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“Little Tree of Four” Kitchen Backsplash

  Another happy customer from Natalie Blake Studios!  

"Our kitchen project is finished,

and the “Little Tree of Four” is installed.

It looks absolutely beautiful and is the highlight of our kitchen! "

G. Szegedy

REV Gizella Szegegy Backsplash_0390

Little Tree of Four ceramic porcelain hand sgraffito carved backsplash.

REV Gizella Szegegy Backsplash_0388

No maintenance tiles, that are easy to clean using any household cleaner and a scrubby, or wipe with Windex.

Color fast tiles, that are heat and water resistent.

Perfect to use in a kitchen near a stove or sink.

REV Gizella Szegegy Backsplash_0389

Custom designs and sizes for any backsplash commission available within 6-12 weeks from receipt of deposit. Natalie Blake Studios designers will work with you to find the perfect image and colors to fit in your custom home. Please contact the studio by phone at 802.254.9761 or email at info@natalieblake.com.    

We did it!

Ceramic Tile Murals Tell the History of a Tampa Neighborhood

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

Mural I

handmade, sgraffito-carved, ceramic wall tile by Natalie Blake     handmade, sgraffito-carved, ceramic wall tile by Natalie Blake 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 IMG_0520 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.
IMG_7420

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"

Watch this video clip of the unveiling of the murals:   Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 4.06.50 PM 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.                                          

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"

                     

The story of a custom kitchen backsplash

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

kitchen backsplash tile by Natalie Blake Last year at this time (December 2012) a couple from Washington 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.  They 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. 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)    
   

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  

Grandmother Tree: From Inspiration to Installation

Our blog has closely followed the creation of several works of ceramic artwork that we installed at Chabot College after receiving their public art grant. Before any designs were drawn or tiles carved, Natalie and Cynthia traveled to the campus to find potential installation sites and gather inspiration from its spaces and its students. Custom Designed Tile Mural, Public Art Natalie and Cynthia also got to speak with students, who had influential requests: “Give us beauty” and “a feeling that we are in nature.” “Remind us that we are HOME.” “Delight us with color to brighten our day.” “Don’t give us anything cliché.” There were a lot of artistic possibilities at Chabot, but this location jumped out immediately – a towering orange wall in the midst of a wide open space in the newest building on campus, a faculty building. It begged for a custom designed tile mural of massive scale. Like this perfect spot, it was hard to pass over images of the amazingly stoic and ancient redwood trees characteristic of northern California. A big, grand tree seemed the perfect symbol for this faculty space, representing knowledge and wisdom of generations and the ages in sculptural art. Cynthia, our project designer, found a fitting design in an interesting way:

"When we were designing our proposal for this public art award we took one of our favorite trees and digitally stretched it onto this column. Shifting scale really changed the feeling of it; we loved the way it transformed the space and the column. The campus voted on their favorite ideas and then the arts committee gave us the go ahead. We were so psyched to take that digital concept and make it into a reality of ceramic artwork.

It was more than three times bigger than the trees we had been making so to accommodate it in our work space we sgraffito carved it in sections starting with the roots. Carving it was like a meditation on each aspect of the trees structure and the vital flow of energy which it embodies." Cynthia Parker-Houghton

The finished sculptural art mural had 84 tiles, and at a total height of 252 inches, presented a totally new challenge of installation. So, we rented a mechanical lift, and the rest is history – or at least, a timelapse.

Timelapse: Ceramic Artwork Installation

See more images of our Grandmother Tree installation at Chabot College and all of our work on Pinterest.

Custom designed ceramic artwork, Public Art Installation

Tile Wall Art That “Pops” at Fireworks Restaurant

When Fireworks Restaurant in Brattleboro, Vermont, was putting on the finishing touches before opening four years ago, owner Matt Blau invited us to install some of our ceramic tile art in the restaurant. He said, "Do whatever you want. You tell me what you think would look good."
After those magic words, we brought some ceramic wall art tiles that we had in stock to the Brattleboro restaurant and began looking at color and design. Our rich glazes worked really well against the wall colors and our designs seemed to fit naturally with the other design elements in the space.  Almost on their own, these two ceramic tile murals found their home on the painted walls. The persimmon-colored abstracted tree, hung on the diagonal, added the perfect "fiery" entrance greeting to make the customer feel at home in the warm, vibrant surroundings and ready for good food.  The mural is set for the perfect feng shui to provide a sense of invitation and arrival.

