Free ceramic pieces

Hello all. Those of you who live near the studio can help yourselves to a ceramic piece if you are passing by the house. As you can see from the view from The Homend, all you have to do is climb four steps and take a vase or bowl. They are all rejects – some have hairline cracks, others are wonky , some cannot stand up straight and some are plug ugly. They are all frost proof and can be used in the garden.

Address: Oakland House, The Homend, Ledbury HR8 1AP. There will be a donation yoghurt pot – all proceeds will go to CUP Ceramic Community in Hereford

help yourself

The winner of the three legged bowl (see previous blog) identified three birds correctly: great tit, blue tit, cock pheasant. The fourth was a black cap. The winner is a Mr A.Lloyd of London. Well done.

ankle-deep in bluebells (Part 2)

Frith Wood

I apologize for this second blog in one month but, you see, I never know how many people read this, so, when somebody actually makes contact (info@peterarscott.co.uk) I am taken by surprise. Anna got in touch after the last one; she is a potter in Manchester who lives in a small flat in the city and she liked all the references to the countryside, mainly because, for her, the outdoors are inaccessible at the moment and she enjoyed the pictures of Frith Wood and even found my comments acceptable, and not at all flippant. She wants more. So, Anna, this is for you.

Queen Anne’s lace or Cow Parsley?

The first thing to point out on your way up the road towards the gate that leads to the steep meadow up to Bradlow Knoll is the appearance in just a few days of Queen Anne’s lace and Cow Parsley growing along the verges. The former is said to have been named after Queen Anne, who was an expert lace maker. When she pricked herself with a needle, a single drop of blood fell from her finger onto the lace, leaving the dark purple floret found in the flower’s centre. Its root is edible when young and similar to a carrot, but it is easily confused with Poison Hemlock, which is deadly, so best not to bother eating it. Stick to your local supermarket.

effort rewarded

Since the last visit to the wood, Bradlow Hill has become even steeper. This means that before you can turn to look down at the view of Ledbury at your feet (the reward for all your uphill effort), you have to sit amongst the sheep and their calling cards and take deep mouthfuls of air. Never do lungs seem more like bellows than when you need air, and never have they been more appreciated than in these Covid times. They are fabulous organs and have climbed the rankings in the “Favourite Organ” league to overtake kidneys, spleen and bladder. The appendix, surely, is bottom of the league. By the way, the other reason for contacting me is to challenge any drivel I come up with. Is the appendix an organ? There is a comment box at the bottom of the page if you want to avoid emailing me.

mayflower

From the top of the hill, with the gate that leads into the wood at your back, the view is now speckled with white as the hawthorn hedges start to show off their mayflower bloom. A frequent shrub for hedgerows in this country as it is an effective barrier against livestock, in this case sheep, thanks to its twisted, thorny branches. The Bradlow sheep were unbothered by this and were using its shade to take a nap in or for scratching their posteriors.

the laid-back denizens of Bradlow
a sea of stitchwort

I could tell something had changed from the last visit. When I entered the cool dark of the wood and allowed my eyes to get used to the gloom it was obvious that the bluebells were in decline. Instead of the profusion of blue, a newer carpet of colour had taken over: white stitchwort taking in the light through the thinly leaved canopy of the woodland. It was once used as a herbal remedy for a stitch (the pain sometimes felt in the side during exercise), hence the name ‘stitchwort’. Also known as “Star-of-Bethlehem” and “daddy’s-shirt-buttons“. Do not pick them – if you pick greater stitchwort, you will cause a thunderstorm. I shall return to them next month when their seed capsules ripen and start making popping sounds. They could be mistaken foe wood anemones, a mistake I made, but I was steered away gently by Bridget of Malvern – for which many thanks. Misinforming Anna of Manchester is not what I want.

