tweet of the month


greenfinch looking for a bath

Imagine you are a garden bird. It is hot, the sun is shining, worms have been eaten and you need a drink. Perched on the very top of your favourite tree, probably a Lawson cypress, you have been singing away the early morning and your throat is dry (perhaps you are a greenfinch whose song is a prolonged nasal “tswe-e-e” in the breeding season, and you are exhausted). Looking down on what the neighbouring gardens have to offer, you see no puddles because of the heat, but you spot some inviting birdbaths. Alas, on closer inspection they are either too deep for your little pink legs or full of green slime because the bowl is porous and harbours algae.

ceramic birdbath

belatrova birdbath

Happily, you are attracted to a particular birdbath – a fine ceramic bowl with an attractive turquoise glaze, standing on a reassuringly solid piece of oak. The bowl tapers to a depth of three inches in the middle, and the glaze ensures there is little algae, if any. Perfect. You have a quick look at the bottom of the bowl: of course, the “b” of belatrova is embedded in the ceramic – no wonder it such a fine piece. No deeper than three inches at the center and even shallower at the edge, so that a greenfinch can ease its way in. Many birdbaths are just not shallow enough.

Some people put rocks in theirs to raise the bottom, but it will require more work to keep the water clean.

drawing of evil cat

bad cat

As a greenfinch you will know where a birdbath should be located. Not where cats can hide. Cats like to lie in wait beneath shrubbery and then jump on the birds when they’re wet and can’t fly well. Consider putting your birdbath at least five feet from such hiding places. Give the birds a chance to see the cat approaching. There should also be an escape route. The ideal location is under some branches that hang down within two or three feet of the bath. A wet bird can flutter a few feet up to the safety of the leaves.


shoebill bird

you don’t want shoebills in your birdbath



A birdbath on a pedestal makes it easy to see from the house, easy to clean, and somewhat safer from predators. If you locate your bath on the ground, it is important for the birds to have overhanging branches to fly to. And place it within reach of a hose – make your birdbath easy to clean and refill. But locate your birdbath away from the feeding area, because seeds and droppings will dirty the water quickly. Change the water every few days, or even every day in hot weather.



ceramic birdbath on oak plinth

perfect birdbath



Don’t forget to place the birdbath where you can see it from indoors, from your desk, dining room, or the kitchen sink. Then you can enjoy the sight of a blackbird or sparrow splashing away – well, wouldn’t you want to clean your feathers and remove any parasites? it can brighten up your day.


blackbird perched on rim of birdbath bowl

blackbird about to have a dip

belatrova’s favourite tweets (just click the bird):




Ah, birdsong; nothing purer or more natural…. even Cathy Berberian knows there’s one roulade she can’t sing. (Steely Dan – Your Gold Teeth)

tweet, tweet

Here comes the Sun

That huge ball of incandescent plasma at the centre of our solar system that provides all the energy we need for life here on Earth – in the depths of winter, on cold and overcast days, we miss seeing the old sun shining down on us, stimulating our pineal gland deep in the brain, and generally making us feel good. So let’s hear it for big Helios (you could fit 1.3 million planets the size of Earth into the Sun, apparently) and think ahead to Spring and Summer in a practical way – just as everything in the solar system orbits around the Sun, so do belatrova’s ideas revolve around our clientele’s happiness.

image of cross section of brain showing Pineal brain

cross section of belatrova’s brain on a Friday evening showing Pineal gland.

As the days get longer and the promise of heat starts to become a reality it is easier to imagine yourself on your balcony, or terrace, or veranda, or in your garden, glass in hand, as you soak in the rays and relax. What will enhance this experience is something that is associated with warm Mediterranean cultures, something pleasing to the eye and to the touch, something we have seen in palaces, gardens and fountains. Imagine the heat of Cordoba, then imagine stepping into the shade of its courtyards and passing your fingers over the cool surface of the tiles that adorn the inner walls. We would like you to enjoy our tiles in the same way, except that we have incorporated them into a new range of tables that can be used both indoors and out. There is no better surface on which to put that cold gin and tonic, that cup of coffee or that glass of lemon juice.

close-up of tiles

cool belatrova tiles

The advantages of tiles? Well, they are scratch, fire and stain resistant, they will not fade in the sunlight, they are waterproof and easy to clean, and, for the tabletop dancers amongst you, slip resistant. The metal frame and legs make them sturdy enough to support the weight of, say, a large goat. The tiles are grouted and held in place on marine plywood, which, of course, is waterproof.

