In this edition, we sat down with Ryan Fasan, co-founder of Crest Craftsmen and Tile of Spain consultant.
TILE: How did you first get involved in the tile industry? Please explain a little bit more about yourself.
Fasan: It started mostly because I was a risk-taking youngster with a taste for dangerous activities like cliff jumping and downhill skateboarding. Both my parents were busy professionals and they were looking for something to keep me busy during the afternoons so I would survive until they got home from the office. So, at 13, Mom started taking me into work at a tile distributor to work in the sample department making sample boards for the dealer program and showroom displays. I found I liked the detail and creativity of the job; some money in my pocket didn’t hurt either so I stuck with it until I was old enough to get on payroll. Since then, the ceramic industry has never let me down by running out of things to explore and teach me to do. I’ve worked in retail and commercial sales, purchasing, creative development, marketing and installation. I’m still learning every day from this industry.
TILE: Are you a company owner? If so, what were some reasons for starting your own business?
Fasan: Yes, two companies actually. My consultancy, working with clients like Tile of Spain to offer professional education and private companies consulting on product development started, again with my mom over two decades ago. I’ve been running it solo since 2009. Just last year, I co-founded a specialty design/build firm with my best friend called Crest Craftsmen. Vancouver has some of the highest property values in the world, and as the son of an architect and interior designer, it sickens me to see the kind of cheap materials and shoddy workmanship going into some places here. We saw a gap in the market for high-end jobs looking for skilled and conscientious trades that can take the reins on a project managing everything from wrangling subs to design consultation and material sourcing. Basically, both companies started because I saw an issue not being addressed properly that pissed me off enough to design the solution myself.
TILE: Has the tile industry changed much since you first started? If so, in what ways?
Fasan: Considering I’ve been involved with tile since my early teens, yes it’s a very different animal now. Back then, the “massive” wall tiles were 8 x 16 inches and the high-end factories produced not just one but up to three decorative borders for accenting them. Porcelains were almost exclusively unglazed, produced for high-traffic commercial only, and the “highly decorative” ones were salt and pepper “granito” effects or soluble salt. There was just one, single collection of rectified tile -- a marble collection that cost three times more than anything else -- it was a laughing-stock for years until it became wildly successful and revolutionized the industry. Most graphics done in glaze were single-screen prints with roto-color dynamic printing just coming online at the most progressive factories. Polymer-modified thinsets meant that you had a jug of polymer to mix with the cement instead of water and there was no such thing as a high-density foam waterproofed panel for shower assembly. The thing that has really kept me going with this industry is the constant innovation and re-invention of itself year after year.
TILE: Is there a particular job you’ve completed that stands out? Why?
Fasan: In such a long and varied career, there has been a lot that I’ve been proud of. On the speaking side, being invited to do a guest lecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and speaking at the Skin Gallery in London during the city’s famous design week are two big standouts. In product development, helping to develop a commercially viable glazed ceramic mosaic line and launching a collection of 2.5- x 3.25-inch stretched hexagon mosaics with bevel-in, bevel-out and flat versions (you’ve probably seen them) for the inaugural launch. The collection won multiple design awards and has been copied multiple times since. On the marketing and sales side, the recent project that was featured in TILE, “Casa Solaris,” is easily one of my favorite projects and write-ups. For installation, there have been so many, but my years of doing everything from concepting to coordinating and finally building and installing of Coverings booths are probably the proudest I’ve been of a job. There’s nothing quite like the frenetic build of a 1,000+-square-foot building that will see thousands of visitors in just seven days.
TILE: What are some common issues you have to deal with on the jobsite? How do you overcome them?
Fasan: Before founding our company, the biggest issue is coming in after so many hands and minds have had their way with a project. By that, I mean tiling is lumped in with other finish work and is very much at the mercy of their care and forethought. One of the primary concepts of this company is that we get involved at the start of the project and material selection is done with our collaboration right from the outset. In that way, we are able to design and execute the build with finish tolerances in mind. We do the majority of the work ourselves from studs to surface, so there’s no issue with working on other people’s foundation. One of the biggest problems tilers face is the plethora of sub-trades working on the space before we get in. Each of them have the potential to say, “This is good enough, the next guy can deal with it.” When you’re also the next guy, you take more ownership of each step so the work goes smoother and the end results are better.
TILE: What are some steps you take to educate your customers about their tile installation before you begin?
Fasan: One of the biggest ones is that tile is not a finish material -- it’s an integral part of the building’s systemic operations. We actually treat all materials in that way and insist on selection at the beginning of our involvement. Because we have the finished results in mind from the beginning, we are empowered throughout the build to make decisions based on the end-results. It saves time and money for the client in the scope of the job because we don’t over-engineer things to cover contingencies and we’re always working toward a mutually agreed upon endgame. The other common practice we have to keep things running smoothly, whether we’re involved from the beginning of a project or not, is that we quote prep work separately. Once we have an idea of the finish material detail, we build out a prep-work plan and budget, which is presented to the client separate from the installation quotes. It’s a small thing, but it really helps for budgeting and keeping cost-comparison analysis accurate. When you roll the cost of prep work into your installation quote, it artificially inflates the installed cost of the material. By doing things this way, we often find the client can more easily rationalize the cost of tile versus an inferior product that seems cheaper.
TILE: If you could lend any advice to professionals just beginning their careers, what would it be?
Fasan: Stay curious and try to absorb as much as you can from other roles that are adjacent to your chosen career. The more you can understand the perspective, motivations and struggles of other professions you are commonly working with, the better you will be at your craft. The more holistically you can understand something from adjacent perspectives, the more marketable you become -- not just because your results get better, but because you’re infinitely easier and more pleasant to work with.
If you or anyone you know is interested in being featured in a future edition of the “Contractor Spotlight,” please email Heather Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org