Il segreto della felicità è libertà. (Google it.)
Kelsey Sullivan / Interior Design
Chicago in the Fall.
That was the decision for 2018’s quick getaway with my husband. In 2017 we spent time in the Northeast, and this year it would be Chicago. I emailed Collen, our Ceramic Technics rep, for as much info as she could give me on the Windy City, seeing as she’s from there- and she gave me plenty of recommendations. We were SET. Ready to gorge on deep dish pizza & climb Sears Tower.
I received a cryptic email one day asking me to call her. I thought it was spam so I brushed it off, that is, until she emailed again.
I called her hesitantly-from my car-wondering if one of my products was out of stock or if an installation had gone wrong. You know, worst case scenario Kelsey.
This place is u-n-r-e-a-l.
She answered all giddy-like & was inviting me to be a part of a week long trip to ITALY……the week we had penciled in for Chicago. After I accepted (or screamed YES! loudly in her ear), she assured me I’d picked a much better destination. I was nearly in tears with excitement. Italy was one of those bucket list trips I knew I’d get to eventually, but for a busy body like me I knew it was going to have to be forced upon me to take time to go. A bonus: Gracie, one of the best designers I know (that used to work in our office), had also been invited. So Italy, design, an awesome rep, and one of my fave gals? I’m in.
Ceramic Technics showing off.
Ceramic Technics is dedicated to resourcing distinctive collections of tile and stone for the architectural and design community throughout North America. They work mostly in the commercial arena, supplying innovative and responsible materials to retail, hospitality, healthcare, corporate and educational venues. Today their vision has remained consistent by providing technologically advanced porcelain tiles from the Tuscan region of Sassualo, Italy to uncovering exotic ancient stones from the banks of the river Nile in Egypt. (AHEM, the Tuscan region is where I was. DREAM.)
The absolute best group to travel with.
On Lake Garda for free-day activities.
I cannot say enough about how unique this experience was, in that, we were made to feel like total locals. We didn’t do the “touristy” parts of town-we were delving deep into the “tile towns”, seeing the rich history that’s built them and mesmerized by what they’re producing now. And the people-so incredibly genuine, warm and friendly. I was reminded of being at my grandmother’s when I was little. Except that instead of asking if I was hungry every 5 minutes they kept asking if I needed an espresso and shoving croissants in my face. Um, yes please.
The group that met on this trip came from all over the US: Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Orlando, Austin, and Dallas to be exact. We spent the first day meeting up and catching trains and planes from other areas, then it was off to 3 full days of tile factory tours, showroom tours, and the greatest food my taste buds have ever palleted. Let’s just say it took my stomach 3 weeks to growl again upon my return. So miserably, wonderfully, full.
Dinner & a Balsamic Tour at Cavvazon
A tour of the ceramic pottery production in Imola
Pottery for days.
The quaint towns we wandered were: Reggio Emilia, Modena, Imola, and Sassualo. Being the history nerd + design freak I am, I couldn’t get enough of the cobblestone textures, dimly lit alleyways, and completely unexpected artwork installations. I learned insane amounts about tile, and even more about the Italian culture. One of the factories we toured had been bombed in WWII and there were pictures of Mussolini standing exactly where I stood. (Cool to anyone else?... okay…..just me.)
I learned tiles shrink substantially when they’re put into the kiln. I learned it takes a mix of all sorts of colors to print a carrera look tile, that robots really are the future, that prosecco at lunch is 110% normal, and that a meal is a 4 hour, 4-7 course experience. THAT is something I wish Americans would really catch on to.
I think what this trip taught me the most was to get out of my comfort zone. From the time my toes touched the ground in London, and then Reggio Emilia, and then Venice ... I was 100% exactly where I needed to be.
Imola & Marco Corona Factories
The tile factory tours drenched us with information, allowing us to soak in beautiful aesthetics & bring back tons of technical information for our projects. Everyone has unique abilities, things that make them tick, and things that they HATE. One thing I’ve learned in this business is that a product can be stunning, but the technical form and function of the product must be understood as well. The Italians do this beautifully-producing gorgeous product while meeting DCOF’s, thicknesses, and all other technical things that make my brain hit snooze.
Hubbs + me.
I ended the trip with a hop, skip, and jump (ok really just a train + boat ride) over to Venice to meet my husband for a few days. Talk about living in a storybook. While it was certainly more “tourist-saturated” than the rest of my Italian experience, I didn’t care. I had nearly one whole day alone before he got there, and I was running through the streets in total bliss. A piece of pizza as big as my face? Yes. An espresso at 2 pm, and an Aperol Spritz at 3 pm? Yes. A bag from Prada? HA. Betcha thought I was gonna say yes.
That ones a hard no. (Though I may have peeked.)
For giggles: We stayed about 2 minutes from the Rialto Bridge, and I must admit my favorite thing I overheard was an American lady ask her husband “why they built a bridge that looked just like the one in Vegas?” THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS, AMERICA. I was embarrassed for our nation in that moment.
I think what this trip taught me the most was to get out of my comfort zone. Everyone that knows me knows I’m very structured, timely, and function best in order. But this? This was unexpected, came at a really busy time at work, and let’s be honest….the idea of traveling internationally alone was a bit unnerving with the globe’s current status. However, from the time my toes touched the ground in London, and then Reggio Emilia, and then Venice…..I was 100% exactly where I needed to be. I grew so much in my appreciation of culture, my love of history, my design eye, and my love of this beautiful planet. Ceramic Technics– I absolutely can’t thank you enough for such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. ◾
Kelsey Sullivan leads the Hospitality Team at Thiel & Thiel, working on country clubs, city clubs, and high-end residential club jobs. Kelsey directs her team, manages client expectations, helps in the onboarding of GCs/project consultants, and oversees jobs through from the initial site visit to final installation. Caramel Macchiatos and hot chicken are the way to her heart. She's our favorite southern(est) girl.