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Tile Association Awards Recognise The Industry’s Top Achievers

This year the big prestigious annual event for the UK tiling industry returned to the Midlands. So it was the city of Solihull which hosted the Crystal 15th anniversary celebration of The Tile Awards. These are The Tile Association’s big night of the year, aiming to celebrate all that is best in tiling – people, products and projects.

The day was once again hosted by TV celebrity Emma Jesson and was a sell-out, attended by most of the leading companies in the industry — manufacturers, contractors, distributors. Last year in London the Awards moved up a gear, and many of the innovations from last year have been retained, in order to ensure the event is as enjoyable and successful as possible for all those who attend.

One tradition which has continued is the raising of funds for the Association’s nominated charity — The Children Today Charitable Trust. This year kind-hearted guests donated £1,600 to this worthwhile cause.

Speaking about the event, TTA Chairman Ian Kershaw says: “I’m delighted that once again the annual TTA Awards have been a great success, and I’d like to congratulate all those who were finalists this year. You are all winners and your achievement makes our industry proud. In particular, of course, very well done to those individuals and those companies who came away with the Gold rosettes in the various categories. I must also extend a big vote of thanks to all our sponsors, without whom these Awards would not be possible.”

This years’ gold Sponsors were: Bellota, Fila, Lithofin, Mapei, Norcros Adhesives, Schluter Systems, Shackerley Holdings Group and Tilemaster Adhesives.

This year in a further modernization three categories of awards benefited from a widening of the voting — the Tile Fixer of the Year category was open to votes from both the public and TTA members, while Wall Tile of the Year and Floor Tile of the Year were opened up to TTA members. These innovations have secured a great response from the industry, with over 400 online votes received and a 48 per cent increase in Award nominations, compared to last year!

In all, there were 74 finalists in 18 categories.

The first two categories were the special awards. Outstanding Contribution to Industry was awarded to Dave Rowley of Building Adhesives Ltd. He has played a huge part in making sure the next generation of tilers have the skills and knowledge to maintain the industry’s high professional standards. After training himself at Salford College whilst at Hamil Tiles, Dave Rowley joined BAL in 1992 as a training assistant. In 2005, after a number of promotions, Dave became BAL’s training manager.

He has developed and delivered modular introductory courses for new people looking for a career in tiling, as well as structured bespoke training courses for the BAL and Dunlop brands to help educate the tile industry. Dave has developed and updated NVQs/SVQs and EWPAR qualifications, and is a qualified assessor and internal verifier in wall and floor tiling. He also works with colleges and independent training providers to oversee product training in line with qualification structures.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Paddy Plunkett of P Plunkett Tiling Contractors. Paddy’s career in the tiling industry began when he was 15 years old, with an apprenticeship at Commercial Marble and Tile. He quickly showed his potential and was nominated to represent the North of England in the SkillBuild finals at Olympia in London when he was 19.

In 1975, Paddy returned to the tiling industry after a number of years running a shopfitting business, and he set up P Plunkett Tiling Contractors, the company to which he has devoted the last 40 years of his life. It started with jobs being run from his garage, with a spare bedroom used as an office. Today, the company — with Paddy as chairman — employs over 70 people and is one of the leading tiling contractors in the UK.

Employee of the Year was awarded to Harry Foster of Johnson Tiles, head of specialist products at Johnson Tiles. He has led some incredible projects during his career, encompassing more than 30 years in the ceramics trade. But as professional accomplishments go, 2014 was his pinnacle year. He played a key role in delivering a ceramics installation that captured the imagination of the nation and the attention of the world.

Artist Paul Cummins was commissioned to create a piece for the Tower of London to commemorate the centenary. He envisaged a moat filled with poppies, each one representing a soldier that died during the conflict. But with a staggering 888,246 ceramic poppies needed and time running out to finish them by Armistice Day, Cummins turned to Johnson Tiles and Harry Foster to help ensure the artwork, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, could be completed.

