Beautiful installations

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.

 

Handmade, sgraffito-carved ceramic tile by Natalie Blake

42″ x 42″, Stonebridge Country Club, Boca Raton, FL, 2009

 

Another great installation: 18″ x 18″ abstract blue tiles. The carving lines and ripples in the tiles complement the ripples in the water.

handmade, ceramic wall art by Natalie Blake

Blue Ripples, 72″ x 126″

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Vessels

 Handmade, ceramic vessels taking on a new form

Natalie took us all by surprise a few weeks ago when we came into the studio to find these lovely new pots that she had thrown in black and porcelain clay.  She calls them Chesspots.  Ranging in size from 16″ – 24″ high, these pots work individually and in groups, where their size and shape complement each other.

 

handmade, black clay vessels by Natalie Blake

Chocolate Chesspots, 16″ – 24″ h, handmade black clay vessel with handmade, black clay lid.

Here’s what Natalie says about these pots:

“In my most recent body of work, I turn my traditional approach to the thrown and lidded vessel upside down. My approach to form has always been one of full, ripe, round. The carved and brightly colored, curvy shapes  conjured the feeling of ripe fruits and affluent jewels. This latest approach seeks to maintain elegance and ripeness, while making bold, sharp and opinionated statements with cut edges and accordion angles. Instead of colored glaze, the raw high-fired terra-sigilatta surface of the porcelain and black clays uses shadow and light to personify. The vessels have merged with the characters of chess pieces to create whimsical identity and playful gesture. My signature lids are the final and pivotal punctuation mark that creates the complete personality of each vessel.”

 

handmade, porcelain and black clay vessels by Natalie Blake

Accordian with Rook, 15″ h, 24″ h

 

handmade, porcelain vessel by Natalie Blake

Knight, 14″ x 9″, porcelain

Our New Work Debuts at the Architectural Digest Show 2014

 New Shapes and Designs in Wall Art, and New Vessels!

We are excited to be exhibiting at the  Architectural Digest Home Design Show, March 20-34 in New York City.  As in past years, Natalie is exhibiting in the MADE section of the show (Booth M86), where hundreds of juried international and local artists and galleries showcase their limited edition and one-of-a-kind works.  This is a retail show where you can  purchase directly from the artist at the booth, or you can commission future work.  It’s a great opportunity to see artists’ new work.  This year we’ve got lots of new shapes and designs to show off.

Natalie Blake exhibits at the Architectural digest show

 

 

Our studio’s newest work includes what we’re calling “architextural” tiles.  The designs on these undulating tiles were inspired by the natural elements of earth, water, air and fire.  The carved patterns accentuate the undulation in the tiles which seem to ripple. Natalie also created smooth, uncarved “ripple” tiles.  These smooth tiles would be a cost-effective way to cover a larger space as they are priced at about half of our carved tiles.  We’re working to slump glass over uncarved, undulating tile to create a glass tile that can be incorporated into a ceramic mural. As with all our tile, these tiles are suitable for interior and exterior installations.

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

handsculpted, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake Studios

 

 

We’re expanding our portfolio of shape tiles to include a new line of octagon tiles. Each octagon is made up of 8, individually-made and carved triangle tiles.  We can mount them on a backing to hang as one piece, or they can be individually grouted in as a backsplash detail.  The fun comes from mixing and matching designs and colors!

ceramic wall art by Natalie Blake

ceramic wall art by Natalie Blake

 

 

We’ve also been extending our line of round tiles to include “Gear” tiles.  While our designs are inspired by images of old gears that our designer friend sent us, they also reference the geometry of nature and remind us of micro-organisms.  We love the industrial look of them.

 

elliot and gears

 

And last, but not least, Natalie is debuting a new line of angular, geometric vessels: a new twist on a smooth form.

handmade, ceramic vessels by Natalie Blake

 handmade, ceramic vessels by Natalie Blake

 

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Finishing up the Tampa, FL public art murals

Natalie is finishing the third (and final) ceramic tile mural for the City of Tampa, Florida’s redevelopment district, called ENCORE!  The work was commissioned by the City of Tampa and Trio at Encore LP through a public art grant awarded last year.

Natalie’s three murals, each comprised of 40, 18″ x 18″ tiles, will be installed on the walls that run the perimeter of ENCORE’s Trio apartment homes.  

