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Artist labored for 15 months creating tile mural for Laguna Beach’s new Montage Resort & Spa

Installation begins this week at Laguna Beach’s new Montage Resort & Spa on a massive porcelain wall sculpture by Los Angeles artist Dora De Larios.  The piece represents a slice of marine life with halibut, turtles, barracudas, crabs, imaginary fish, underwater plants, clouds, birds, and the strata of the ocean floor.

The porcelain mural features De Larios’ trademark turquoise glazes on background tiles covered with layers of fish and plant life.  The textured porcelain and varying shades of turquoise reflect the play of light upon the ocean.

For De Larios, the work began 15 months ago with hundreds of tests to perfect the unique shades of turquoise glaze.  Achieving the colors she imagined in a formula that would hold up to high heat required just the right combination of minerals. “Porcelain is high-fired at 2385°F,” De Larios explains.  “At that temperature, glazes tend to become unstable and run, so you have to keep adding different minerals to achieve the right color and stability.”  Each piece of the mural was glazed four times with two different glazes.

Complicated glaze formulas like De Larios’ turquoise are highly coveted and protected by ceramic artists.  Potters have sold their rare glaze recipes for millions of dollars.

Once the glazes were perfected, De Larios began the arduous task of creating plaster molds for the fish.  That process took 2-1/2 months.  Along with referencing real marine life, De Larios gave herself license to create the kind of whimsical imaginary creatures for which she is known.

Working in porcelain proved particularly challenging given the size of the sculpture, the artist admits.  “I chose it because I wanted to make the most beautiful mural possible.  But there are high losses with porcelain. Because it has a finer grain, it’s a very unforgiving material.” De Larios said if she added all the days together that she and five assistants spent firing the kiln, it would equal 4-1/2 months.  Add that to the 3-1/2 tons of clay required to complete the piece, and the enormity of the project falls into perspective.

The end result is a ceramic mural of incomparable beauty that reflects and re-interprets the California coastal waters.  As a native of the state, De Larios finds gratitude in knowing that she has taken clay from the earth and transformed it into a gift that generations will enjoy.

De Larios credits noted Laguna Beach firm Daniel Fine Art Services for her participation in the project.  Evalyn Daniel, principal of the firm, has represented De Larios’ work for the past 18 years and has been responsible for many of her large-scale commissions.