Our newest public art grant

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We are thrilled to have been awarded a public art grant from the Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska, for artwork to be installed in the Service High School in Anchorage. Through this grant we will design, create and install 10 handmade, ceramic art murals on architectural columns in the high school cafeteria.  The art committee requested that the chosen artwork bring light and the natural environment into the room since the school is in session during the darkest days of the year.  Our botanical designs and rich, luminous glazes seemed a natural fit for this project. We will be creating 10 handmade tile murals depicting the flora of the region, with a focus on flowers.  Twenty-four, 16″ x 16″ tiles will be grouted to each column. Because the murals will wrap around the columns, the viewer will get a different perspective on the mural, depending on where he stands. Here is our rendering of the proposed idea:       Our first mural depicts the flower, Fireweed, in the foreground. This image shows the carved tiles, not yet bisqued or glazed.                                        … Read More »

My teeny-tiniest inspiration

handmade, carved, ceramic wall art by Natalie Blake

Handmade tile designs inspired by the microscopic world I often get asked where I get my inspiration.  I was inspired by a couple I met at the American Craft Exposition (Evanston, IL)  a few years ago.  Founders of McCrone Associates– internationally recognized as a world leader in microscopy and microanalysis–Don and Jane Brooks asked me to design a piece inspired by microscopy for their  employee lounge. I researched  imagery of 400X magnification of things like salt, metal, rabbit fur, anthrax!, spores, aluminum….whatever the amazing world of microscopic images could inspire in me. Like little abstract paintings, my carved porcelain wall art tiles captured the marvelous texture, complexity and composition that this microscopic world produced.  I made more than 100 circular tiles, ranging from 4-21 inches in diameter. Click here to watch a great Youtube video of my tile-making process.  My partner, Nick, and I flew out to Illinois to do the installation.  I love working with Nick because he’s not only a master craftsman with a great eye for design (his line of furniture will soon be showing in our new Fulcrum Arts Gallery, in Brattleboro, VT) but he also designs and engineers each new installation to perfection. Making final arrangements while on sight,… Read More »

A Playful Mural Designed for a Pediatric Unit

handsculpted, sgraffito-carved, ceramic wall art by Natalie Blake

 Ceramic Wall Art Mural Inspired by our Local Roots This spring we were asked to create an original wall tile mural to be installed in the Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Pediatric Specialty Center.  The art committee wanted a piece that would include themes of travel and literature that would resonate with children.  We love this type of project where we can really be creative.  Some great design ideas came out of our collaboration with the art committee.  For example using books as wings.  You can see the results below:flying books and books as handgliders!     Once the committee told us to locate the scene in New England we really got creative!  We incorporated images that we see out our window everyday: rolling hills, a river and a train (the Amtrak line runs right along the Connecticut River, through Brattleboro).  We love biking and kayaking so we included these modes of travel too. Our signature, sgraffito carving style brings a lot of movement to the  flowing river and breezy skies; the whole piece feels animated. Working on this wall art mural felt especially personal for Cynthia (Designer at Natalie Blake Studios). “As I biked to work I kept noticing details in… Read More »

Making a Tree of Life mural

handmade, carved, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake

  Once again our popular, handmade, carved, ceramic Tree of Life wall tile art will adorn a public space: this time a church in Florida.  The piece, measuring 36″ x 36″, will be hung in the lounge at the church. Cynthia Parker-Houghton, studio designer, created this piece. We thought it would be fun to document the process of making this piece.     The first step in the process is laying out the handmade forms over which the clay tiles will drape, thus creating undulations in the tiles.  Here’s what Cynthia says about this step: “The reason I stay interested in this tree icon is because it is familiar, comforting, grounding. And I think these qualities are especially important when the piece will be displayed in a sacred space.  When I lay out the forms, I always start with the trunk–the forms flow out from there and down into the roots.  I get the feeling that these forms represent the flow of energy from the nutrients in the soil to the roots, up the trunk and out the leaves. Because of our carving style–we carve away the black slip to reveal the white clay underneath, the piece has an energetic look to it.… Read More »

We did it!

