Some things just take a long time to get done, but eventually, if you push through… they get done! This tile project, Garden Reflections was one of “those” projects. It was started with the intention of creating and tiling my husband’s outdoor kitchen, but life got in the way, and too much time passed while we “tried” to work on it. I can’t really remember when we started on it to be honest… maybe 2-3 years ago, but last summer we finally took the partially completed project off the shelf and worked on it until it was finished. Then, in the heat of August, Brianna and I (mostly Brianna) labored on the back deck installing the tile. It was Bri’s first experience in installing a fairly good sized project, but she persevered through all the little details that make the installation well done, versus “okay,” and we ended up with a really nice tiled outdoor kitchen. The colorful mural wall was designed as a reflection of the nearby blooming flower garden on the hillside just below the outdoor kitchen. Bees, birds, dragonflies and butterflies are commonly seen flitting around the plants, so we just couldn’t resist adding images of them to this fun, whimsical contemporary design. The clay we used was our favorite cone 6 porcelain stoneware “Columbine” from New Mexico Clay in Albuquerque. It’s a great clay for outdoor, or wet area projects since it has a very low water absorption rate. Starting with the wet bags of clay, we pressed the 4×4″ square tiles on our 30 ton ram press and then individualized each one by pressing rocks and sumi brush handles against them gently while they were still fairly wet. I also like to make the edges of each tile irregular by making delicate finger marks on all the edges. This method allows us to create the basic tile quickly, but to then make them unique and special. We made our own trim pieces using our wall mounted extruder with dies that I designed and had cut at Northern Tool and Equipment. After bisque firing all the tiles, we hand-washed each one with red/brown iron oxide and dipped them in several different shades of green glazes that we purchased from Coyote Clay & Glazes (also in Albuquerque). The mural wall was hand-sculpted to create a bas-relief pattern of all the imagery in the design. After bisque firing, it was also washed with iron oxide and then hand-painted with Coyote Glazes and fired to cone 6 in oxidation. Oh, and don’t let me forget to tell you about the old broken French breakfast bowl (pictured at the bottom). I loved that bowl. We bought it nearly 30 years ago when we were in France. One day I was in the pantry and saw it lying there on a shelf in pieces. So, I saved the pieces and when we put this project together it came to mind about 3/4 of the way through the installation. Now the broken yellow bowl has a useful place once again!
Wow, it’s been almost a year since we opened our Gallery/Workshop in Pagosa Springs; our anniversary is coming up next month in September. The time goes so fast when you stay as busy as we have and finding time for our own art-making is always a challenge. When we have a chance to take a little time to get away and refresh, see new places and things and just have the opportunity to reflect, it makes a big difference in terms of our creative energy. A couple weeks ago Bob and I visited the Denver Botanical Gardens with family members where we saw wonderful displays of beautiful, colorful plants and listened to the music of long time favorite group, the Gypsy Kings. It was a beautiful warm evening under the stars and we relaxed, took in the fabulous sounds and sights and just had a great time. The “take away” is of course a good bit of inspiration, both visual and emotional that will surely translate into new work that will soon be happening!