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 the environment, such as the pair of geese and the kingfisher which ended up in the mural. Our new studio site abuts the West River and during our lunch break we sometimes visit the river. I paid special attention to the wild plants and the landscape and how the rocks and the river interact. This became research for the details of the mural. I also kept thinking of my 7 year old son as I carved some of the details (he's actually the biker under the bridge!). I loved imagining him discovering the details in the piece. Whenever he would visit me at work he would look to see what I had carved."
The idea of the books emerging from the train smoke and then morphing into birds came out of Natalie's surrealist sensibilities. One reason why this mural's design works so well is that it marries Cynthia's realism and Natalie's surrealism.
Here is the final sketch that was the result of Natalie and Cynthia working with the art committee to gather ideas:
In a moment of inspiration we suggested that the hospital post a key to finding fun animals and objects in the tile mural. Tucked into various corners of the design are: a beaver, squirrels, a salamander (can you find them below?) and many more.
We had so much fun making this mural. The first step was to envision the layout of the entire mural and to make the forms that would give the wall art tiles their signature undulation.
Next we laid each handmade tile over the forms:
Handmade forms create the undulation in the tiles
After painting slip on the tiles, we carved the design, using the undulations to "shape" the design:
Clay tiles draped over forms
Here is the piece, carved and bisque-fired:
Thanks to Nancy Samotis, who was the art consultant for this project and a real pleasure to work with!
"Patients, family and staff all love the way Natalie Blake Studio's 8' x 6' mural welcomes them to the Yale-New Haven Health Pediatric Specialty Center. It stands on its own as a statement piece, and also offers interactive elements by having "hidden images" within the larger design. Thanks to Natalie and her team for going above and beyond with this art commission." --Nancy Samotis
Ready to be glazed!