birdies in Frith Wood

Deep in the woods the birds were singing away as they do. I stopped and recorded a minute’s worth for you. If you can identify correctly three of the birds (there are in fact four) and send me your answer in an email (see above), the first correct answer will get a prize. You may have to turn up the volume. Sadly, Mr W.B. cannot take part, being our go-to expert who officially identified the birdies. Ladies and gentlemen, this three legged stoneware bowl shall be sent to the winner. Hand painted and glazed, part of the Hudson series, slightly retro, in a good way, American abstract expressionist in character. 23 x 23 x 8 cms (0.75 g). Normally retails at £60. How can you resist the challenge?

win this fab three legged bowl

The Yellow Archangel is another plant that comes into bloom as the Bluebells are fading, it probably gets its name from its virtue of not stinging, despite being part of the dead-nettle family. Here’s a picture of some amongst the few Bluebells left. Is that single pink flower a Herb Robert?

Yellow Archangel

Further and deeper into the wood a yew tree leans into the path. These old trees can live for centuries and often harbour badger setts among its roots. The badger, “that most ancient Briton of English beasts” (Edward Thomas), is not seen very often – it is nocturnal and secretive, often associated with The Wind in the Willows in his dressing gown and slippers, but by others, including some friends, blamed for many criminal acts in gardens.

only yew

One friend is surprised that after years of country-dwelling we haven’t learned that every act of seemingly pointless rural vandalism is always caused by badgers. Furthermore, and to counter the “cuddly” view of badgers, another friend quotes Beatrix Potter from The Tale of Mr Tod:

rural thug

” . . . Tommy Brock was a short bristly fat waddling person with a grin; he grinned all over his face.  He was not nice in his habits.  He ate wasps nests and frogs and worms; and he waddled about by moonlight, digging things up.  His clothes were very dirty; and as he slept in the daytime, he always went to bed in his boots.  And the bed which he went to bed in, was generally Mr Tod’s.”

I’m not sure how bucolic I’ve been, but I hope you enjoyed it, Anna. I even squeezed in a ceramics reference, which is, after all, the point of this blog. Lastly (and here I am blowing my own trumpet, I know),  if you are in the mood and like short stories, let me introduce you to The Common. It is a literary organization whose mission is to deepen our individual and collective sense of place. Based at Amherst College, it aims to serve as a vibrant common space for the global exchange of ideas and experiences and publishes works that embody particular times and places. It has published one of my short stories. Please click here if you would like to read it: Malus

malus

Thank you, keep well, and keep off the Hemlock.

A policeman saw a man driving around with a van full of badgers. He pulls the man over and says… “You can’t drive around with badgers in this town! Take them to the zoo immediately.” The man says “OK”… and drives away. The next day, the officer sees the man still driving around with the van full of badgers, and they’re all wearing straw hats. He pulls him over and demands… “I thought I told you to take these badgers to the zoo yesterday?” The man replies… “I did . . . today I’m taking them to the beach!”

photo of shadow in pool

Escape from Boredom

fresco at Pallazzo Schifanoia

August

How has August been for you? Have the August weeks seemed long and interminable? Are you dreading the end of Summer or are you just looking forward to everybody getting back to work and school so that you can get on with things? We all want to avoid boredom – sky diving, snorkelling, eating ice cream, going abroad, or building a palazzo with allegorical frescoes as Duke Borso d’Este did in 1465.

exterior of Palazzo Schifanioa

exterior of the Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara

belatrova was in Ferrara and paid the Palazzo Schifanoia a visit. The name “Schifanoia” is originates from “schivar la noia” meaning literally to “escape from boredom” which describes accurately the original intention of the Duke when he had the palazzo built.

Schifanoia fresco March

the March fresco

The highlights of its decorations are the allegorical frescoes lining the Salone dei Mesi (Room of the Months). The Allegory of August (top image) mainly depicts the triumph of Ceres, Goddess of the Harvest, but there are other little everyday details too.

