Tile and Stone Water-Jet Cutting Gives a Project Personality

Floor Covering Weekly - July 1, 1994

commercial logosArchitects and designers can add personal touches of value and tangible uniqueness to almost any contract project by cutting custom designs into stone or ceramic tile surfaces. Such crafted work is usually subcontracted to experts, such as Creative Edge Corp., the Fairfield, Iowa based company that started small but now has 10 state-of-the art water-jet cutting machines.

'With water-jet technology," said Harri Aalto, co-owner and creative director of Creative Edge, "now you have every reason to offer floors that are veritable, one-of-a-kind works of art."

Aalto is convinced that artistic input is vital to water-jet fabrication. The resulting surface design benefits from the subcontractor's aesthetic knowledge and implementation.

A former artist, Aalto knows what can be accomplished by turning a mere idea into a solid reality. He is a graduate of the Interior College of Art in Toronto and was commissioned as an artist for a number of years in various countries around the world. One of Aalto's more recognizable clients was deposed Philippine leader Ferdinand Marcos.

Water-jet technology allows floors to reflect imagination. Limitations are few. Hard-to-cut materials that previously could not be combined now can be easily put together in striking combinations. For example, marble can be mixed with brass, stainless steel, granite, ceramic, wood, resilient and virtually any suitable flooring material.

"Anything that can be drawn can be cut," Aalto said.

An idea or sketch starts the water-jet process. Creative Edge then interprets the idea, makes suggestions and produces a blueprint. Upon the customer's approval, a computer digitalizes the drawing, which then is directly interfaced with the high-technology cutting machinery.

Just as a stream shapes rocks in its path, water-jet technology cuts a specific material. Water is shot through a nozzle at pressures up to 55,000 pounds per square inch (PSI).

Harri Aalto waterjet cutting

ARTIST AT WORK: Harri Aalto of Creative Edge sets cut tile in design.
HIGH-POWER Cutting: Water-jet technology directs a stream of water at 55,000 PSI.

In some cases," Aalto said, "when we cut through titanium or granite, we combine a garnet abrasive with the water, which travels at more than twice the speed of sound."

An example of Creative Edge's work of which Aalto and partner Jim Belilove are particularly proud is the project commissioned a few years ago by the Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey. Creative Edge was hired to design and produce two large stone helmets of the New York Giants and New York Jets football teams for the sports facility's floor.

"In this particular case," Aalto said, "we not only used our technology to cut floor designs, but we were asked to submit the drawings from which the cuttings were made."

The result was impressive, as seen in the picture of the Giants helmet. Various colored materials were used, including Thassos white, Bahia blue, and Argenta blue and absolute black. Aalto depicted planes of light reflecting off the headgear in different colors; stainless steel was used for the helmet's facemask.

The client specifically requested that the helmet not look like plastic. In order to avoid this, Aalto used multiple materials to achieve a dimensional appearance.

Many times, Creative Edge has responded to make the dreams of world-class designers become realities. Recently the water-jet cutting company completed a floor logo for the new Willie Mays Country Chicken restaurants designed by Charles Morris Mount, a renowned New York interior designer.

Similarly impressive applications are not uncommon within the tile and stone segment of the floor covering industry. Artist David Wright is creating the same type of projects for Crossville Ceramics, as a special service to customers who strive to distinguish themselves from a clamoring crowd of competitors.

Custom Design as Service

When Gaylord Entertainment was building its Wildhorse Saloon in Nashville, Wright became involved for Crossville Ceramics. He created the three-foot-diameter logo in tile in three places of the dance hall, which features live entertainment.

Wright estimated that five or six cuts went into each square foot of the design. The logos were set at the entrances and near the bar, and were part of 2,500 square feet of tile for the saloon. The project was handled by Jesse Bowling of Louisville Tile Distributors.

This sophisticated skill and machinery is not cheap. One quality pump costs a minimum of $80,000, according to Aalto, and a machine for efficient stone cutting adds another $250,000. In addition, the waterjet cutting company must maintain its equipment and train its personnel.

Creative Edge recently received a fish-scale design in Fritztile from Keith Youngquist of Aumiller /Youngquist P.C., a Chicago-based architectural firm. The firm is responsible for many theme restaurants throughout the U.S.

The world map, in marble, at Denver International Airport was a Creative Edge effort in collaboration with designer David Griggs. The map is 55 feet by 25 feet and consists of about 4,500 pieces.

Call Creative Edge at (800) 394-8145. Crossville Ceramics can be reached at (615) 484-2110.■

SPORTING: Aalto's Giants football helmet at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

STAMPEDING: David Wright cut the Wildhorse Saloon logo from Crossville Ceramics porcelain tile.

AROUND THE WORLD: Creative Edge's world map at Denver International Airport is made of 4,500 pieces of marble.

WHAT’S COOKING: The logo for Willie Mays Country Chicken restaurants was designed by Charles Morris Mount and cut by Creative Edge.