A veteran of the tile industry, Craig Powell returns to the pages of TSJ to introduce his new company
Having recently joined a newly formed company, Kelmore, I was only 3 weeks into my new role when I happened to meet one of my old mentors at a wedding.
After a warm embrace and a very strong handshake – no doubt developed by the many years of him gripping trowels, bucket handles and tiles, I commented on how well he looked. (Although there is now not a hair on his head, obviously something I didn’t say out loud!)
I found it a lovely coincidence that the timings of our paths crossing enabled me to thank him and update him on my exciting new venture at Kelmore. I’ve had the opportunity to join a highly experienced, enthusiastic team, some of whom I’ve previously had the pleasure of working with, some who I hadn’t known prior, but all of whom have quickly become good friends. While telling him this, I was fully appreciative of the fact he knew, and had played a major part in, where it had all begun for me.
In fact, without him, I wouldn’t have embarked on my career in the tiling industry. He recommended this industry to me and then took me under his wing, teaching me the tiling trade. If I was to tell you that he was part of the 4th generation of tilers in his family, had been tiling for nearly a quarter of a century back then, and is still tiling today, it won’t surprise many to know that our conversation quickly got around to tiling. I don’t think he had been out to work that morning, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if he had contemplated fitting in a small job before the ceremony, as he had always been a quick, efficient tiler.
Now, speed alone is not something that impresses me (or seemingly my wife) but he had always completed jobs very quickly while maintaining very high standards. I asked him what tiling work he was doing these days and whether he was still doing some work for people I got to know during the time I was tiling with him. As the conversation flowed, we started to touch on modern day fixing methods as well as today’s tile trends and their size.
As I expected, he had embraced change, always one to try and find a way to keep moving forward. He told me that he was fixing 1200x1200mm tiles regularly these days, although he felt these were introduced to remind him and others that you must hang the trowel up at some point! He also told me that he even uses clips on certain jobs now – he only used cardboard and matchsticks when I worked with him, and hadn’t quite got around to trying spacers. He no longer fixes in sand: cement and only uses reliable, high-quality adhesives, although he felt the traditional skill of fixing in sand: cement should continue being passed on to the next generations, as he had once passed on to me.
As we were told we were needed elsewhere, and our conversation drew to a close, I reflected on what he had instilled in me throughout my younger years. Hard work, careful listening and learning as well as continuous improvement were a given for him, and had stuck with me too. His customers really mattered to him, testified by many becoming great friends as well as providing repeat business over the years. His fundamentals values of working cleanly and looking after your tools – which in his opinion are your livelihood – combined with ensuring tiles were fixed correctly using high quality fixing products, had all been consciously or subconsciously accepted by myself. I smiled as I remembered him telling me not to fix the first tile until I knew where the last was going, and my smile grew wider, knowing we had much more in common than just being follicle-y challenged.