Francesco

Francesco

One of the reasons for the visit was the book by Ali Smith called How to Be Both, which has two interconnected stories, one centred on a teenage girl called George whose mother has just died and the other on the Italian renaissance artist, Francesco del Cossa, responsible for most of the frescoes in the Palazzo. It is an intriguing story and an unusual book, and it led us to the almost empty palazzo on a very hot day this month. A lot of the fresco is damaged beyond repair but what remains is surprisingly bright despite the deliberate gloom of the interior of the hall.

photo of shadow in pool

belatrova selfie

The Duomo Venice

The Duomo in Venice

Part of the Italian genius seems to be based on their ability to take you unawares. So many apparently small and modest churches may spring a Giotto on you, a rectangular blur on a distant hill turns out to be medieval Assisi, you go to Venice and all you remember is the best Dry Martini ever, they drive fast on the road but they drive well, a memorable dish of meat and sage is, of course, called Saltimbocca (Jumps in the Mouth), the waiter who forgets to serve anybody because he wants you to tell him everything about Tate Modern, the Roman taxi driver who pines for Manchester.

belatrova planter

belatrova planter with hint of fresco

A surprise around every corner then, something available to suit any mood. Do you see where I am going?

Grand Canal Venice

Grand Canal

By now you must know of belatrova’s great love of the sublime playing of Thelonius Monk and his piano (see July’s blog), of his ability to hit the right “wrong” note at an unexpected moment yet leave you wanting more – a saltimbocca note.

designer pot

Thelonius pot “Saltimbocca”

And so from Italian culture to jazz to ceramics: belatrova’s Thelonius series of one-off pots which we introduced to you recently continues to develop, and we are open throughout hArt for you to come and see it. We will also be selling our ceramic and oak birdbaths, our ceramic lamps, our three legged bowls and large undulating fruit bowls.

San Marco in Venice

San Marco, Venice

Thelonius pot with attitude

Thelonius pot with attitude

h.Art Week 2016 will take place from 10th to 18th September and we will be open 10 – 5.30 daily. Come and visit us at work in the studio. There will be some great bargains to be had at our belatrova studio clearance.

oak plinth with ceramic birdbath

towering belatrova plinths

There is a surprise for everybody at belatrova, the Schifanoia of the ceramic world.

Cheers!

Assisi toast

Toasting Assisi (in the distance)

paper cut-out of dog

The Bankside bestiary

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It has been busy at the studio this summer, so it was not until recently that we started to take in the seasonal activity outdoors; the (slightly) warmer weather, the greenery, the butterflies, the bees, the birds. The various creatures reminded us that most animals that feature in belatrova have been portrayed or referred to in our blogs, not in “real life”. Should we have a pet at the workshop? We at belatrova do not have an official pet, as such, though we have had many animals on our blogs since 2013, and, just to remind you, we are scattering images of them throughout this blog.

 

centipede

Ed Millipede

Many claim that pets have a calming effect on our bodies and minds, that they reduce blood pressure and lower stress, that pets at the workplace make employees more creative, productive, and cordial with each other. This would be a good thing.

 

Jim

Jim

A digital online marketing agency conducted a survey of three thousand office workers, and 16% had an office pet, the top ten pets being fish, dogs, cats, tortoises, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs, geckos, snakes and tarantulas. As many as 55% of those canvassed admitted they would feel more motivated if they did have a pet in the office, though in our case, since one of us is a serious arachnophobe, tarantulas would be at the bottom of the list. This is despite Ziggy the house spider being a past visitor (see Oct blog 2014).

 

house spider wearing Xmas hat

Ziggy

Indeed, a research undertaken on domestic dogs and human health (published in 2007 in the British Journal of Health Psychology) suggested that pet owners tend to be healthier – dog owners have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and are less likely to have minor and serious health problems. We wonder if this also applies to cockerel owners?

 

cockerel statue at Trafalgar

giant alarm clock

So what is it about dogs? A carnivorous mammal that typically has a long snout, an acute sense of smell, non-retractile claws, and barking, howling, or whining voice, the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) is a domesticated animal selectively bred for various behaviours, sensory capabilities, and physical attributes.

 

Their long association with people has allowed dogs to be uniquely attuned to human behaviour. We very occasionally get a visit from one of these fearsome creatures, but only with her (so-called) master. Rowan has been selectively bred to sniff out and hunt badgers, but she kindly agreed to having her Brockian search interrupted and posed for us in a belatrova birdbath with great dignity.

