At Coverings 2022, we honored outstanding Special Recognition projects that demonstrated spectacular craftsmanship and creativity in the use of tile & stone. This week we’re putting the spotlight on a project recognized for their artistic tile installation.
Special Recognition: Artistic Installation
Cox Tile, Inc.
San Antonio, TX
As a contractor you can be considered lucky to be tasked with a truly unique project that touches you personally and challenges you professionally, both technically and creatively. The Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas is a non-profit organization that focuses on changing lives by helping grieving children and families heal after the death of a loved one. In the remodel of their San Antonio location, they reached out to create an inspirational 76 foot long, 54-inch-wide hallway with two 60 square foot rectangular landings at each end for the main entrance of their building and the first thing family members experience as they enter the center. The goal was to depict a beautiful mosaic woodland pathway to create a sense of wonder and beauty and reflect the emotional journey of healing for each family.
The pathway begins with small pieces of broken tiles, symbolizing the fragility of the children entering the program and gradually progresses to larger, stronger pieces as the path continues, symbolizing the healing process. In the entryway, the butterflies were cut from solid glass in muted moody blues and then morph into full color as they enter the path and are joined by various flowers and other creatures offering the distraction of discovery as children enter the hallway. Along the sides of the pathway, glass mosaic murals were created incorporating flora and fauna to tie in with the full wall painted mural to come. Butterflies were heavily requested since that is their program logo.
Working in a tight, heavily trafficked area (the Center was still fully operational and teeming with other contractors entering and exiting while working in other areas) with an undulating substrate proved to be highly difficult, spurring much “thinking outside the box”. The floor could not be mudset for leveling, as it had to tie into wood floors already in place.
For the pathway, each 24′ x 48′ piece of porcelain field tile in four separate colors was cut multiple times with a water saw and then pieced randomly together mixing colors, sizes, and shapes. Using Karl Dahm, Gemini Revolution XT, Lasertech 5000 and 7000 and Diamond Elite water bandsaws resulting in over 1000 pieces of field tile randomly yet meticulously pieced together for the path. High spots in the substrate were ground down with Milwaukee hand grinders, low spots augmented to create a perfectly flat installation. To border the path, we were given a colored map with flowing patterned designs to create using thousands of 1” x 1” and 1” x 2” individual glass mosaic tiles in bags of 14 different colors and finishes.
Turning into a true art project, mosaic patterns had to be custom created by setting the glass mosaic designs individually, offsite, piece by piece, again since the center was still in full operation during the remodel. Designer plans were blown up life-size and the entire floor was double templated to have templates on the job site and templates offsite at our shop, where the panels were then painstakingly created. The 1” x 1” and 1” by 2” glass mosaic tiles were cut with water bandsaws and individually hand placed to assemble the desired flowing multi-directional color patterns. Using Tiletape, the designs were then transferred to a 1/8” Profile cement board set with Custom Building Products Prolite thinset and grouted in small sections. This made the sections stable to transport, trim, and then piece together like a giant floor puzzle. The floor tile was installed using TCNA method F113-21 EJ171 -21 was exercised on all changes of plane and perimeter walls.
Mosaic wildlife was not readily available, so creativity was necessary to create and build the custom butterflies, dragonflies, bumblebees, gecko, turtle, and many different types of local Texas flowers desired for the installation. Most of the 147 creatures and flowers were custom created with a variety of types, thicknesses, and textures of glass, stone, and tile, cut and set piece by piece, using a bandsaw and glass grinder to maintain flatness. Each piece was then carefully mounted on cement board to maintain a flat surface and grouted to assemble the desired wildlife insert. Each of these inserts was then placed and individually scribed into the mosaic panels and field tile of the pathway to preserve the necessary flat plane. Every piece of mosaic glass cut had to have edges ground for safety with the glass grinder and tabletop belt sanders.
All materials were different types and thicknesses so great care was used to ensure a smooth and flat finished floor. The pebbles were also scroll cut into the glass mosaic panels and field tile pathway. Even with the templates, additional onsite scrolling was performed for the mosaic panels to be installed to fit and meet the pathway exactly. Then the custom inserts were added into the precut scrolled areas. Lytokol Styarlike Crystal Evo epoxy grout was used on all the mosaic glass tile and inserts to provide structure and to reflect the various colors of the glass tiles and enhance the installation. Mapei CQ Flexcolor urethane grout was used on the field tile.
Giving children the much-needed distraction of discovering different wildlife along the path was paramount, as they enter the center bewildered and traumatized. Countless hours of tedious and meticulous time-consuming work over a six-week period allows us to proudly present this elaborate puzzle embracing the fragility of life and the path to recovery, completed with love and compassion for every person that enters and exits that building. Supporting their mission was such an honor and gourmet food for the soul.
Do you have a recently completed project that features innovative design and installation of tile & stone? Consider entering it to the 2023 CID Awards – the submission portal will open this fall.