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The tile was installed and grouted at the end of January but the beginning of the mural started more than 15 years ago.


This is the third kitchen I have remodeled/ had remodeled. I didn’t do any of the actual remodeling work this time, I just focused on the mural. I had a lot of ideas for a mural when we remodeled the kitchen of the house we lived in more than 15 years ago. Too many ideas. I could not decide what I wanted and we didn’t finish the backsplash until we were going to sell the house. We used ordinary commercial tiles to just get it done. I regretted that and decided I wouldn’t let it happen again.

The crux of the design problem is that I love two different styles of art with similar color patterns, folk art and modern art. My specific inspiration in modern art is Mondrian. His work has a combination of color and geometry that speaks to me and makes me so, so happy. I literally danced with joy when I finally saw some of his work in person at the Museum of Modern Art. Folk art uses similar colors and basic shapes in very different ways. My biggest influence was Talavera tiles from Mexico. I also looked at Polish, Dutch, and Italian folk art for inspiration. The last piece of my design influence was Zentangle patterns.

After a lot of research and design ideas, I came up with a rough idea of what I wanted to do. Then I needed to try out the porcelain paints to see what I can do with them. I have a tremor in my hands and that makes some media more difficult than others. It usually depends on how to hold the tools and weather or not I can brace my hand some way and I had a lot of challenges with the outliners. I spent some time mixing colors and playing with different ways of applying the paint.

I worked with a lot of technical challenges in drawing the designs on the tiles and transferring patterns from the paper sketches to the tiles. Many of the designs I wanted to create were not within my skill set, but I eventually found a combination of paint and paint pens that worked to create the look I wanted. I was able to incorporate the vibrant outliners in strait lines by bracing my hand so I could support the applicator while making the mark. I also could make somewhat controlled curves for my vines of flowers. The imperfections in the vines and leaves gave it an organic feel that I liked in these shapes. My circles and ovals never came out very well. I discovered that, fortunately, I could peal off the thick outline media.

outer circle first design

First design with organically connected circles in outer ring. I couldn’t make them small enough for the coordinating ring on the middle tile.

transfering design

Inspiration to include Mondrian inspired geometry.

circles removed

Outlined circles removed

My design was alternating rings of floral motifs with geometric shape rings. Two of the geometric shape circles were Zentangle patterns made with blue Pebeo pens and 2 were of Mondrian inspired patterns that incorporated some of the circles from my original design and leaves to tie into the floral circles. I love sun flowers and was really happy with the way the center sun flower turned out. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in the corners so I “auditioned” different designs.

I liked the combination of the sunflower with the Mondrian inspired pattern. Once I had all the tiles painted I followed the directions for curing them in the oven and I was ready to have them installed. I had to bake them before the kitchen was torn out in November and wait for installation until everything else was done in January. It took some time to design and paint them, but they will last for as long as I live here and will perhaps be part of my legacy. This is a project I would recommend to anyone who wants their own mark on their home.