moorish fountain

inspiration for handmade art tile for moorish fountain

We're working on a very exciting commission right now: creating the tiles and helping with the design for a beautiful star-shaped Moorish fountain destined for a California courtyard. Back in 2004 when I designed our Alhambra Series, I visualized them in a gorgeous, traditional Moorish fountain. The tiles have graced many kitchens, some bathrooms and gardens, but never a fountain -- until now!

We are hard at work in the studio, creating hundreds of turquoise border tiles, cobalt blue hex tiles, and a few big custom medallions -- have a peek below at the work in progress (clockwise from top left: workstation for carving the custom medallions, two welcome visitors to the studio, hand pressing border tiles, border tiles ready for the drying racks, Islamic Star pattern in turquoise and black, finished medallion prototype ready for mold pouring.)

Traditionally, the fountain forms the centrepiece of the Islamic garden. For a desert people, the element of water is rare and life-sustaining, precious, magical and sacred. The ornamental garden with fountains evolved naturally from the orchard with its cruciform irrigation channels, with the shapes of the cross and super-imposed squares taking on a sacred geometry. Penelope Hobhouse describes the contemplative nature of the Islamic garden in her beautiful book "Plants in Garden History:

"The chabutra, a stone or marble platform, was often placed above the meeting place of the four main channels (of water), and was a resting place for contemplation, an integral part of garden appreciation. An owner might sit for hours or days, lulled by the musical sounds of the water, the presence of the dark-eyed houris, and the scents and colours of ephemeral seasonal flowers... To the nomad's dream of cool shade, running water, fruit and scent inside protective walls was added a new symbolism that enhanced the garden as a private place for contemplation where man could try to find an equilibrium between himself and God...."

The meeting place of the four water channels represents the crossroads of the world, the still centre and eternal source: "For the Arabs the number four assumed a cosmic importance based on traditions inherited from Babylonian, Pythagorean, and Hindu sources. The interaction of the cube, representing the multiplicity of nature's manifestations, with the heaven-inspired dynamic circle, dictated how sacred Muslim architecture developed. The four-fold garden can be considered as an open-air version of this theme - not only a place of refuge and beauty, but also an expression of spiritual understanding of the universe."The fountain which our tiles will grace is designed in the traditional star pattern, with two super-imposed squares creating the balanced and magical shape. We've incorporated the circle motif in the form of eight medallions which will be placed on each of the eight points of the star. As the centrepiece of a courtyard with lush tropical plantings, we hope the fountain will serve the traditional role of a place of beauty and contemplation!

How the Tiles Are Made

After a long process of creating, sketching and refining, I draw the final design out to scale, then transfer it to a slab of wet clay. Then I carve the image carefully into the clay, creating a relief pattern and delicate detail work, like the faux arabic script or delicately carved stylized tulips on the borders of the tiles.

This hand carved original, which can take up to a day to create, is destined to be destroyed so a mold can be created. Once I create the master mold in plaster, I make each tile individually by pressing wet clay into the mold. After drying and bisque firing, I rub each piece with cobalt oxide, then glaze by hand with transparent turquoise glaze.

I am currently accepting select art tile commissions, contact me if you'd like me to consider your installation. As well, single Moorish style pieces are occasionally available in the Shop.


Kate said...

Amazing. Can't wait to see how it turns out!!!