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, year-long 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. The business grew over five years to three employees and representation in 80 galleries around the globe.
Seeking new markets and inspiration for the studio team, Natalie and one of her employees 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 an internationally recognized public art. The tile murals have been used widely in healthcare institutions and rehabilitation settings.
Since 2010 the studio has been awarded three large, public art grants. In 2010 the studio was selected from a pool of 600 applicants for a $200,000 public art grant from Chabot College (Hayward, CA). The grant has 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 college campus. In 2013 Natalie was selected to create three, large exterior tile murals for the City of Tampa, FL; and in 2014 the studio was awarded a public art grant to create 10 tile murals to be installed on columns in an Alaskan high school.
Natalie has been awarded several awards including 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. Natalie is co-owner of Fulcrum Arts, LLC combining her studio and Solinglass glassblowing studio in the creation of a public arts destination in Brattleboro, Vermont. Fulcrum Arts studios and gallery offers workshops and classes, as well as studio tours.