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Pick a picture, make a tile

A couple's search for accent tiles launches a new business, where buyers create custom tiles from their favorite artwork or photographs.

By JUDY STARK, Times Homes Editor

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 7, 2002


A couple's search for accent tiles launches a new business, where buyers create custom tiles from their favorite artwork or photographs.

LARGO -- Imagine that favorite photograph of your pet, spouse, boat or Porsche on a ceramic tile that you could set into a backsplash, frame and hang on the wall, or turn into a mural.

Daniel Hall, a self-described "technogeek," has created the process to do that and is producing the tiles in an industrial park off Belcher Road.

"Anything that can be digitized" can be reproduced on the tile: a logo, a newborn's footprints, even digital images of original works of art.

Hall, 33, and his partner Paul Meade, 49, call their company Tilesque, a name they hope will soon come to represent both the process and the product. They want it to be as much of a household word as Kleenex or Xerox.

"We want to be in Home Depot," Hall said.

That's actually where the story starts, a couple of years back, when Hall and his then-girlfriend (now wife) were shopping for kitchen tile and were dissatisfied with the limited choice of accent tiles.

The technically minded Hall put his mind to the task and has developed a proprietary process that he says actually embeds the image onto the ceramic tile.

The tiles can be used for artistic and decorative purposes on a vertical surface, such as a backsplash or a wall. Depending on the base tile the customer chooses, they can also be used outdoors, on the floor, or in a pool. Tilesque even offers a phosphorescent tile that will glow in the dark -- "perfect for above your baby's bed, with an image of an angel," Meade suggested.

The company can fulfill orders in 48 to 72 hours, Hall said.

Their little startup company, bank-rolled by Hall's other business, theblueflash, an Internet service provider, is aiming at several markets including interior designers, photographers and artists. The company also is eyeing the college or professional sports market in hopes of creating tiles featuring logos, famous faces or landmarks.

Hall and Meade would like to have a presence at the photo counters in drugstores and supermarkets, where amateur photographers with a handful of snapshots from vacations, holiday gatherings or kids' events might be enticed. They think there's a market among parents who might like Tilesque images of their children's school pictures.

One customer, Meade said, created a framed 12-piece image for his wife's 50th birthday: a photograph of her and snapshots of their three children. A medical office is having photographs of the doctors reproduced on tile and framed to hang in the hall. Someone else wanted an image on tile of his bright red Porsche. Another customer created a six-tile image of a bouquet of flowers.

Tilesque is working with seven artists whose original works are digitized, then reproduced on tile.

A 6- by 6-inch tile costs $18.75 for up to five tiles using a stock image. There is an additional charge of $25 to use an original photo. Prices decrease with volume. See the company's Web site at www.tilesque.com for details on pricing and sizes.

Hall and Meade are veterans of the computer industry who wanted to do something else. "Dan's the perfectionist, the technical detail guy," Meade said. "I'm the get-it-out-the-door guy." They are seeking capital and sales help, he said, "to take it to the next phase. The real money is in mass production, creating the same image many times."

Hall says he is aware of two other companies that offer a similar product, one in California and one in Canada, "and there will be many more in the next year as the process gets easier. But I think we've gotten in" before their competitors get out there. "We're building a whole new industry."

Tilesque can be reached at (727) 289-0068.

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