Natalie Blake started as a solo artist. She majored in ceramics and painting at Kenyon College in Ohio earning a BA in 1992. She expanded her knowledge of the vessel through a Thomas J. Watson post-graduate, yearlong fellowship in Asia where she studied with indigenous potters in Indonesia, Korea, Nepal and India. Returning home, she created a line of functional, wood and gas-fired pots that she sold at street shows in her early twenties. By 2000, Natalie had found her voice in thrown porcelain decorative vessels with hand-built, sculptural lids, inspired by scuba diving. Carved texture and sgraffito decoration furthered her artistic identity. By 2007 her work was represented in 80 galleries nationwide, and in England and New Zealand.
Seeking new markets and inspiration for the studio team, Natalie and her employee Cynthia Parker-Houghton developed ceramic wall tile murals. This art form inspired residential and corporate interior designers, corporate and public facility art-buyers, architectural firms and private homeowners in search of original and functional art for large walls, niches and exterior landscape design. The uniqueness and adaptability of Natalie’s approach to an ancient, yet contemporary art form, combined with its practical public application, has grown her business into what is now internationally recognized public art. The tile murals have been used widely in private and corporate environments, including healthcare institutions, liturgical settings, higher education campuses, historic landmarks within inner city renovations, and as exterior beautification for municipalities and private residences.
Since 2010 the studio has been awarded three significant public art grants. In 2010 the studio was selected from a pool of 622 applicants for a $200,000 public art grant from Chabot College
(Hayward, CA). The grant inspired the studio staff to innovate new work, including cement art tiles and slumped glass tiles. A total of nine installations were created for the Chabot College campus. In 2013 Natalie was selected from a national call to create three large exterior tile murals for a massive inner city development project partnering Bank of America and the City of Tampa, FL. A $100,000 public art grant was awarded to the studio in 2014 to create 10 tile murals to be installed in the new construction of an Alaskan high school.
Natalie has been the recipient of the American Craft Council’s “Best in 3D” Award of Excellence; the American Craft Magazine’s Niche Award; and the American Craft Exposition’s Evanston Hospital Purchase Award. She has been juried into the Smithsonian Museum Craft Show, the Philadelphia Museum Craft Show, and the American Craft Exposition Show, among others.
Natalie’s interest in art in the public sphere reaches beyond ceramics. She is co-owner of Fulcrum Arts, LLC combining her studio with Solinglass Studios in the creation of an arts destination in Brattleboro, Vermont. Fulcrum Arts studios and gallery offer public workshops and classes, as well as studio tours.
100cupsaday.com is Natalie’s latest venture, a non-profit that raises money from her hand thrown ceramic drinking cups. Revenue from the sales of these cups is given to organizations around the world devoted to promoting water awareness and clean drinking water solutions for those in need.
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