Tag Archives: handmade ceramic tiles

“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

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Little Tree of Four ceramic porcelain hand sgraffito carved backsplash.

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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.

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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.    

Perry Harvey, Sr. Park

A History Through the Art

Perry Harvey, Sr. Park, Tampa, FL Located at 900 E. Scott Street, the park is a place where generations can come together to share the history of the Central Avenue, through art, music, and cultural attractions.

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Clay Tile Murals by Natalie Blake Studios

The Encore!® trio of murals, was made by Natalie Blake Studios This Public Art Installation was commissioned by the City of Tampa and Bank of America in 2014 as part of the Perry Harvey, Sr. Park.

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History of the Scrub and Central Avenue

City-of-Tampa-Perry-Harvey-Park-Natalie-Blake-Studios-H "The Scrub, once Tampa's oldest and largest African American neighborhood, traces its history to just after the Civil War, when newly freed slaves built homes in a scrub palmetto thicket outside of the Town of Tampa. The heart of the Scrub was the Central Avenue Business District."

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~ Visit ~

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If you are in Tampa, Florida be sure to visit the park, and wander through the neighborhood! If you see the three Natalie Blake murals, send us your photos so we can add them to this post! Thank you!

Perry Harvey, Sr. Park 900 East Scott Street Tampa, Florida Information for Perry Harvey, Sr. Park: Phone: (813) 274-8854 Email: specialevents@tampagov.net

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Residential Backsplash

We just received some photographs of a custom backsplash we did for a client in 2014. I am sure that she has waited a long time to put up these tiles, but now that she has them, she can enjoy them for years to come!                     Their kitchen is fully renovated, and she has sent photographs of her Natalie Blake Studios tiles above her stovetop. Doesn't it look gorgeous? We can make custom tiles to fit your interior ~ with endless designs and over 40 glaze colors, let us work with you to make your environment glorious.                       Our tiles are the perfect medium for a backsplash. Contact the studio so we can help you with your design, and answer any questions you might have.

New Residential Backsplash Installation

We just received photographs from a home owner who commissioned Natalie Blake Studios to make four tiles to have installed in her kitchen make-over. The client worked with our designer to come up with a pattern in glaze colors that she wanted to use in her kitchen based on her color board.   Natalie Blake Studios Utberg backsplash 2015 A WEB Natalie Blake Studios tiles are set off from the field tiles with a bull nose border. What is very pleasing with this installation is the grout is covered by matching cut field tile, so that the image blends in very nicely with the surrounding tile. Let us work with you or your client to augment their interiors.

Making a Tree of Life mural

  Once again our popular, handmade, carved, ceramic Tree of Life wall tile art will adorn a public space: this time a church in Florida.  The piece, measuring 36" x 36", will be hung in the lounge at the church. Cynthia Parker-Houghton, studio designer, created this piece. We thought it would be fun to document the process of making this piece. handmade, carved, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake     The first step in the process is laying out the handmade forms over which the clay tiles will drape, thus creating undulations in the tiles.  Here's what Cynthia says about this step: "The reason I stay interested in this tree icon is because it is familiar, comforting, grounding. And I think these qualities are especially important when the piece will be displayed in a sacred space.  When I lay out the forms, I always start with the trunk--the forms flow out from there and down into the roots.  I get the feeling that these forms represent the flow of energy from the nutrients in the soil to the roots, up the trunk and out the leaves. Because of our carving style--we carve away the black slip to reveal the white clay underneath, the piece has an energetic look to it.  You can imagine the wind and the particles flowing around it. "
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Laying out the forms over which the tiles will be slumped. This will create the undulations in the tiles

   
forms laid out

These forms create the "skeleton" of the tree

 
tiles on forms

Clay tiles take the shapes of the forms beneath them.

  After the clay is laid over the forms we paint on the slip:   handmade ceramic tiles DSC_0002 2   After the slip dries we begin carving, using a special tool that removes the darker slip. handmade, sgraffito-carved, ceramic wall tile by Natalie Blake   Cynthia Carving tree handsculpted, ceramic tile by Natalie Blake   Here's what Cynthia has to say about carving: "I get inspiration from nature.  As I'm carving I'm not thinking of a specific species of tree but the "feeling" of the tree-- the sturdiness or the delicateness or other qualities that the tree embodies.  I can feel those as I'm carving. There's always a little personification too: like this is the body of the tree, these are the arms. My carving style is a kind of dance. I use my whole body when I carve. If I just use my hand I don't have the grace.  So I use my shoulder, my whole arm, my trunk,--there's a flow to it.  The lines I choose to make are based on that flow. Sometimes it's appropriate to make small, tight lines, but generally I use more fluid, flowing lines."   The final steps are bisque-firing and glaze-firing, which takes about a week.  We then glue on our custom backings for easy hanging.  Start to finish, the process takes about 4-5 weeks.  

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees, especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness. I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, "Stay awhile." The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, "It's simple," they say, "and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine."

    -Mary Oliver

   

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.
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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.
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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

Architextural tiles

sculptural, custom, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake We developed this line of tile to showcase at the 2014 Architectural Digest Home Show.  It was a big hit!  Each tile is handmade, carved in our signature sgraffito style. The bold, gestural lines accentuate the sculptural undulations in the tile and almost read like topographical lines. These tiles can be grouped in any configuration, customized in any of our sizes from 12" - 20" square, and glazed in any of our 33 rich, luminous glaze colors.   ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake   An interior designer in south Florida is commissioning these tiles for a residential, exterior installation. 15, 12" x 12" tiles will hang as panels and 6, 18" x 18" tiles will be grouted in as a backsplash in the outdoor kitchen.   sculptural, custom, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake       sculptural, custom, ceramic wall art tile by Natalie Blake

One of our favorites!

Our signature Dahlia is featured in this penthouse apartment

We worked closely with Cravotta Interiors (Austin, TX) to create this custom, hand sculpted, ceramic tile mural for the entry of a penthouse in the Four Seasons Residences in Austin, Texas. The Dahlia mural is comprised of 14" x 14" tiles, carved in our unique, gestural style. The vibrant, Persian Red glaze contrasts with the darker, slip underneath to accent the free-flowing design. The designer had the tiles grouted in place as a backdrop for a sitting area.  We just love it when designers feature art in unexpected places! Thanks Cravotta Interiors! You can read more about this project here.   handsculpted, carved, ceramic tile by Natalie Blake      
handsculpted, dimensional tile by Natalie Blake

Dahlia, handsculpted, sgraffito-carved, ceramic tile

 
handsculpted, dimensional, ceramic tile by Natalie Blake

our signature sgraffito-carving creates a textured look and feel

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

 

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