 

And just in case we have digressed a long way from our intended theme, let us show you a few of our ceramic pieces. All totally unrelated to beasties, but it is what we do best:

 

 

And so it’s goodbye from him…

medieval bestiary

thelonius monk

elephant on the keyboard

thelonius monk

the great Thelonius Monk

With an Open Summer Weekend (Sat 2nd and Sun 3rd July) just around the corner, something happened at the Bankside Studio recently. The ghost of Thelonius Monk made itself known and whispered strange and wonderful things into the ears of belatrova as we were making a batch of three legged bowls. Perhaps “Ruby my Dear” was playing on the cd player, whatever it was it made our hands dance and the unintended clay shapes seemed to be spot on. “What about the three legged bowls?” we hear concerned belatrovians ask. Well, we did make them, though a few days later, after we had returned from Monkland.

ceramic pot
ceramic pot
ceramic pot

belatrova team

Thelonius Pugmill and two friends

Taking a brief trip to Monkland is highly recommended: you will come back refreshed and brimming with more ideas than usual. It is liberating to make pieces without worrying about the end result, and if one piece turns out to be a failure then the next one will be stronger for it. In this we were aided and abetted by our hard working pug mill who, as some of you may remember, is called “Thelonius” and who is by far the hardest working member of the team.

For a ceramicist, going to Monkland means that you accept one condition only – that there is no wrong way to make ceramics. This is how you have to approach the lump of clay, just as Thelonius Monk approached his piano. As he saw it, “The piano ain’t got no wrong notes!” and this explains his unique jazz style, which includes percussive playing, unusual repetitions and dissonant sounds, and a surprising use of silences and hesitations. Click here to listen to “Don’t blame me” where there is a fine example of his style.
ceramic potceramic pot
He also had the habit during performances that while the other musicians in the band continued playing he would stop, stand up from the keyboard, and dance for a few moments before returning to the piano. It was in this spirit that one of our team tried to show his fellow potters how to dance a jig while violently flattening clay with a rolling pin and, at the same time, sipping tea from a mug.
blue ceramic piece
ceramic piece by belatrova
large ceramic pot

A debate followed as to whether this performance was a fine example of syncopation made flesh, since in music, syncopation involves a variety of rhythms which are in some way unexpected, thus making a tune or piece of music off-beat – “a disturbance or interruption of the regular flow of rhythm”. We agreed this was the case, and that it would be incorporated into a piece, which in turn would be entitled: “Thelonius made me do it“, subsequently the title for the whole series.

ceramic blue jug
ceramic piece by belatrova
blue ceramic jug

Many of you will want to see this growing collection of freewheeling pottery, and we would like to show it to you, so make an entry in your diaries for Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd of July (10 – 5pm) when we will be opening the workshop for our Summer Weekend.

Philip Larkin

Philip

elephant on the keyboard

Nellie

And we will also be showing our bowls, lamps, tables and birdbaths, as well as our new range of wave bowls and scoop bowls, because not everybody loves Thelonius as much as we do. Philip Larkin, a much better poet than jazz critic, considered Thelonius Monk nothing more than “the elephant on the keyboard”, but Monk is the second most recorded Jazz composer of all time, right after Duke Ellington. So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Philip – and just to rub it in, here is a link to a short video of the Thelonius pots spinning to “‘Round Midnight” arranged for saxophone quartet by Quartetto di Sassofoni Accademia, with no piano or elephant.
Thelonius Monk

PS  belatrova will be under the Ledbury Market House this Saturday and every Saturday in June – if you are in the area drop by and say hello.

PPS. We would like to thank “Botloes” for giving us such a great review on Houzz – we wonder if this mystery personality might reveal herself or himself?

Hasta luego.

close-up of ceramic planter surface

Slabby McSlabface

close-up of ceramic planter surface

Spring ceramic

At belatrova we make things because we like them, and think that you might too. We even make things before we know exactly what to call them. We have been slab rolling and glazing pieces for the outdoors and indoors, and though, strictly speaking, they are “slab pots” we think there is a better name for these ceramic containers, or planters, or plant pot holders, or umbrella stands, or whatever.