Ceramic Wall Art as Restaurant Art, Natalie Blake Studios

The turquoise and burnt oak glazes on the long two-tier "window" of tiles absolutely popped over the rich dark purple black hues of Benjamin Moore's paint color "Tulsa Twilight 2070-10". We decided on a simple and straightforward presentation of the tiles that sit over the side bar. They present almost like a transom window at slightly higher than eye level to add sophistication and elegance.

Vermont Tile Wall Art in Restaurant, Handmade Ceramic by Natalie Blake Studios

Vermont Tile Wall Art in Restaurant, Handmade Ceramic by Natalie Blake Studios

On a recent visit to the restaurant Natalie received the following list of patron's quotes about the art tiles from the manager:

"Love the texture and color!"

"They are decorative, yet finely crafted."

"Love the botanical elements."

"Understated elegance."

"Love that the artist is local."

We love working with local businesses, and our wall art tiles are also installed in the second Fireworks Restaurant in Keene, NH.  Not only are the businesses, and their owners, our friends, but we have the pleasure of seeing the art transform a space whenever we explore Brattleboro.

Placing our art in restaurants and doing an installation like this is so much fun for us. It's always a pleasure to find a blank slate, so to speak, to get creative, to work with the client, and to complement existing design elements from the space.  It really gets our creative juices flowing!

Using Handmade Ceramic Tile with Field Tile

We see a "canvas" for Natalie Blake Studios tiles wherever a tiled surface, as in a kitchen, a bathroom, or a pool area, needs a pop of color or a handmade touch. Adding a mosaic tile mural to a tiled backsplash or wall is an artful way to get both the eye-catching appeal of  handmade ceramic tile art and the functionality of traditional tile. When using handmade ceramic tile with field tile, choose tiles and colors that complement each other yet are different enough to make a statement. Glossy, solid- colored field tiles spotlight the richly detailed and colorful forms of Natalie Blake Studios' mosaic tiles, which in turn become an elegant centerpiece of the room.

Nautilus Shower Mural, Handmade Ceramic Tile Art

Mosaic Tile as Shower Art Our handmade ceramic bath tiles are versatile and can be used in wet and outdoor environments, like showers and saunas, and are actually well suited for it (they’re ceramic tile, after all). This piece, Nautilus, is installed in a townhouse apartment bathroom in Washington, DC, where it adds depth and color to the clean, modern design of the bathroom. For showers, kitchens, and anywhere that splashes are likely, it is essential to properly seal and install the tiles to protect them from dirt and damage. Handmade Ceramic Tile in Kitchen Backsplashes Using our art tile as the highlight in a kitchen backsplash is one of our favorite ways to see our tiles installed.  In the installation below, the playful shapes and colors of the Flowerscape, set off by the surrounding smooth field tile, break up the white of the kitchen.

Flowerscape, Handmade Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Our square tiles can also be incorporated into a tiled kitchen backsplash. Large murals or shorter horizontal groups add a vibrant splash of color to fit almost any size wall space (and many are in stock and ready to buy).
Adavasi, Handmade Kitchen Tile Backsplash

Adavasi Backsplash, 24" x 24"

Tree Branch, Backsplash, Handmade Ceramic Tiles

Tree Branch, 12" x 60"

Handmade Tile in an Outdoor Landscape  Here's an example of handmade ceramic tile as decorative accents in a poolside, stone wall.  The colorful tiles break up the monotone color of the stone wall and play off the beautiful, blue pool.

Handmade Tiles, Outdoor Pool Tiles

The possibilities are limitless. For more ideas on using handmade ceramic tiles in the kitchen, bathroom and even outdoors, get inspired by Natalie Blake Studios on Pinterest and Houzz.  Keep an eye out for our new line of backsplash tiles, designed to fit as a mosaic or accent piece within a field tile backsplash (coming in the fall). Here's a sneak peek of our backsplash design tests:
Natalie Blake Studios Backsplash Tiles, coming soon

Design tests for new backsplash tiles

New Installation

This grouping of 12", 14" , 16" and 18" tiles was recently installed in a residence in Baltimore.  The couple met Natalie at the American Craft Council show in Baltimore in February.  When Natalie returned to Vermont, she put together a grouping for them which Nick, Natalie's fiance installed last week. Here's what the homeowner says:
"Thank you for all your design ideas, suggestions and offering to sell your stock tile.  I must admit - had you initially told me a tile display for my sized wall was going to cost $9000, I probably would have shelved the tile idea.  Having the tiles here, seeing their beauty and creating a design to fill the space completely threw my initial budget out the window - rightfully so.  A smaller arrangement just wouldn't have been as dramatic or fitting for the wall.  (I even wondered if we should have used more.  Can always add.)"
  handmade, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake