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Mosaics master tiles the world

Life as a tiler has been a rich mosaic of creativity, travel and career variety for trades artisan Iain Middleton.

The South Metropolitan TAFE tiling lecturer has forged an enviable career as a tiler and renowned mosaics craftsman. 

His skills and passion for the industry have taken him around the world, from studying in Sydney, honing his skills in Italy over several visits, to spending six weeks touring the west coast of the United States with a film company documenting high-end swimming pools. 

“I started tiling as a teenager, on and off, between travelling and other jobs,” Iain said.

“I didn’t ‘set out’ to be a tiler, it found me really - I just needed work and a mate needed some help and hey, 40 years later I’m still learning and still tiling!”

Iain now divides his professional hours between lecturing at SM TAFE, where he’s been for six years, and running the architectural mosaics company he established in 2002.

From an itinerant labourer, Iain has over the decades grown into an expert in his field, taking leadership and speaking roles at industry events and working on international projects at the pinnacle of the craft. He is also a published writer on tiling and has contributed to research and development of materials and installation techniques for a number of manufacturers.

While his passion for tiling has truly emerged in mosaics, Iain says all aspects of tiling involve creativity.

“Setting out the tiles to an aesthetically pleasing dimension can present multiple options, which is where creativity is applied to cover difficult corners or edges, floor grates, windows and so on.” 

Degree of difficulty

University of Western Australia is home to one of Iain's finest constructions - a working sundial mosaic featuring 337,500 individual tiles. 

Designed by Perth's Academy Award winning artist Shaun Tan, it was Iain and his team of craftsmen who installed the 4.5m x 8m mosaic wall feature.

The surrounding courtyard, also designed by Shaun Tan, features a giant golden egg that is rendered entirely in 10mm x 10mm Bisazza mosaic. It was Iain and his team who brought this to reality.

The task facing Iain and his team was immense – putting together an image delivered in square sheets, using a technique that makes all the seams invisible, bringing out the true character of this type of glass, its brightness, colour and shape and showing the true, organic nature of the artist’s original work.

To help with this, Iain selected a special Bisazza translucent epoxy grout (Fillgel), infused with millions of tiny Swarovski crystals, which has the effect of reflecting the adjacent tile colouring.

A trade worth trying

Iain said the quality of training at SM TAFE is second to none.  

“We have state of the art facilities, tools and materials and our lecturers are continually educating themselves in the latest techniques and materials. 

The Construction Training Fund is also committed to assisting through the provision of opportunities on several levels, not least the ‘Try-A-Trade’ program.  

This program allows school-aged students an insight into the industry by means of a three-day hands-on trade adventure.  

“At South Metro TAFE we can offer you all the tools you will need to complete an apprenticeship, to becoming a competent tradesperson running your own business.”

Wall and floor tilers lay a variety of tiles in new and existing homes and commercial properties to provide both a protective and decorative finish. Certificate II and III students acquire skills such as reading plans, taking measurements, preparing surfaces, concreting surfaces, laying wall and floor tiles and tiling corners with ceramic, clay, slate, marble and glass tiles.
 

Page last updated December 06, 2018