Belvedere has a long history of commission work in and around the Pagosa Springs area, most of which consists of installation projects.  Here is quick look into the planning and inspiration behind the Thunderbird Project.
The Thunderbird is a mythical creature orginating within the cultures of indigenous peoples of North America (most notably with the Peoples of the Pacific Northwest)  so we give credit to those cultures for this concept and basic design. The Thunderbird is a spirit being and is related to lightening and storms. It is said that when the sound of thunder is heard, that sound is the Thunderbird beating its wings. It held great importance for its roll in creating storms and in bringing water to the Earth.
The use of this symbol in our project would be within the family home of a historic local cattle ranch which had recently changed ownership. The piece was specially made to grace the backsplash of a large and beautiful new stove. The design was made from a red/gold stoneware clay, hand-carved and hand-painted and fired to mid-range temperatures in oxidation.
The project began with Susan visiting the ranch location to meet with the ranch managers who were in charge of the home’s remodel. Susan listened carefully, took detailed notes and measurements and let the feeling of the surroundings “soak in.” With that information as a starting point, Susan went back to her studio in Chromo and created a scaled color sketch which was presented to the ranch for approval.  The preliminary steps of gathering information and refining a design, are time-consuming and critical to the overall success of the project. Once the sketch was approved, the actual work to create the ceramic bird was begun.
First, a clay cutting pattern was created to the proper size (shrinkage considered) and clay was rolled out and allowed to dry to the leather hard stage. Then the design pattern was incised into the clay and the tile pieces were cut out for the relief carving process. After the carving was finished, the piece was very slowly dried to the bone dry state, and it was then placed in a kiln for “bisque” firing which hardened the  individual pieces. After the bisque fire, the tile pieces were washed with black/brown iron oxide to accent the relief carving and again fired to set the oxide. Finally, the design was hand-painted with both colorful underglazes and glazes and fired to stoneware temperatures. The Thunderbird was then installed into the kitchen backsplash wall, grouted and sealed for many years of enjoyment by the ranch’s new owners.
We welcome commission inquiries. Please feel free to call to discuss your special project with us at (970) 731-1619!

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