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The murals are designed to showcase the history of this largely African American neighborhood from the late 19th century to the present, a time when this neighborhood was the principal business and entertainment district of Tampa’s African American community. Read more about Natalie’s thoughts on the designs here.
Watch excerpts from Natalie’s work making one of the murals:
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The installation of the murals will take place over a two week period from March 25-April 9, when each tile will be carefully mortared onto the wall and the entire mural will be grouted.
Here is a section of one of the murals, depicting: 1) the Scrub, the community of freed slaves that developed after Emancipation that is now the site of Encore! 2) verses from the National Negro Anthem; 3) the Industrial Revolution, including the cigar boom of Ybor city; 4) commemoration of the first African American vote; 5) African-American-owned churches and businesses.
handmade, ceramic art tile by Natalie Blake
This detail shows: 1) the Emancipation Proclamation; 2) initial trade between Tampa and Cuba  3) a freed slave 4) The Counselor and Interpreter, Abraham, who served as a liaison between the US President and the Seminole Indians; 5) the first Tampa Bay Hotel.
handmade, ceramic art tile by Natalie Blake
This detail shows the Buckingham Theatre Saloon, one of the first African-American-owned businesses in the late 1800′s.
Natalie Blake public art grant

The Blue Ripple Mandala

Natalie has recently been musing on her public art grant from Chabot Collge (Hayward, CA).  This large grant was given to the studio in 2011 for a campus-wide art installation.  Here’s what Natalie recently had to say about the Blue Ripple Mandala:

The Blue Ripple Mandala is one of our largest installations on the Chabot College campus.   This piece started out as a gift to the college, and turned into one of our favorite pieces. We didn’t want to cheat the fabulously ugly wall out of the best possible solution.  This wall faced the exit of the new $5 million dollar administration building, an oversight from the architect in my opinion. Why do we feel concrete walls with all the goop stains and form lines are acceptable?

They are a huge NO facing us, as far as I’m concerned. I wanted to make a huge YES with that Blue Ripple Mandala.

I had created this idea for a piece as a proposal for another art grant in Albequerque. Cynthia Parker-Houghton (Natalie Blake Studios Designer)  figured out the correct scale for this piece and carved it out beautifully. We envisioned blue for this piece from the beginning, as a cooling agent for the campus. The blistering heat can be a menace to daily campus life, especially shrouded in cement walls and walks. While the concept of the piece was a blue mandala with ripple waves, what I now see after it is in place is an abstract flower that is really a  reflection  as seen in ripples of water.

handmade, sgraffito-carved, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake

Installing the Blue Ripple Mandala:

 

wall art tile, public art, chabot college art, Natalie Blake

 

Making the Rose Circle

In 2012 we  installed “Homecoming”, a campus-wide art installation at Chabot College, Hayward, CA. The most wonderful part of the Chabot installation was the first two days of the semester, when, finishing up our installation, we got to hear direct feedback from the students and staff. The campus was packed. Students of all ethnicities walked back and forth past this busy intersection of sidewalks where we were installing the Rose Circle piece. They gave us encouragement, thumbs up, big smiles, and genuine thank you’s. We were feeling good about the work we were installing, and yet we didn’t realize how much it would mean to have all those people whose home this was, support what we were trying to achieve.

The Rose Circle is comprised of 28, 25”w x 22”h cast, lightweight concrete tiles created from original in carved clay. The concrete tiles were thin-set mortared to the existing concrete ring which is 2’ h x 58’ circumference. The tiles were acid-stained in blue and russet tones.

Watch video footage of the making of the Rose Circle installation.

Art does not exist in a vacuum. It’s made for the eyes and hands of the viewer.  Our Rose Circle piece was made not only for the viewer but for the tactile  admirer.  The deep relief carving on the tiles draws you in and you can’t help but run your hands over it. One can sit on the concrete ledge that is still exposed “rose garden water” at their feet. Here it is before….and then after….

 

The Rose Circle: Before

The Rose Circle: Before

cast, lightweight concrete tiles by Natalie Blake Studios

The Rose Circle

 

Here are a few closeups of the carved concrete:

 

concrete detail small file 2

 

 

concrete detail small file

Details, details, details!

 

ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake

We’re not bothered by the details here at Natalie Blake Studios. In fact, we LOVE the details!  It’s the detail of our work that draws the viewer in. From a distance our murals have a bold, sculptural presence. But lean in and notice that each line on every tile has been carved by hand. Like brushstrokes on a painting, our carving lines add movement and texture to the work. You can actually feel the texture.  This tactile quality of our work adds yet another dimension to our art.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

carving a ceramic wall art tile

We achieve this textured carving by using the ancient technique of “sgraffito,” which means “to scratch” in Italian.  First we brush a layer of slip (a creamy mixture of clay, water and pigment) onto the clay. After the slip dries, we carve through this layer to reveal the lighter-colored clay underneath.

 

 

 

Ribbon Tools

 

 

 

We use a ribbon tool to do our carving.  These miniature sculpting tools are made of fine ribbon steel, heat-treated for maximum strength.

 

For more detail on our tile-making process, check out our Youtube video, “Carving Curved Clay”

 

ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake

Closeup of the Tree of Life mural, showing undulation of tiles and sgraffito-carving

ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake

Sgraffito-carved tiles, air drying before going into the bisque firing

carved ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake

carved ceramic wall art tile

Sgraffito-carved tile

carving a ceramic wall art tile

Natalie carving a ceramic wall art tile

 

ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake

Outdoor installation of ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake Studios

 

The story of a custom kitchen backsplash

The story of our Tree of Life backsplash: from commission to completion

 

Last year at this time (December 2012) a couple from Washington state contacted us to discuss commissioning a custom kitchen backsplash. They’d seen our website and found images of our Tree of Life that they really liked.  custom, ceramic wall art tileThey emailed us the image that they liked best, commenting on how they liked the way the roots looked, and the overall shape of the tree. They also asked whether we could make the piece in cream and brown, to complement the stone in the stove area.

