Tag Archives: outdoor installations of tile murals

We did it!

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 Natalie says, “It is so awesome to make clay tiles.  As I move into making public art, I appreciate more and more that my ceramic tile murals can be part of the story-telling.  The tactile quality of my carved tiles means that the viewer can appreciate the work through several senses.  I love the permanence of tile too.  The mural not only relays the history, but becomes part of the history as well.  It’s an art form that we shouldn’t lose.”

In a playful moment, Natalie carved a replica of the Encore development into the third mural. Then, on the wall that lines the development she carved a little sun, the recurring element in each mural.   You’ll find her signature in the lefthand corner of the second (middle) mural.

 

handmade, carved, ceramic tile by Natalie Blake

Natalie Blake carving ceramic tile wall art

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After months of carving, glazing and firing 120, 18″ x 18″  tiles, we were ready to begin the installation. Nick Marchese, Natalie Blake Studios’ installer, and Alan, his assistant, drove the tiles to Tampa to begin the job. The installation got off to a rocky start as Nick and Alan were delayed by rain and thunderstorms for the first two days. But after a few fitful starts the project got rolling.  They prepped the concrete walls by scoring them (slightly scraping the concrete surface so that the tiles would adhere better).

Trio at Encore development

Before: The concrete walls onto which the murals would be mortared.

After a week Natalie flew down to relieve Alan. By that time many tiles had been mortared to the concrete walls and the mood on the site was much better!

Nick used the ultimate thin set for porcelain and glass tiles.  The mortar is so strong that it is used for tiling swimming pools. In fact, a crew of workmen who were installing a swimming pool on site, came by to watch Nick work and were impressed with his choice of mortar.  After admiring the mortar (as tilers will!) they hung around to admire the murals too.

 

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Nick installing tiles

 

 

installing ceramic tile murals Natalie Blake Studios

The work site quickly became a hub of colorful activity. Natalie and Nick (and all other workers on the development site) had to wear bright, fluorescent shirts and hardhats for safety. The murals themselves were glazed in rich colors and the concrete walls around the murals were stained in lush orange, blue and purple.

Natalie on the work site

Natalie on the work site

Nick not only installed the tiles, but also created a beautiful “frame” of stained concrete around each mural. First he applied a deep orange acid stain to the entire concrete wall.  Then he and Natalie went back and, with small sponges, dabbed on a soy-based stain in blues and purples. This “faux finish” look was then sealed with a soy-based product that created a beautiful sheen. He and Natalie were very happy with the results.

handmade, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake

Nick staining the concrete walls

 

handmade, ceramic tile wall art by Natalie Blake

Nick staining the concrete wall

There were other visitors to the work site: Three older Black women who lived in one of the apartment buildings in the complex dropped by one day and told Natalie that they’d grown up in the neighborhood. So Natalie invited them to look at one of the murals.  Natalie heard them laughing as they peeked under the protective tarp at the tiles.  They were traveling down “Memory Lane” as they saw Natalie’s depictions of historical events from their lives. Then one of the women, her hand raised as if in a High Five, exclaimed to Natalie, “Memories!”  For Natalie this was the most special moment of the installation.

Natalie and Nick also received kudos from representatives of the Bank of America (a major funder) and the Tampa Housing Authority. “It’s greater than my expectations,” said David from the Tampa Housing Authority.

Melissa LeBaron, Tampa’s Public Arts Coordinator, also dropped by and was so relieved to see that the last box of tiles had arrived safely from Vermont. (the backstory is that some of the tiles had cracked during the firing process–due to a bad batch of clay–and the studio staff were hard at work remaking those tiles in order to get them to Nick for the installation)

Natalie and Nick really enjoyed their time in Tampa. For the most part the weather was beautiful, though quite hot! Because the sun beat full blast on their job site starting at about 1 pm everyday, they began work at 7.

 

dawn on the job

Driving at dawn to the job site

 

As Natalie says, “We were honored to be part of this amazing project to revitalize this important neighborhood. There’s so much history here; the ancestors are watching and waiting to see how it will all turn out.  We made our own offering to the ancestors; with the leftover mortar and grout Nick made his “heavy hearts” and we put them in special locations. Now, it is up to the residents to breathe new life into this neighborhood.  We trust they will.”

concrete sculpture by Nick Marchese

Nick’s “Heavy Heart”

 

 

The Gift of Gathered Remembrances, I, II, III

 

handmade, carved, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake Studios

Gift of Gathered Remembrances, I

 

 

handmade, carved, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake Studios

Gift of Gathered Remembrances, II

 

 

handmade, carved, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake Studios

Gift of Gathered Remembrances, III

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What size should my artwork be?

