Tamlin Blake For Half Square

tamlin blake

In the Summer 2016 issue of VISI, you’ll find the story of local artist Tamlin Blake who has created a three-part series of Half Square ceramic artworks inspired by water scarcity issues in Riebeek West. Below we get a glimpse into the process.

The Artwork

Drilling for Water II by Tamlin Blake, a Half Square ceramic tile site-specific installation at Nando’s Chadstone in Melbourne, Australia.


The Medium

Half Square is a ceramic art product born out of collaboration between fine artists and skilled ceramic artisans. Developed by Yellowwoods Art, the BEE enterprise is named Half Square after its triangular tile  format – a repetitive modular unit both beautifully simple and easily scalable. Select artists are offered the extraordinary opportunity to create something that transcends their original medium, on an architectural scale, working with an irresistibly vast colour palette of more than 170 custom glazes.


The Artist

Tamlin Blake is a professional multi-media South African artist who is highly regarded for innovative work with both beads and tapestries woven from handspun recycled newspapers. She holds a Masters Degree in Fine Art from the University of Stellenbosch.


The Inspiration

Drilling for Water II is one of a series of three Half Square ceramic works. The inspiration for the Drilling for Water series came from water scarcity issues in the small village of Riebeek West, where Tamlin lives. “Recently, we had a borehole put in on our property, which involved a lot of effort and mud, and lots of celebration, as we discovered that we have a strong water force beneath our property!” says Tamlin. “But with this water source came many questions about our responsibility as to how we use it. The central focus of Drilling for Water II, specifically, is an abstract of the big red water-drilling truck they used to bore deep down into the dry earth to reach water beneath our property.”


The Conceptual Process

A digital pixellated grid design of Drilling for Water II captures the artist’s desire to present an abstract interpretation of drilling for water in the context of a drought-stricken summer with dusty, hazy skies.


The Making

Fine artist Tamlin works on interpreting her original design through ceramic Half Square tiles made by ceramic artisans at Yelllowwoods Art to create Drilling for Water II. Artistic collaboration is integral to Half Square; with designs commissioned from select artists and designers, to be translated into ceramic relief artworks by highly trained ceramicists.


This co-creation ignites an interesting dialogue, giving artists the opportunity to create something that transcends their original medium and expression, and inviting the skill and artistic interpretation of artisans in the ceramic rendering process. Highly trained ceramic artisans work painstakingly on every process required to produce a Half Square ceramic. The handcrafted product is named Half Square after its triangular tile format shown here.


Custom ceramic colours are created through numerous combinations of quality glazes and pigments, offering the artist or designer a vast palette with the finest of nuances and gradations possible. Here, Phumzile works on green tiles, for the few splashes of green in Drilling for Water II, with its focus on water scarcity in the drought stricken Swartland.


Collaboration is integral to the creating of the architectural scale Half Square works. Pictured below is the team involved in creating Drilling for Water II.


Find the first in the Drilling for Water series, Drilling for Water I by Tamlin Blake installed as an asymmetrical triptych in the recently revamped Nando’s Corlett Drive in Johannesburg (below).