They are so flexible, you see, that they can be used in many ways.

However, belatrova will not fall into the mistake made by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council who asked people on the internet to name its newest research ship. The internet returned with the magnificent, if inappropriate, RRS Boaty McBoatface. So we are not guaranteeing that we will adopt any name suggested by majority response.

 

It is May, and many will be turning their thoughts to the garden. If you are dreaming of salvia, foxgloves, Sweet William, wallflowers, poppies, nasturtium and scabious, now is the time to sow. You can grow your favourite flowers and vegetables anywhere by planting them in beautiful containers that enhance the setting. “Container gardening” in planters or plant pot-holders allows your imagination to wander all over your garden.

Unlike many planters and holders belatrova’s are colourful and bold, and when placed strategically in the garden or patio, they can brighten the space around them as well as complement the plants inside. They work well in small to medium spaces, or in clusters and groups.

ceramic sweet display

a bonboniere, but you can call it “Fred”

On the other hand, you can use them in entirely different ways indoors – as slab pots, ceramic umbrella stands, bonbonieres (great word) or just plant holders. With indoors in mind, these do not drain because they have no holes at the base, but we can easily make them with drainage holes if commissioned to do so. If you are looking for a bold statement then imagine it as a centrepiece of a side table or counter, or on the floor next to the fireplace, filled with dried sunflowers. The colours really stand out and brighten any space.

We are very aware that most of you do not live in stately homes or manor houses, but just in case one or two of you do, a fine umbrella, whip, or walking stick stand for any hallway or lobby is surely a “must”.

ceramic planter

brushstroke blues for buddha

Try serving a punch or mulled wine out of one. We have previously given you the recipe for deliciously dark and cool Black Velvet (November 2014 blog) – imagine serving that out to your guests with a ladle from this unique tureen (do you see our problem? What can we call this adaptable ceramic?).

We hand make our planters out of four large, rolled ‘slabs’ of clay and it takes two of us to put the larger pieces together. They are glaze fired at 1275 degrees – this is when vitrification takes place, making the ceramic tough and resistant to weather extremes of heat and cold. They will not crack in a frost.

On occasions at the workshop we are overcome by the strange combined influence of our pugmill, Thelonius, and of our favourite jazz pianist, Thelonius Monk. This often happens on a Friday afternoon. We are slowly building a small collection of these inexplicable Thelopots, and we thought you would like a glimpse of one.

three ceramic planters

Thelonius made me do it” series

We are opening our workshop to the public for a Summer Weekend on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd July – please drop in, but if you’d like to come at any other time, just give us a ring – all details on our website: www.peterarscott.co.uk/dev

You can also visit us on Home of Artisans

curved ceramic bowl with fruit

banana

ceramic bowl

banana blue

You will not be surprised to know that we take our research very seriously at belatrova, so that when we talked about a name for a new range of bowls and decided it was to be “banana bowl“, we discovered the revealing fact that the inside of a banana skin can be used to polish shoes.

pair of shoes

banana rub

What else? Well, it can also be used to calm an itchy mosquito bite, and did you know that on average each person in the UK eats about 100 bananas a year?

mosquito

banana scratch

We could go on. And we will.

Bananas are the most popular fruit in the world, and the banana is, in fact, not a tree but a high herb that grows up to 15 metres. It is believed that there are almost 1000 varieties of bananas, the most commonly known banana being the Cavendish variety, which is the one produced for export markets.

 

Enough. The fact is that our bowls are banana shaped, and thus their name.

We really enjoyed making these bowls. The shape is a whimsical and it truly stands out in any setting, whether it has anything in it or nothing at all. It has enough personality to speak for itself: notice the herring bone motifs in some, all contained by the rich cobalt brush marks.