 

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 50″.  You can see that the mural fills the space nicely, with a nice “frame” of wall around the piece so that the room doesn’t look cluttered by the artwork.

 

sculpted, carved ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake

 

In the example below the width of the wall is 144″.  Using the calculation, the mural should be about 82″.  The mural is 75″ wide.  Even without using the calculation we can see that the piece fits in the space. A large room such as this, with high ceilings, can take a larger piece of artwork.  The benefit of a ceramic tile mural like this one is that the work can be appreciated from a distance, or up close to see the carving lines.

sculpted, carved, ceramic tile mural

 

ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake

 

Feel free to contact the studio if you’d like help determining what size ceramic mural would fit your wall. Our tiles are made in sizes from 12″ -20″ square.  If you send us an image of your wall/space we can Photoshop a mural into the image to give you an idea of what the piece will look like.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natalie and Nick installing at Chabot College

Natalie and her fiance, Nick, are installing their artwork at Chabot College, Hayward, CA.

This is the final installation of the public art grant the studio was awarded in 2010.

 

This is the Rose Circle installation: concrete tiles made by Natalie and her fiance, Nick (Hand

of Man Builders).  The tiles are acid-stained, concrete positives of Natalie’s original carved

clay tiles.

handmade, concrete tile by Natalie Blake

handmade, concrete tile by Natalie Blake

 

This piece, the Blue Ripple Mandala is being installed on a 20-foot wall.

handmade, ceramic wall tile by Natalie Blake Studios

Blue Ripple Mandala, ceramic tile

 

 

handmade, ceramic wall tile by Natalie Blake Studios

Blue Ripple Mandala

 

 

handmade, ceramic wall tile by Natalie Blake Studio

Blue Ripple Mandala, Chabot College

Poolside Installation

A homeowner in Hill Country, Texas contacted us this spring. He was looking for decorative accent tiles to grout into a stone wall that surrounds his pool.  He had heard about our work from his pool salesman.

He looked through our Tile Catalogue and picked these tiles.

According to the homeowner, “the designs we saw on the website were just what we were seeking…perfect colors, suitably artistic and subtle.  A great complement for our stone.”

However, he wanted the tiles to be bigger: “Customer service was excellent beginning to end.  The tiles shown on the website were 12″ squares which were a bit small for the size of the wall.  A quick call to Ellen and the problem was solved … she informed us that they could be made in 14″ squares.  Moreover, she helped us understand the exterior mounting options and procedure.”

handmade, ceramic tile by Natalie Blake Studios

handmade, ceramic tile by Natalie Blake Studios

 

 

Here is the image of his pool, showing two of the tiles, grouted into the stone wall.

 

handmade, ceramic tile by Natalie Blake Studios

Natalie Blake Studios’ handmade tile inlaid

Handmade, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie

poolside installation of Natalie Blake Studio tile

 

There are two tiles in this picture, one on either side of the waterfall.

handmade, ceramic tile by Natalie Blake Studios

tile grouted into stone wall

 

I asked him how he likes the final product. Here’s what he said: “The tiles are beautiful!  They really add just the right accent to our pool.  Everyone, including our pool company president, who sees the pool is suitably impressed.  The tiles turned our Hill Country pool into an artistic statement.  We love it!”

Vine mural completed

An art consultant contacted us this winter, asking for help in designing a tile mural for a residential installation. The art consultant sent us images of the client’s living room to give us an idea of style and color.

 

 

The client liked the idea of a botanical design.  We sketched the following design and the client loved it:

We proposed a mural of 9, 12″ square tiles to fill the wall leading into the space.  The client worked with her interior designer, taping paper cut-outs on the wall to determine spacing. Here’s what they initially came up with.

"Before" shot

We made a counter proposal which the client really liked.  We glazed the piece in honey, jade, and cashew.  Here’s the finished piece:

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

Vine, handmade, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake Studios

 

Here’s the piece installed in the space.

 

Vine, handmade, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake Studios

Vine, installed

 

 

 

More images of the Hawaii installation

We just received more images of our tiles installed at the Hawaii residence. We made murals and name plates for guest suites at a residence in Hawaii. See our earlier posts on this project.

