging times. It appears as if the financial health of our association continues to be sound. We will continue to utilize our assets to promote the proper installation of ceramic tile and natural stone. Following is a list of 2010 highlights of what the NTCA has done and will continue to do for our members and the industry:

  • Stone Supplement to the 2011 TCA Handbook
    The NTCA Standards and Methods Committee, chaired by NTCA 2nd vice president James Woelfel of Artcraft Granite Marble & Tile Co., in Mesa, Ariz., worked closely with leaders from Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and the Marble Institute of America to develop approved methods for natural stone tile installation. This new section will be a part of the 2011 version of the TCA Handbook, which the NTCA will make available to its members.
  • Certified Tile Installer Program
    The NTCA continues to support the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation in developing and promoting installation certification. Through 2010, the CTEF reports that 500 installers will have successfully passed the criteria to be a certified tile installer. With strong support by the TCNA, Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), Ceramic Tiles of Italy, Tile of Spain, and Coverings Show Management, plans for 2011 include even stronger marketing and management support of the Foundation, to expand the program in size, scope and effectiveness.
  • Installation Design Showcase at Coverings
    The NTCA continues to spend considerable time and energy developing and promoting programs and seminars at Coverings to bring value to the show. The result in 2010 was an initiative proposed by the NTCA called the Installation Design Showcase. Five leading South Florida designers were paired with NTCA Five Star Contractors to show the importance of both design and installation in our trade. All Five Star contractors used certified tile installers on the job. Attendees at the show indicated in post-survey results that the Installation Design Showcase was one of the main attractions at Coverings 2010. The program will continue in 2011 in a brand new Las Vegas venue.
  • Total Solutions Plus
    In partnership with the CTDA and the TCNA, Total Solutions Plus proved to all attendees that we are united as an industry. It was so powerful to see contractors, distributors and manufacturers interacting with each other during this groundbreaking week in South Florida. With over 450 people in attendance, the future looks bright for this leadership conference.
  • Active Membership
    The association is clearly headed to 1,000 members and beyond. Innovative programs like Partnering for Success will help NTCA members offset any investment they have in being part of our growing association. But the driving indicator to our staff that has us feeling so optimistic is the active involvement of our members. It was never more evident than at Total Solutions Plus. The contractors involved in the NTCA at the Executive, Board and Committee levels are engaged, passionate and united in their support of our mission and goals. The energy of the volunteer officers of the NTCA has motivated the entire staff to match their enthusiasm.
  • Training and Education
    Thanks to a strong partnership with Dal-Tile Corporation, the NTCA Workshop Program reached thousands of installers with important information in 2010. In 2011, we will continue our association with Dal-Tile, as well as other leading distributors of ceramic tile and natural stone. In addition, customized training programs that go into more depth than a traditional evening Workshop will be expanded. The development of installation videos and a renewed focus on training through manuals, videos and webinars will be a part of our 2011 emphasis.
  • TileLetter and TileLetter Canada
    Tile professionals continue to list TileLetter as a leading publication in our industry. We have expanded our digital coverage, reaching over 7,000 email subscribers monthly with our magazine; in addition to our mailing subscription list. We annually publish 13 issues in the United States and three issues of TileLetter Canada, and we are committed to expanding our reach in 2011 to include more professionals involved in design and specification of our products.
  • Final Thoughts
    As executive director of the NTCA and publisher of TileLetter and TileLetter Canada, I am so excited about the future of the association. Our newly elected president is Nyle Wadford of Neuse Tile Service, Inc., in Youngsville, N.C. This excerpt from his highly-effective presentation upon his election sums up my feelings about the NTCA best:

    “As I have continued to watch our industry grow and change, I am constantly reminded that it is people who make this change happen –PASSIONATE PEOPLE. Passion for the tile industry is the common thread that you will find running through this business and your association. It is this passion and love that drives us to better this industry on a daily basis.”

Our staff is proud to be working closely with these great tile contractors who are driving the association. I urge you to join us in 2011.

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