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Women in tile – expressing ingenuity in many ways!
Sam Bruce
NTCA President
The Vintage Press is the nicest restaurant in my hometown. Betty Martinho, aka Grandma, and I recently had a dinner date there. She had not been back to the restaurant since the 1980s, and since my wife and daughters were out of town, it was the perfect opportunity to take Grandma to the place where her work is still on display. My mom and a few of my aunts wished me luck as Grandma is picky about her food and hard to please, but that didn’t matter since we were going there to reminisce on the work that she provided the restaurant with more than 40 years ago. As the co-founder of the first tile retailer and distributor in the county, Grandma made an impact on many people and businesses in her community through tile. There are many women today who are making similar impacts in the tile industry and their accomplishments always make me think of Grandma.
With her husband, Tony Martinho, Betty co-founded American Ceramic Tile & Supply in Tulare, Calif. Since there was not a tile store within 45 miles, all the tile contractors bought from their store and many selections and designs were created in their showroom. Betty was part of it all, so when the owners of the Vintage Press came to select tile for the restaurant, she was there to help them. 1" white hexagon with three rows of a decorative border of 1" green hexagon was selected for the floors at the entrance, in front of the bar, and in the hallways that lead to the restrooms. We know this as a classic style today; however, in the early ‘80s it wasn’t so prevalent. There was a bit of a problem with this selection; 1" green hexagon was not made or available at the time, so Betty went to work.
NTCA President Sam Bruce with grandma Betty Martinho.
As we walked into the restaurant she glanced at the floor and all the memories came back to her. She pointed out that she hand painted thousands of the 1" white hexagons with a green paint. She then fired them for hours in a kiln so the color would absorb and bake into the glaze of the tile. She repeated this process three times. Since the hexagon was dot mounted, she also had to cut off all the tabs so they didn’t melt during the firing process. All of this work took her many weeks to accomplish!
Grandma’s work and dedication is showcased today like many women who are creating and making an impact in tile. Women such as Jane Callewaert who is leading a committee that is focused on consumer education and awareness. Her committee has created industry documents that promote qualified labor among other topics that have been identified as key consumer information. Jane also co-conceived the idea to start the Artisans Revolution in Tile (A.R.T.) Training that has been a huge success.
In the ’80s Betty Martinho was asked to help the Vintage Press restaurant select tile for its space.
The tiles Martinho handpainted still look great today.
Becky Serbin of the NTCA continues to make huge impacts in the industry with her work in content development for NTCA University and the NTCA Apprenticeship program. These online trainings and programs are game changers for NTCA membership as they provide an educational approach to training that supplements on-the-job training. Anyone who is looking to improve or grow their workforce should be using these programs. Becky’s commitment to pushing the development of these programs across the finish line will make a huge impact on the tile industry for years to come.
I applaud what these women and many others are doing for our industry today. It makes me proud to look back and admire the impact that my grandma made at a landmark of a restaurant like the Vintage Press. We had a great dinner; Grandma ordered the pork shank and she loved it!
Best to your success,