 

These latest murals are glazed in  russet, persimmon, jade and turquoise.  Click here to see closeups of each of these murals.

 

 

Natalie Blake Studios handmade, ceramic wall art tile

Natalie Blake Studios handmade, ceramic wall art tile, residential installation

Natalie Blake Studios handmade ceramic wall art tile

Natalie Blake Studios handmade ceramic wall art tile installed in Hawaii

Natalie Blake Studios handmade, ceramic wall art tile

Natalie Blake Studios handmade, ceramic wall art tile, residential installation

 

Natalie Blake Studios handmade, ceramic wall art tile, residential installation

Natalie Blake Studios handmade, ceramic wall art tile, residential installation

 

 

 

Mural hangs in Hawaii!

 

This piece, called Mauna Kea, is installed on a stone wall in a garden at a Hawaiian residence.  Natalie met the clients at the Philadelphia Museum Show.  They saw her work and commissioned a mural to decorate this wall, which blocked their view of the volcano, Mauna Kea (side note: it’s the highest point on the island of Hawaii).  They wanted a piece that would “show” them the volcano.

Natalie embellished the design with flora from the island, including the wild ginger plant.

Natalie’s fiance, Nick, installed the piece.  His meticulousness ensured that the tiles are straight and inline with each other–not an easy task on an irregularly-shaped, stone wall.

 

Ceramic Wall Art Tile, Outdoor Art

handmade, ceramic wall  tiles by Natalie Blake Studios

Ceramic Wall Tiles installed in Hawaii

Natalie and Nick installing tiles for a client

Natalie and Nick are in Iowa finishing up an installation of Natalie’s wall art tile for a residential client.  These are the shape tiles we blogged about in August.

 

Here’s what Natalie had to say about these tiles:

“This commission was made at the Des Moines Art Festival in 2009.  The client had been searching for some original art for her foyer. My fiance, Nick and I went to visit her home, and we learned that the family loved music. The client and her daughter also loved butterflies. I came away from their house trying to imagine a mural that would suit the space but not overwhelm it.   Nick suggested on our drive back to Vermont that I break out of the square and create a piece I had not done before. Over the course of the next two years, I worked on designs, and the client renovated a large part of her house, including the stair and foyer.

I created large ceramic tiles that were abstracted instruments that morphed into animated abstractions, and then into abstracted butterfly designs.

I call the piece, “Diapason Unfurling”

Diapason means:

diapason |ˌdīəˈpāzən; -sən|noun (also open diapason or stopped diapason ):  an organ stop sounding a main register of flue pipes, typically of eight-foot pitch.

• poetic/literary the entire compass, range, or scope of something.

• figurative a grand swelling burst of harmony.

The last line is the best description of this piece. It is the first piece in the unfurling of a completely new approach to ceramic tile wall sculpture!  I am very excited to create other pieces in this fluid, breaking-out-of-square method.

The saxophone piece measures 42″ tall and 40″ wide, to give a sense of scale. The two middle sized notes are approximately a foot in length.”

 

handmade, sgraffito-carved, ceramic wall tile

Natalie and Nick installing wall art tile for a client

 

 

handmade, ceramic wall tiles by Natalie Blake Studios

Butterfly tiles, handmade, ceramic wall tiles by Natalie Blake Studios

 

handmade, shaped, ceramic wall tile

Butterfly: handmade, shaped, ceramic wall tile

 

 

 

handmade, ceramic wall tiles by Natalie Blake Studios

handmade, ceramic wall tiles by Natalie Blake Studios

Natalie sent these pictures from the road in Iowa..

 

This is a blade of a windmill being transported down the highway.

Tree of Life installed in restaurant in Texas


A restaurant owner in Texas recently commissioned our Tree of Life wall tile mural for their new pizza restaurant. We worked with them on finding the right size mural and the colors that would work best against the wall color they chose. We think it looks great!













Tree of Life, handmade, sgraffito-carved, ceramic wall tiles by Natalie Blake Studios

Tree of Life, commercial installation









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

Tree of Life








Outdoor installations of ceramic tile murals


Unalun tiles can be installed indoors or outdoors. The high-fired, durable, sun and weather resistant tile can be grouted into a permanent installation or hung as a tile mural. The modular format of the tiles can be adapted to suit architectural niches, angles, large or small spaces, curved walls, and indoor or outdoor applications. Check out these outdoor installations:

Click on the images to enlarge them.


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