A unique hand made bowl, unusual but really elegant, and ideal as a way to serve fruit, or snacks, though it really comes into its own when used simply as a table centrepiece. The three legs give it a steady balance and a charming retro look, say we.

banan bowl drying

banana bowl drying

Each piece takes days to make, from flattening the clay and passing it through the slab roller, shaping and cutting and letting it dry for over a week, then biscuit firing it to 1000 degrees. We shape them over a large round cement garden ornament, as you can see in the image above.

If you want to see more images of our banana bowls do visit a new online outlet that belatrova has teamed up with: Home of Artisans, where you will also see some more examples of our wave bowls, which we mentioned in our January blog.

And did you know that the derivation of the word banana is from the Arabic banan, which means finger?

ba

ba

ban

ban

banan

banan

banana

banana

 

 

Over the moon, on the crest of a wave.

 

close-up of table top by belatrova

moon power

Gazing at the Full Moon last night belatrova was filled by the wonder of the night sky. Somebody told us it was a Wolf Moon, and it turns out that full moon names reflect the goings on of that time of year, and this one is so called by American Indians because it is the animal’s hungry month, so February’s is the Snow Moon because it is the month most snow falls, Harvest Moon in August, Hunters’ Moon, and so on. And to top it all, five planets in the solar system are visible in a line this month: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – a fabulous quirk of the Universe.

image of 5 aligned planets

planetary alignment

Possibly as a result of this magical alignment belatrova has won ‘Best of Customer Service’ on Houzz®, the leading platform for home renovation and design (www.houzz.co.uk). The ‘Best of Houzz’ is awarded annually in three categories – Design, Customer Service, and Photography. Houzz ‘Best of Customer Service’ honours are based on several factors, including the number and quality of client reviews received in 2015. A ‘Best of Houzz 2016’ badge will appear on belatrova’s Houzz profile as a sign of its commitment to excellence and these badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals.

Houzz Customer Award 2016 badge

So, a huge thank you is due to our customers who reviewed us on Houzz. We were chosen by the Houzz* community from among more than one million active home building, renovating, and design industry professionals.

Andrew Small, Managing Director of Houzz UK commented, “anyone building, renovating, or decorating looks to Houzz for the most talented and service-oriented professionals, and we are very pleased to recognise belatrova with our ‘Best of Customer Service’ award.

close-up of wave bowl edge

ceramic wave

Aware that all sorts of things happen during a Full Moon (arson attacks increase by 100% at the time of the Full Moon, murders treble around that time and passengers on flights are more difficult to handle, say harassed air hostesses) we at belatrova would rather let our minds float in all the apparently miraculous stuff associated with it. For example, the link between the Lunar Cycle and the tides is well established but still mysterious, but may well explain why we have started making large wave bowls this new year. We think you will like them: they are a perfect centrepiece for any dining table, and practical as fruit bowls or tureens.

belatrova ceramic wave bowl

blue undulations

ceramic bowl with blue brushstrokes

more blue waviness

We have used the oxides of the Brushstroke Blues range to hand paint the wavy brushstrokes onto the undulating surface, which in turn has wave-like marks scratched in with a peineta or Spanish Flamenco comb. This last element, as you belatrovians instinctively know, is essential.

Spanish comb

peineta

 

close-up of ceramic scratchwork

porcelain comb-over

 

5 wave bowls out of the kiln

straight out of the kiln

These wave bowls measure about 40cms x 30 cms, and weigh 6 lbs (2.7 kls), so they are robust as well as beautiful. Don’t let February’s Full Moon be a Blue one, cheer yourself up with a belatrova bowl and wave goodbye to the blues.

*About Houzz (www.houzz.co.uk)

Houzz is the leading platform for home renovation and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a small room to building a custom home and everything in between, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world.

 

With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community empowered by technology, Houzz is the easiest way for people to find inspiration, get advice, buy products and hire the professionals they need to help turn their ideas into reality.

 

Peter Arscott, Director of belatrova said, “we are delighted to receive this accolade from such a prestigious enterprise as Houzz. We work hard to ensure that everyone inquiring about our products enjoys dealing with us, and that those who buy a belatrova product are completely satisfied with it and enjoy having it in their home or commercial environment.”