Here’s the image they sent

 

After getting the measurements of the wall where the backsplash was to be installed, we Photoshopped an image of our Tree of Life into the image of their stove area.  We determined that 4, 12″ x 12″ tiles would be the best size for the space. This size would also allow for a 1″ border tile to set the piece off from the rest of the stone backsplash.  We recommended that the tree be offset, rather than centered, to mirror the asymmetry of the stovetop:

Their response was “So beautiful!  The tree design is fantastic!” Once we had the design nailed down, we worked more on the glaze color to use.

glaze colors by Natalie Blake StudiosThey emailed us images of the stone that would comprise the majority of the backsplash. Based on this image, and their request for cream and brown, we sent them 3″ x 3″ color chips of our yellow and our cream glazes and showed them how each glaze would look against their stone.

We all agreed that the cream glaze would be the best choice for the piece.  The piece was completed about 6 weeks later. We sent the couple an image of the tiles, fresh from the glaze kiln:

 

handmade, ceramic, art tile, backsplash by Natalie Blake Studios

Backsplash, glazed in cream

 

Their response: “They look so beautiful!!! We can’t wait–thanks for keeping us appraised on your progress. We couldn’t be happier:)”

They asked us about what sealant we’d recommend putting on the tiles since they are installed behind the stovetop.  While all of our tiles have a low sheen that is scrubbable it’s not imperative that a sealant is used. However, if a client wants to seal the tiles we recommend using Miracle, 511 Porous Plus, Natural Look Penetrating Sealer.

Here are images of the piece, installed. The border tile that was used is tumbled Turkish Travertine, available at most tile stores.

handmade, ceramic kitchen backsplash tile by Natalie Blake

handmade, sgraffito-carved, ceramic, backsplash tile

24″ x 24″ Tree of Life kitchen backsplash

“We could not be happier with how our tile backsplash turned out…we are so grateful to have found you for our project. We wanted this to be the focal point of our newly remodeled kitchen & to have it be a representation of something important to our family. This is perfect!! Thank you again for working with us to make this happen!

We’ve had a few holiday gatherings this month & have had SO many people ask where we got these beautiful tiles!!!  They really set everything off perfectly.” –Brad and Kim, Washington State

handmade, custom, ceramic backsplash tile

Photo(10)

 

 

 

 

10 Things Artists Want You to Know

 

 

Natalie was recently interviewed for an article written by Laura Gaskill, a Houzz.com contributor. We thought we’d share a link to the article

Houzz article

 Ever wonder how artists decide on a price for their creative work? Why it usually costs more to buy from an art gallery than from an artist’s studio? Just curious about what professional artists do all day? Here are 10 insights from five artists working in a variety of mediums; included are photographers, painters and a ceramicist.  READ MORE….

 

Ceramic Wall Art Tile Installed in New Kentucky Hospital

handmade, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blakehandmade, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake

Nature-based designs and soothing colors: these were the criteria that the art committee of the new Owensboro Health Regional Hospital (Owensboro, KY) used to select art for the new hospital.   Natalie Blake Studios was honored to create ceramic wall art tile for the hospital.

In developing guidelines for artwork, the committee used research about art in healthcare.  ”The purpose of the artwork is to provide positive distractions to help patients leave the stress of the moment and respond better to treatment, ” said Barbara Harriman, President / Creative Director of Distinctive Art Source and an art advisor working with the committee.

 

 

 

 

“Putting the right art in place supports patient care, and can even lead to shorter hospital stays,” she says.  ”Studies indicate that patients need less medication and exhibit more positive attitudes when exposed to artwork featur­ing natural surroundings,” she notes. “We want to create an experience to keep patients close to nature and support the architectural serenity designed into the space.”

Harriman commissioned three ceramic wall tile triptychs from Natalie Blake Studios  for the hospital’s 5th floor family area. Each grouping of 3 tiles were to be installed in a wooden, recessed panel.  The ceramic art discs are each 18″ in diameter; the square tiles are 8″. All are glazed in rich, natural colors to complement the wood niches and the fabric colors in the room.

“Natalie Blake’s textural representation of nature’s elements beautifully complemented Owensboro’s warm interiors featuring natural stone and wood. Her ability to customize the size, color and design of each tile made her work a perfect fit on this project. It’s always a pleasure coordinating commissions with Natalie and her team.” ~ Barbara Harriman, President / Creative Director of Distinctive Art Source.

handmade, ceramic tile by Natalie Blake Studios