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Ceramic Tile Murals Tell the History of a Tampa Neighborhood     Natalie’s public art grant installation in Tampa, Florida is complete!  Natalie and Nick rolled back into the studio last Thursday after spending 18 days on site mortaring and grouting 3, 6′ x 15′ ceramic tile murals onto concrete walls that run the perimeter of a new mixed-use development in Tampa.   This installation was made possible through a generous public art grant awarded to the studio in 2013 by the City of Tampa, and Trio at Encore LP.  Through this grant, Natalie researched the history of this largely African-American neighborhood and then traced its 200-year history in a series of three large murals. Through interviews and consultations with several historians and community members, Natalie compiled a rich history of this incredible community. She then translated these collected stories, using a blend of abstraction and realism onto three, 6’ x15’ murals comprised of 18” square ceramic tiles.   The title of the piece, “The Gift of Gathered Remembrances,” is inspired by Secrets of the Talking Jaguar by Martin Prechtel.  In this book Prechtel recounts the story of a people who are deeply secure in their cultural identity because of their daily remembrance and reverence towards their ancestors. As… Read More »

What size should my artwork be?

sculpted, carved ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake

  Unless you work with an interior designer, it may be difficult to know what size wall art will look best in your space.  When it comes to finding the right size wall art, there are a few tips to keep in mind so that you don’t overwhelm (or underwhelm) your space with your art: In general you should work around furniture, using the general rule of covering 1/2 to 3/4 of that area with your artwork. One guideline is that the artwork should take up 4/7 of the selected space.  Here’s a math trick to help you figure that the size of the art you need: Measure the width (or height) of your wall space, in inches.  Multiply that number by .57 So, for example, if your area is 36 inches wide, you want to look for art that’s 20-21 inches wide. Here’s an example of an appropriately-sized mural for this wall. The width of the wall is 96″. Using the calculation outlined above, the artwork for this wall should be 54″ wide. This ceramic tile mural, Live Oak, is comprised of 12″ x 12″ tiles, with 1/2″ spacing between tiles. So the width of the piece is about… Read More »

Architextural tiles

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We developed this line of tile to showcase at the 2014 Architectural Digest Home Show.  It was a big hit!  Each tile is handmade, carved in our signature sgraffito style. The bold, gestural lines accentuate the sculptural undulations in the tile and almost read like topographical lines. These tiles can be grouped in any configuration, customized in any of our sizes from 12″ – 20″ square, and glazed in any of our 33 rich, luminous glaze colors.     An interior designer in south Florida is commissioning these tiles for a residential, exterior installation. 15, 12″ x 12″ tiles will hang as panels and 6, 18″ x 18″ tiles will be grouted in as a backsplash in the outdoor kitchen.        

One of our favorites!

handsculpted, carved, ceramic tile by Natalie Blake

Our signature Dahlia is featured in this penthouse apartment We worked closely with Cravotta Interiors (Austin, TX) to create this custom, hand sculpted, ceramic tile mural for the entry of a penthouse in the Four Seasons Residences in Austin, Texas. The Dahlia mural is comprised of 14″ x 14″ tiles, carved in our unique, gestural style. The vibrant, Persian Red glaze contrasts with the darker, slip underneath to accent the free-flowing design. The designer had the tiles grouted in place as a backdrop for a sitting area.  We just love it when designers feature art in unexpected places! Thanks Cravotta Interiors! You can read more about this project here.          

Musings on our Tampa public art grant…

elliot mortaring

  Natalie writes:   Coming to work and seeing Elliot mixing mortar to thin-set the backs of our 18″ x 18″ tiles…wow, like we are really about to install these murals for the community to see in Tampa, Florida!   I am honored to have been chosen to create three large, 15′ x 6′ murals for the City of Tampa’s Trio at Encore development project.  It’s been an amazing year researching the history of the largely Black neighborhood of Central Avenue in Tampa, where the murals will hang, and then designing and carving the murals.  The murals depict historical scenes from this neighborhood, like in the mural details seen below– of Ray Charles at the piano, and musicians at the Blue Room night club. This neighborhood was  a “hoppin’” music district in the early 1900’s.  It is said that many people including B.B. King, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, James Brown, Ruth Brown, Asa Harris, and others played up and down Central – it was the place to be. I’ve titled this installation “The Gift of Gathered Remembrances”.  The title of the piece is inspired by Secrets of the Talking Jaguar by Martin Prechtel, who recounts a people who are deeply secure… Read More »

Beautiful installations

Stonebridge installation

These 14″ x 14″ sculptural, ceramic art tiles were installed at the Stonebridge Country Club, Boca Raton, FL in 2009.  They’ve been one of our most popular installations with their rich, persimmon glaze and abstract designs.  A designer from Florida recently came by the studio and said that she’d seen this piece in “her” country club and  now wants to order an abstract design for one of her residential clients.     Another great installation: 18″ x 18″ abstract blue tiles. The carving lines and ripples in the tiles complement the ripples in the water.