 

ceramic mural

weekend openings, many visitors

A big thank you to all our visitors who dropped by these last two weekends – it is always good to see new faces as well as the regular ones. Many of you took part in our “mini mural” competition which used an assortment of glazed ceramic pieces to very individual effect. And do they say something about the individual, we wonder?  And here are the best ones (as judged by Thelonius):

Hmmm. Very difficult to choose a winner. Turquoise (or anything with blues and greens) is a favourite of the judge’s (who is given to pondering about life), and he says it denotes  an ability to create emotional balance in your life, to express your hopes and dreams no matter how idealistic they may be and to make your own way in the world under your own terms, so he is awarding  a prize each to Alicia and to Lily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

another close-up of mural

Muralista

complete head-on view of mural

Adaptable as ever, belatrova, as well as designing and making handmade ceramic birdbaths, lamps, bowls and tables, has developed another skill that uses clay to great effect – we also make ceramic murals. A mural, from the Latin murus meaning wall, is any piece of artwork applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other large permanent surface.
view of ceramic mural lo<a href=

This particular mural uses the idea of “juggling” as its departure point; the house in Spain for which it was commissioned is named after an area of southern India, and it is a word that in Spanish is associated with jugglers and juggling. A happy convergence of imagery to get the ball rolling, and which can be seen in the final design with the still central figure at the bottom from which two circular movements flow, one counter clockwise, the other clockwise, co
ntaining the various elements and shapes which are being “juggled” – all presided over by the sun at the very top. Some of the shapes are purely abstract to accentuate the flowing lines, other more recognizable things are there because they are right (even if ultimately inexplicable to most people- cacti, skulls, vases and jugs, ashtrays?).

another close-up of mural

 

ceramic cactus

The rectangle of space within which the piece was designed measures 2300mm x 3126mm, and each piece is made from grogged stoneware, a clay that contains tiny fragments of molochite to strengthen the material when it has to be shaped and cut, slab rolled and then biscuited to 1000°, after which, as a lot of you may remember from previous blogs, the surfaces are painted with oxides and stains, dipped in a transparent glaze and then fired to 1275° in the belatrova kiln.

view of ceramic mural from ground floor
The challenge was always to produce shapes that stayed flat and did not crack, and there were five “skulls” made before the sixth and final one that you see in the images. Here is a picture of skull No 4, already biscuited, with a fine crack going from eye to jaw. It makes quite a good cheese board, specially when you need to hurry guests away from the table.

close-up of cracked ceramic piece

ceramic skull as cheese board

We were very pleased with the way the two flying legs turned out, considering their awkward shape and length. The belatrova team member who modeled for them wishes to remain anonymous, but we think he has a future with Tommy Hilfiger or Adidas.

ceramic legs in mural

The other challenge facing belatrova was the height of the scaffolding, about three metres off the ground, but, thankfully, any vertigo was kept at bay by our perfect hosts who supplied belatrova with a steady source of cold Spanish beer sothat in the end any lingering acrophobia was gently dispelled.

scaffolding

The first step upon arrival was to measure out the rectangle above the doorway in the hall and then to stick templates of the ceramic pieces (which had previously been cut out in card) onto the wall. When, after a great deal of tweaking, the templates were all blue-tacked in their place, a pencil mark was drawn around the contours and the card templates removed to allow the actual ceramic shapes to be bonded to the wall in their correct positions.

carboard templates of ceramic shapes for mural

Murals do vary from simple tiled works to huge installations by contemporary ceramic artists; depending on context, they can enhance large or small spaces, but belatrova thinks ceramic murals are the perfect solution for those who enjoy sculpture but have no space, or for those who have a large space that needs to resonate more with its surroundings. Murals fulfill the same function as a picture while often being much more dynamic and three-dimensional.

stylized ceramic skull

The technique of slab-rolling and shaping, which was used for this mural, is one also applied to most of belatrova’s production, and if any of you have not already seen our video showing how it is done, please click here.

Lastly, please remember that we have two pre-Christmas Open Weekends: 28 and 29 November, and 6 and 7 December, when we will be open from 10am to 5pm. Do drop in.