Excellence in Manufacturing was awarded to ARDEX UK Limited. ARDEX is a leading UK manufacturer of high performance, technically-based construction products for the specification market with a sales turnover approaching £25m per annum. For over 50 years ARDEX has been synonymous with the development, manufacture and marketing of premium quality specialist tiling products, flooring products and construction materials for the flooring, tiling and rendering industries.

With a brand that is highly regarded, the company has built an impressive reputation for innovation, product development and service, together with a range portfolio that is unrivalled in its industry. The company competes in a very price-sensitive market where the pursuit of profitable revenue generation and share growth is highly demanding in terms of product quality and lowest cost production. The routes to market include delivering both via distributors and direct to contractors.

Trainee of the Year was awarded to Jess Smith of Smart Marketing Works. Jess started her apprenticeship with Smart Marketing Works in July 2014 and, as well as working towards her Level 3 NVQ in marketing, she has really delivered the goods on some important projects in that time — and she’ll soon be moving on to her CIM professional certificate in marketing too.

Jess is a natural communicator and marketer, with a passion for digital communications that has helped to drive Smart Marketing Works’ expertise in this area. Jess has helped to deliver a social strategy for The Tile Association, as well as driving forward the growth of the Tilezine e-newsletter. Her contribution to the 2015 TTA Awards has also been considerable, with Jess playing a huge part in the first awards microsite, new online nominations and voting.

The first of the retail and distributor categories was Excellence in Independent Retailing, which was won by TileStyle of Dublin. TileStyle is a family-run business, constantly striving to create a unique retail experience for its customers. At 52,000sq ft, the showroom is expansive. However, its design and layout, which consist of several boutique style galleries, create a sense of intimacy on a grand scale, ensuring customers don’t feel overwhelmed by the space or the product range.

Each boutique houses different product groups, including kitchen tiles, bathroom tiles, outdoor tiles, mosaics, floor tiles, wall tiles, architectural tiles, Victorian style tiles, wood-effect tiles and natural stone tiles. With such a vast product range, grouping products within boutiques has proven to be very beneficial to customers. Within these boutiques, strong emphasis is placed on displaying the products in large, brightly-lit spaces and in many cases, in room settings.

Excellence in Multiple Retailing was awarded to Tile Choice Limited. Established in 1991 and now boasting 16 individually designed stores throughout the Midlands, the company has a hard-earned and enviable reputation for quality and diversity in its product range along with the highest levels of customer service. A 30,000sq ft centralised warehouse has a stockholding of £1.5 million, with 95% of stock being imported directly from manufacturers worldwide. The warehouse is open 7 days a week, at the same opening times as our stores, enabling full support to the stores and customers, allowing customer orders to be picked and dispatched quickly, direct to their door nationwide. Product knowledge is key to customer service, Tile Choice staff are fully trained in all aspects of the tile industry, and are happy to offer sound and practical advice.

Excellence in Distribution was awarded to Minoli, one of the few, original distributors in the UK tile marketplace. While recent years have seen independent distributors of similar history become engulfed into multinational organisations or fail in the economic storm, Minoli has throughout this time and especially in the last twelve months, invested and expanded with additions to its fleet, growth in wholesale, more employees and the continued development of a new satellite distribution centre in central London.

Minoli specialises in supplying the independent retail sector with the products and marketing materials they need to meet local market demand. In short, the company aims to learn what works best for each of its resellers and then work in partnership to build up the business for mutual benefit. Continuing to support independent resellers and avoiding direct retail, this remains Minoli’s channel of choice.

Mapei took the award for Best Environmental Initiative — as a chemical products manufacturer, Mapei have taken their environmental responsibility very seriously for more than 30 years. Extensive investment (5% of group turnover per annum) in R&D to introduce solvent-free products with low VOC emissions and many other sustainable technologies to safeguard the installer and end-user; 63 manufacturing plants worldwide to minimise long distance transportation and many of these plants working to ISO 14001 standards are just a few ways Mapei strive to reduce their carbon footprint to work towards a greener future, not only for their own contribution but also in-line with government policies.

