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)

 

 

 

 

Making a custom, kitchen backsplash

Our most recent backplash…we call it Little Tree because we customized the tiles, making 7″ x 7″ tiles in order to fit the entire tree in the space.

handmade, ceramic backsplash tile

handmade, ceramic backsplash tile

A homeowner contacted us to order a custom-made, ceramic tile backsplash to go above her kitchen range.  She gave us the dimensions of the wall space that she wanted to fill, minus the size of the “rod” style tile in black, wrought iron, that will border the custom tiles we make. We then determined that she’d need 7″ x 7″ tiles, allowing for the groutlines.  When she said she wanted the Tree of Life design we Photoshopped an image of a Tree of Life mural on the image she sent us of her space.  She loved it!

Photoshopped image of Tree of Life backsplash

Photoshopped image of Tree of Life backsplash

 

She approved, and we’ve started the piece.  We will work with her to pick glaze colors, first by sending her a sampling of 3″ x 3″ color chips so that she can see the actual glaze colors before making her choice.

 

handmade tile, Natalie Blake, ceramic tile, backsplash tile

Beginning the tiles: sketch and tools ready!

We’ve started making the piece by first rolling out the tiles, and draping them over our forms on the table to give the tiles our signature undulation.

Click on the image below to watch a short video of this process:

 

backsplash tile, Natalie Blake

Tiles drying on molds to give them their undulation

Here we are carving the piece:

backsplash tile, Natalie Blake

Sgraffito-carving

backsplash tile, handmade tile, Natalie Blake

Carving

 

Here’s the final piece, fresh from the kiln.

handmade, ceramic backsplash tile by Natalie Blake

7″ x 7″ backsplash tiles

 

We just received (Dec 10, 2013) 2 images of the piece being installed. These images show the tiles in place, but not yet grouted. Stay tuned for more images!

handmade, ceramic backsplash tile by Natalie Blake installed, not grouted 2

 

Newest Backsplash, installed

Natalie and her fiance, Nick, recently installed this custom backsplash for a client in Annapolis, MD.

Natalie writes:

Bev and I met five years ago at the American Craft Council show in Baltimore where she gave me a deposit and told me she didn’t think she would ever find the kind of backsplash she was looking for, but had a hunch I might be able to make it for her. I had just started making tiles at that point and the first pieces were small squares with flowers and leaves on them. She was a ways off at that point from having her kitchen remodeled, and a couple of years later finally started asking me for glaze colors and sketches as her renovations were coming to completion. The final renovations took a while to be punch listed, and so we had yet another year and a half to think about design, and for me to create some of the glaze colors that Bev was hoping for. She wanted a purple backsplash. I hoped I wouldn’t have to make a completely purple piece, and in the end we realized that some blue and cashew colors would most suit the beautiful granite countertop fleck tones in the counters she had found.

custom backsplash tile by Natalie Blake STudios

Players, custom backsplash tile by Natalie Blake STudios

 

Last February I finally visited the house, as she was truly ready, and we agreed on colors and concept. I was to work with a painting by Anatole Kraznyansky Russian artists that they had bought while on a cruise. While I said I wasn’t interested in reading directly off this imagery, I was willing to take that image in and bounce off it to create my own feedback loop of imagery in response to this painting. And so I went home to my studio, rolled out white paper, measured out my tile sizes, and then stared at the paper. I stared for a couple of days and found myself quickly filling in images that appeared on the paper as I sat and waited. This was a most enjoyable process and felt very easeful. It was as if these figures wanted to come out on the page and be seen. The energy lines coming off these mythical figures moves from the center outward creating butterfly wing vibrations on the left of the piece and a storm at sea on the right side of the piece.

 

 

custom backsplash tile by Natalie Blake STudios

Players, custom backsplash tile by Natalie Blake STudios

 

The mythical goddess/queen figure, who showed up to me as benevolent and compassionate with powerful ram horns which give her the power gift of reverence and might, can be seen as flying in horizontal position holding a point of energy with her left hand that can be seen as either holding the cacophony of wind and storm tumult at bay, or pulling the source of that storm of energy along with her.  She is holding a tiny sailboat in her right hand. She holds it near the lute player whose large cloaked arm holds a feminine character in his sleeve. His face is the King’s face that can be found in the three faced musician facing right (the figure’s left). The other two musicians are playing a ukelele type instrument and a double-headed woodwind that blows the monarch butterfly wing sound waves.

