Commentary

Granados: Art goes functional on tile

CorrespondentNovember 15, 2013 

Art and backsplashes are hardly two things you would naturally think of putting together. Backsplashes, and tile in general, are decorative, that’s true, but the free-spirited artists – the painter, the sculptor, the poet – are in a class by themselves. One is utilitarian; another is beset by a muse.

But the two have found a way to join together in Wake Forest. Two businesses, Backsplashes Unlimited and the Wake Forest Art & Frame Shop, are combining art, and really anything else you can think of, with tile work to present a unique decorative touch to anybody’s home.

The partnership began when Felix Rodriguez decided to open Backsplashes with his wife, Trina. He had done installation work for years. Gradually, as he aged, he narrowed in on tile, including backsplashes. But eventually he realized he needed to become something more than an installer.

“I needed to take it to the next step, the next level,” he said. “So I decided to start Backsplashes Unlimited.”

He hoped to start his new company with a custom edge. If you wanted a special color tile or special design, he would do it himself.

“It’s just not your everyday tile,” he said.

Think glass or mirrored tile. He decided to settle down in Wake Forest, because he was interested in small-town business life.

“Once they know who you are, you gain their trust, you gain your credibility, (and) they will support you,” he said.

And that support is what he wanted.

When he came to town, he went door to door, introducing himself to the different business owners around town. He eventually came to the Art & Frame Shop, though the owner, Beth Massey, wasn’t there the first time he came by.

“I had heard that he came in because supposedly he was raving about my art,” she said.

Massey is an artist herself, and one of the things she likes to do is put art on tile. It’s purely decorative, something to look at, not something that would survive the wear and tear of everyday use.

“He came in again and started talking to me about how we could input them in a more permanent way,” she said. “At first I said, there is no possible way.”

But then she started thinking about it more. Massey knew that all sorts of designs could be put into tile with the right process. She investigated what it would take and eventually purchased the equipment necessary to do it. That’s when she and Rodriguez officially partnered up.

“We sort of promote each other. I have examples of his work in my store, and he sells some of mine in his,” she said. “We just thought it would be a great way to sell both products.”

A sort of symbolic start of their partnership was a sign for Backsplashes Unlimited made using the process Massey researched. It’s a collection of 12 tiles with the store’s name on it.

Now, using the process, Massey is able to put any design – painting, photos, whatever – onto tile that Rodriguez can then install in a house. They’re called Printables. Want to see your kid’s face in the kitchen tile? No problem. Bring Massey some snapshots. Consider yourself an amateur painter? Immortalize your work on the shower wall. It’s a little bizarre, perhaps, to consider incorporating such things with your functional tiles, but there is definitely a market out there for it.

“If a customer gets included in the projects that they’re doing, they feel a little more hands on,” Rodriguez said.

People sometimes say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. When Rodriguez came to town, he made that statement true. Backsplashes Unlimited and the Wake Forest Art & Frame Shop remain two separate stores, both competent in their own areas. But because of the partnership between Massey and Rodriguez, they are also something more.

Maybe you’re looking for that something more. You can find it here: www.wakeforestframeshop.com and www.backsplashesunlimited.com.

Alex Granados writes about people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him at agranadoster@gmail.com.

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