Jamaica Gleaner /  

There are many creative minds who have made sacrifices to pursue their one true passion. The story behind ArtSmart, a small business which specialises in hand-painted tiles, is fuelled by an ardent drive to create extraordinary designs for everyday objects.

For more than 20 years, what started as a hobby for Michael Denton and his wife, Judith, became a corporate favourite for gift items and memorabilia. The couple began their journey at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, and have kept art at the core of their relationship.

“It all started with my wife,” said Denton as he recounted the events which led to the birth of their company. “My wife and a friend started doing hand-painted tiles years ago. I decided to get them a kiln, which is an oven that is used to bake the tiles,” said Denton. After a while, the duo stopped painting and decided to pursue other projects. “I was left with this huge kiln and had no idea what to do with it. So, I started painting, and from there it came to this,” said Denton.

The process begins with a single matte white tile. “It is like a canvas. I prefer white because the initial colours placed on the tile are not the same after being glazed. For example, a green is brown and red is pink. Any other colour tile will change the true colour of the paint,” he explained.

Denton has a peculiar technique which he uses to create the design of each tile. “My designs come just when I am about to sleep. Therefore, I have to have a drawing pad beside my bed, because if I fall asleep, I will forget,” he said. After painting the design, the tile is then placed in the kiln for eight hours at 1,8608F, then given twice as much time to cool.

There are several challenges that come with creating hand-painted tiles, explained Denton. “This is a very unforgiving job,” he laughed. “You may put the tiles in the kiln and have no idea what you might get out. I literally pray to let them come out good. More often than not, they tend to break or the glaze runs away,” said Denton. He recounted the stressful project he worked on for Half Moon Resort which broke 13 times.

Denton has created personalised tiles for companies such as Liland Limited, Victoria Mutual, Sandals Resorts, Guardian Life Limited, and several others. He has created the ‘Diving limit’ pool tiles which are used by many of the hotels on the island.

“This is like therapy for me,” he said. His advice for aspiring artists who would like to profit from their skills is to never give up. “It doesn’t happen overnight. Keep going at it and just believe in yourself,” said Denton. He also indicated that a good support team is crucial for the success of any business.

ArtSmart’s beautiful hand-painted tile collection can be found at Craft Cottage, and My Jamaica.

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ArtSmart’s beautiful hand painted tile collection can be found at Craft cottage or My Jamaica.


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