Murals by Chaya Esther Ort


Murals by Chaya Esther Ort

The Backsplash as Canvas

The Art & Soul of the Kitchen

Call out: With interior design trending towards more open-plan layouts, today’s kitchen has evolved into the nerve center of the home. It's where we meet and greet family and friends, hang out, do homework, surf the web and share the details of our day. The kitchen is the busiest room in the home—it's where we live.

The kitchen is known as 'the heart of the home', yet it is almost always overlooked as a place for fine art, because cabinetry and appliances leave little space for it. "Using the backsplash as a canvas for art is a great way to create the look, ambience and personality you want to imbue your home with,” says artist Chaya Esther Ort, who creates hand-painted tile collections and murals on tile.

“The backsplash area is really the only large available surface for art in the kitchen,” notes Ort. “Utilizing it for original art on tile turns a great kitchen into an extraordinary one.” By integrating functionality with aesthetics, Ort offers a new alternative to conventional tiles—one that has been enthusiastically received by both homeowners and design professionals.

Ort, who comes from a family of artists, developed a passion for working in clay as a teenager in Toronto. In 2008, she made aliyah with her husband and three of their children.

“When we moved to Nachlaot, I was just enchanted by the rhythm and color of life in Jerusalem; particularly the Shuk,” she says. “I was so taken with the vibrancy of life, I began taking pictures everywhere I went. One day I had the idea of painting these bite-size vignettes on tile. There were sweet little gardens, charming alleys and archways, distressed old doors, stalls of the shuk—even colorful laundry hung out on lines were fodder for tiles.”

About two years ago, she had an “Aha!” moment: Why not treat the backsplash tiles as a single canvas for an original, hand-painted mural? She got her first commission from a neighbor who was renovating her kitchen. What resulted was a stunning work of art that covers the entire backsplash: flowing scenery of the Land of Israel in gentle watercolors, from the Dead Sea to the Judean Hills to Rachel’s Tomb.

The response was overwhelming—so much so that Ort decided to make her unique tile collections and murals the primary focus of her brand, Kiyor Art & Tile.

Kiyor, the Hebrew word for the copper rinsing-fountain used by the priests in Temple times, is a quintessential example of functional art: being both magnificently handcrafted and an indispensable part of the daily service in the Beit Hamikdash. Ort could think of no better name for her brand of functional art, which combines artistry and usability, something she says reflects her deep belief that the physical and spiritual are inextricably connected.

Creating a tile mural is a collaboration. “I start by talking to clients about the atmosphere, look and feel they want to imbue their home with. I ask them about colors, textures, genre and subject matter,” explains Ort. Sometimes it’s hard for clients to articulate exactly what they want, so Ort helps them fine-tune their vision by going online with them to look at different genres, themes and palettes. Then she sketches out the basic composition, followed by more detailed color comps.

Once approved, she puts up a final true-size version to see it in the context of the entire kitchen. Only then does she take brush to tile, using a variety of media to create an original painting that is then glazed and fired. Then it’s ready to be installed.

In addition to custom tiles and murals, Ort offers a selection of original tiles and murals as well as functional ceramic art.

For more information visit or check out her Facebook page, Kiyor Art & Tile.