The Excellence in Marketing Award went to Norcros Adhesives for the launch of its Ultim8 and Ultim8+ products in 2014. Marketing and communications activity positioned the new adhesives as must-have products for tiling in bathrooms, kitchens, showers and wet rooms, as well as spearheading a refreshed corporate identity for the company. The launch of the products — and associated roll-out of the new corporate identity — saw a 31% increase in the sales of ready-mixed adhesive.

The new products were part of a major revamp of the company’s ready-mixed range. The products were also the first to be launched using a refreshed and revitalised corporate identity. The target audience for Ultim8 and Ultim8+ was professional tillers. The main strapline for the launch was ‘Ultim8 performance’.

Kemtile took the Excellence in Tile Contracting Award. Warrington-based Kemtile enjoys a successful and long-standing relationship with Wrights Foods in Crewe. Having carried out a number of projects at their customer’s site over the course of a decade, Kemtile returned in 2014 and was tasked with putting in a new floor that involved the installation of Kemtile’s unique Kagetec Ceramic Floor Tiling System.

Wrights Foods, a family business established 89 years ago, tells customers that its name stands for “value for money, quality and innovation”, and managing director Peter Wright recognises that Kemtile shares this philosophy, which is one of the reasons he chose the Kemtile team for this new, state-of-the-art project.

The Award for Best Innovation went to BAL for its new BAL Rapid-Mat, with which it is setting out to transform the uncoupling mat market. BAL Rapid-Mat delivers a unique solution for tiling on substrates that may be subject to lateral movement.

Working in conjunction with fixers, contractors and specifiers, BAL has drawn on its technical expertise to deliver a highly engineered product to meet the needs of the current market. Compared to traditional cavity mat systems, BAL Rapid-Mat offers a number of unique benefits. It reduces overall project costs and offers quicker installation without losing loading capacity, giving tilers and contractors piece of mind that their project will stand the test of time.

BAL Rapid-Mat can be used for the installation of any tile — including mosaics which traditional cavity mats cannot accommodate. Its unique properties mean it minimises tension stresses between the substrate and the floor to be installed, while it prevents cracking caused by shrinkage cracks, board joints and lateral movement.

Tile Fixer of the Year, the category which was open to public vote, was taken by Andrew Oates. Andy has worked as a tiler from an early age. He completed his CITB Level 2 at college, progressing into an apprenticeship to gain experience. He’s been in the trade for over 21 years, the last three with Stortford Tiling and Marble.

He has worked on prestigious contracts over the years such as Harrods Village and The Renaissance Hotel, Kings Cross. His employer regularly receives amazing feedback from clients praising Andy’s workmanship and professional attitude. Andy has shown great loyalty and worked hard over the past year. He has an amazing eye for detail and completes every tiling job to perfection. From the standard ceramics to the more specialist marble, his talents are limitless, and there is not a tiling project out there that would faze him.

Floor Tile of the Year, open to votes by TTA members, was won by Craven Dunnill’s Fusion Porcelain Tile Collection. This new collection straddles the trend for stripped-back, urban living with the practical desire for timeless style. The range takes inspiration from a North American natural stone. It incorporates elements of petrified wood and natural metamorphosed sandstones, all reproduced on a digitally printed glazed porcelain tile in a variety of formats.
The Fusion series is available in three natural colourways — Silver with warm grey beige tones, Ivory with muted pale cream with highlights of beige and Amber with golden tones intermingled with stronger beige and grey highlights. All three colours lend themselves to contemporary modern interior styling.

Johnson Tiles took Wall Tile of the Year, another one open to voting by TTA members, with their Prismatics range. Prismatics is one of the biggest ranges of plain colour ceramic wall tiles available in the UK today, a collection that has grown to become a core favourite for specifiers and consumers alike since it was first launched more than three decades ago.

In updating the offering, Johnson Tiles faced a challenge — how to ensure that the quality, versatility and performance of Prismatics remained as consistent as ever, whilst injecting trend-leading new products into the range. Brand new tones and shades were added to the already-impressive palette, while never-before-seen hexagons were also launched as part of the collection, offering even greater creative flexibility.