 

On the left hand side of the kitchen, I created a single musician standing alone playing with energy lines coming out from the top of his head and cascading away to the left. He plays a double barreled lute like instrument that I am not even sure exists, but I found some interesting images on line with this kind of shape. Beautiful instruments!!!  He has a black face and to me seems to be playing perhaps some sort of jazz.  There are nine faces in the main backsplash, which happens to be my lucky number.

handmade, ceramic backsplash tile by Natalie Blake Studios

Installing backsplash tile

 

 

musicians

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natalie Blake Studios Tiles in New England Home Magazine

The studio’s Botanical tiles are pictured in the Elements section of New England Home’s October issue.

The section highlights “striking kitchen and bath materials from around New England.” As the write-up explains, “Natalie Blake Studios uses the technique called sgraffito for its undulating tiles, carving free-hand to ensure the unique character and exquisite delicacy of each one.  As functional as they are beautiful, they would make a sensational backsplash, though many of the studio’s clients hang them on the wall as art.”

We are proud to be a New England-made source for fine wall art and backsplash tile.

handmade, ceramic wall art tile

Natalie Blake Studios tile mural in New England Home magazine

Here are two versions of the tile mural, one in cream, one in honey:

handmade, ceramic wall art and backsplash tile, Natalie Blake Studios

Botanical Cream

 

handmade, ceramic wall art and backsplash tile

Botanical, glazed in honey

 

The mural certainly makes a beautiful backsplash:

Natalie Blake Studios handmade, ceramic backsplash tile

Botanical, handmade, ceramic backsplash tile

Kitchen Backsplash

This piece is comprised of 6, 12″ x 12″ tiles and 4 shape tiles. We could have created a square mural that would have fit directly above the stovetop, but we thought the design would have looked too tight for the space. So we designed the piece to include shape tiles that extended the backsplash. The piece is a bold statement that really pops against the beautiful warm wood of the cabinetry and slate counters. We designed the piece so that the horizontal grout line in the middle of the piece lines up with the bottom of the cabinets on either side.

We typically recommend a neutral brown grout with an 1/8″ grout line for our tiles.

Installing our backsplash tiles is not difficult. You can read our installation instructions here: Install Instructions for Natalie Blake Studios Tile

 

Handmade, ceramic backsplash tiles by Natalie Blake Studios

Tree of Life Backsplash

Cool backsplash brightens a kitchen

Just a few tiles serve as a beautiful kitchen backsplash and add just the right amount of color to this lovely kitchen.




handmade, sgraffito-carved, ceramic backsplash tiles by Natalie Blake Studios

backsplash tiles by Natalie Blake Studios



Here’s a closer look:




handmade, sgraffito-carved, backsplash tiles by Natalie Blake Studios

handmade, sgraffito-carved, backsplash tiles by Natalie Blake Studios





Ann Sacks, San Francisco

Just completed this 15-tile Dahlia mural for a client of Ann Sacks Tile Co.  Three of our designs (Dahlia, Botanical and Nautilus are available exclusively through the Ann Sacks Tile Co).

The client liked the full Dahlia mural but only needed 15 tiles. So she selected the section of the larger mural that she wanted. Here’s the result.  The tiles will be surrounded by smooth field tiles and grouted in place.

Click on the image to enlarge it.


Dahlia mural


Kitchen Backsplash

Unalun tile is ideally suited for backsplash applications.  Unalun tiles give your backsplash real “pop”.

In researching backsplash ideas on the web, we came across this advice from Tim, at Askthebuilder.com:

“It’s no surprise to me that you keep gravitating to ceramic tile for your backsplash. A tile backsplash will last for years, and will add beauty to your kitchen. I have installed ceramic tile at backsplash locations between the countertops and the underside of kitchen wall cabinets for years, and each homeowner was dazzled by the final appearance.  Ceramic tile makes sense when you are mulling over backsplash ideas because it is durable, easy to clean, colorful and can add texture to an otherwise dull, flat boring wall space. In recent years, there seems to have been an explosion of new tile colors, patterns, styles and textures, many of which are perfect for areas directly behind a kitchen sink and cooktop areas.”


Stay tuned for upcoming images of unalun tiles in backsplash applications.

 


 

Natalie Blake tiles for backsplashes


The magazine, Kitchen Solutions, recently showcased our Dahlia tile design, carried exclusively by Ann Sacks Tile Company.  According to the editor:

“Lush and sculptural, Ann Sacks’ new Blake Studios tile collection combines old-world craftsmanship with striking contemporary beauty.  Handmade using the ancient Italian technique sgraffito, where surfaces are etched to create shapes in the contrasting layers beneath, each tile is a masterpiece in its own right.  The tiles are offered in an 18-color palette.”


Contact us to discuss your backsplash ideas.


Click on the images to enlarge them:

tile backsplashtile backsplash