tiled tabletop

tiled tabletop with metal frame and legs


So if you find yourself oversleeping, gaining weight, craving sweets and starchy foods, lacking in energy and irritable, it could be the beginnings of Seasonal Affective Disorder. However, remember that Spring is around the corner and that belatrova is always here to help. Many of you are gardeners and will be thinking of what needs planting and doing, and being bird lovers (having no doubt fed them throughout Winter) you will be wondering about the springtime needs of our little feathered friends: a good bath, we say. And we do make beautiful birdbaths, a wonderful combination of ceramic and oak. The picture below shows you how the oak turns after four full seasons exposed to the elements.

birdbath in garden

a year ago

ceramic birdbath on oak plinth

one year on












Here is a picture of some snowdrops taken in belatrova’s garden, just to emphasize that Spring is nor far away. Don’t forget to visit our website and if you are on Pinterest have a look at our boards:

Give us a ring if you want to drop in: +44 (0) 1531 634082



To a snowdrop (William Wordsworth)

         LONE Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they

         But hardier far, once more I see thee bend

         Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,

         Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,

         Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay

         The rising sun, and on the plains descend;

         Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend

         Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May

         Shall soon behold this border thickly set

         With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing

         On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;

         Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,

         Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,

          And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

Resilience (ελαστικότητα)

belatrova, art for living, and “a good half of the art of living is resilience” (Alain de Botton).

children playing around coffee table

coffee table resilience

With austerity uppermost on European minds our thoughts turned to contemporary Greece and the hard times its citizens are going through. And because our minds often drift in the workshop, we started thinking about ancient Greeks, and not just about their pottery and sculpture, nor about them going around in togas eating grapes, but about their influence on our thinking.

statue of Laocoon and sons

Greek struggle (Laocoon & sons)

Resilience – that chief weapon of the Stoic and Cynic philosophers who stated that much emotional suffering is caused by mistakenly assuming external things are directly under our control. However, if you remember that only your own actions are truly under your control and external things are not, then you will become emotionally resilient and achieve a kind of happiness. Whatever does not kill me makes me stronger.

Resilience, that is what everyone needs as we face the year 2015.

painting by Waterhouse of Diogenes

Diogenes by Waterhouse (detail)

Which brings us to Diogenes of Sinope (c.400-c.325 BC) who denied pleasure and physical wealth for asceticism and had the nickname ‘the dog’ because of his shamelessness. He used to live in a wooden barrel with only possessions a robe to wear and a stick to walk.

It is unlikely Diogenes would ever have been a belatrova customer but we like to think that he might have approved of our use of that humble material, wood, a material that has evolved over millions of years to withstand the worst that weather can throw at it, with the possible exception of lightning. He would have spent time gazing at the beauty of our oak birdbath plinths as he undoubtedly did his own wooden home as it changed in appearance after years of exposure to all sorts of weather, because oak is extremely resilient and can be easily left outside both during strong sun and rain, and even snow and hail. See what a difference a year has already made to this belatrova “blackbird” bath:


ceramic birdbath on oak plinth

new birdbath


birdbath after a year's exposure

weathered by time


On the other hand, when it comes to our tables, though we use robust beech legs, and though we know external factors are beyond our control, we do improve the odds by making decisions that minimize any unforeseen impact. We do not use oak or beech for the tabletops but rather medium-density fibreboard (MDF), an engineered wood product made by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibres, combining it with wax and a resin binder, and forming panels by applying high temperature and pressure. MDF is isotropic; its properties are the same in all directions as a result of no grain, so no tendency to split. It is consistent in strength and size, flexible, it shapes well and has stable dimensions, so won’t expand or contract like wood.

All this makes it the ideal material to seal, prime, paint and varnish – and thus more resilient. Two tables left our workshop over the Open Christmas Weekends at No 9 and went to good homes:


coffee table

Kleescape coffee table


coffee table

Kleescape on rug


coffee table



painted coffee table

Roseburgh on blue


There are a few coffee tables still awaiting the right owner, each one a true original:

a row of tabletops

a row of coffee table tops

Come and see us in 2015. Happy New Year.

Best wishes:

Ziggy, Thelonius, Peter, Stuart, Roger, Wendy and Fleen