The final group of awards are for the different project categories, the first of which being Best Use of Tile in a Domestic Environment, which was won by Craven Dunnill & Co Ltd for The Old Vicarage. The client had commissioned a mural from images taken on his wedding day. A 1650mm x 900mm mural panel was produced using a digital transfer process on to 150 x 150mm white glazed wall tiles. The ceramic glazed panel is fired to over 800 degrees Celsius to fuse the design into the glaze, with the finished product being fully fade/UV and scratch resistant.

The mural illustrates a horse and carriage taking Mr & Mrs Fenwick-Wilson to their wedding reception through a rural scene near Claverley. The wedding guests all wore period costume which is further enhanced by the sepia treatment of the image. The mural artwork was processed by Craven Dunnill before being signed off by the client.

Best Use of Tile in a Commercial Contract was won by Trainor Contracts for their Shoe Heaven project. This installation, within Harrods, is one of the most luxurious ever undertaken in the UK. The installation took nearly 4,000 man hours with 31 highly skilled tillers, delivering a quality of workmanship that will leave observers speechless.

150 travertine columns with crown headers greet the visitor as they enter the department, with each column requiring 40 separate mitres, all cut with precision on site. The crown headers are lifted into place and mechanically fixed to produce a visual that would easily compare with the finest Roman or Greek palace.

Finally Best Use of Tile in the Leisure/Hospitality Industry was won by ARDEX UK Ltd for their work at the Commonwealth Games Swimming Pool. Tollcross International Swimming Centre’s existing facilities underwent a complete refurbishment and upgrade for the Games. During works to strengthen the ceiling, contractors noticed that some of the screed below the tiles on the main competition pool floor had separated from the concrete pool tank. The entire floor of the pool needed to be removed, and re-laid.

Tilecraft, a specialist tiling works company that delivers high quality tiles across the whole of the UK, had the contract to lay the tiles and they specified products from ARDEX UK, and the work was carried out in just eight weeks.

The winners of the Gold Awards were delighted with their achievements. Dave Rowley, for instance, who won the Outstanding Contribution to Industry Award says: “I been involved with The Tile Association as a member of various committees since its formation, so to be recognised with this special award is a real honour.

“I am extremely proud to be recognised for my work in developing skills and knowledge throughout the tiling industry, as I’m passionate about training, which I believe is vital to the continued success of the industry in general.

“Maintaining high standards and fixing techniques helps to prevent poor practices and incorrect specifications which can have a negative impact for all in the industry including manufacturers, distributors, specifiers, contractors and fixers.

“I’m proud that since joining Building Adhesives in 1992 I have personally trained in the region of 10,000 people and over the years have worked to develop qualifications through the TTA and other bodies.

“I look forward to continuing my work with Building Adhesives and industry bodies to improve workmanship and standards across the sector and develop the fixers of the future.”

Richard Wallis, managing director of Norcros, says: “It was great to win the award and it was a fitting recognition of all the hard work put in by the team over the last 12 months.”

This year the Awards had the support of eight Gold sponsors, who benefitted from a high profile in the build-up and at the event itself. Anita Gibson of Gold sponsor, Lithofin UK, says: “The TTA Awards Evening was a great success and we enjoyed good company at our table while making new contacts for ongoing business. It was lovely to catch up with many of our old friends, business associates and colleagues in such a relaxed environment where a good time was had by all. We would like to extend our congratulations to the organisers for a great night.”

Mark Ruthven from Gold sponsor Bellota says: “This was the first TTA Awards attended by Bellota and it was very successful. We are looking forward to returning next year.”

Mark Kelly from Gold sponsor Tilemaster Adhesives says: “It was a pleasure to be part of the event. I thought it was a fantastic evening, very well organised and it was great to see the awards so well attended. It was a pleasure to be part of the awards, congratulations to the winners and to all parties that had made the shortlist.”