California Pottery and Tile Works has become the go-to tile producer for artists creating massive murals.
The latest project is Los Angeles artist Rigo 23’s Pebbles In A Pond, a 24-foot-by-72-foot mural for the Making Waves Academy in Richmond, California. The mural contains 15,500 to 20,000 tiles, the artist estimated.
Rigo explained the project:
“Formally, the mural is a billboard, a movie still with captions, a large horizontal rendering of a landscape. Only in this case, it is a waterscape. Drops of water captured mid-air, in motion, as concentric rings expand outwards and overlap into each other.
“At the bottom of the composition there is a quote: ‘You Throw Pebbles In A Pond You Get Ripples. If Enough Pebbles Are Thrown You Get A Wave. One Day That Wave Can Become A Tsunami.’’
The quote is by Robert King, one of three, now-freed men who endured incredible isolation at the Louisiana State Penitentiary known as Angola. They are known as the Angola 3.
“If there were to be a theme to the tile mosaic it would be to encourage every small action in the pursuit of a worthy goal,” Rigo said.
The Making Waves Foundation fosters a very particular type of community – a community of care and encouragement, he explained. “So the artworks which are added to such an environment also encourage and reward connection. The artworks become sort of permanent neighbors on campus – they take up a presence.”
Rigo met several times with a group of students from the school, working in tandem with their art teachers. In conversation and during these workshops a dialogue was developed with the students. “The students are the focus as are their family members, teachers and auxiliary staff,” he said.
The collaboration with CalPot was mostly at the design level.
“We would discuss glazes, have samples made and compared. An artisan or Sean McLean (CalPot co-owner) might suggest we try another glaze. We would discuss certain methodologies. But my involvement was hands off,” he said.
“CalPot’s crew executed every step of the process, save for the drawing, cutting and indexing of the mosaic pieces. That part I did with my own team. We also did the tile application and grouting.”
Working at CalPot “was a bit of a fairy tale,” he continued. “It’s hard to single out one single aspect to appreciate the most. I was working mostly with my friend Roberto Leni, who writes short stories and is an avid reader. It wasn’t magic realism as much as it was a magical place that really exists. An oasis of humanity in an era some are trying to define as a cruel and xenophobic desert.”
“What I appreciated the most at CalPot was its intrinsic nature of being a family,” he continued. “The McLean brothers are not the only set of siblings or family members working there. You are literally reminded that Humanity is a family.
“One feels very grounded there: clay, fire and a common goal. You feel the connection to a very long continuous practice – thousands of years of handling fire and clay.”