This is my good friend, Trent Tally. He is a master potter and specializes in Raku and pit-firing.
I've told everyone about Trent early last spring, but this is the first time I've been able to see him since then. We were at the best arts and crafts show in Arkansas this past weekend and he graciously allowed me to take photos of him and his work.
By the way, the reason I say the show was the best in Arkansas is because it is juried and only allows items made by the artist or craftsperson. NO kits or imports and it is heavy on the artistic side.
Out of the Fire, Into the Fire Vessels by Trent Tally
The art of Raku originated in Japan in the 16th century. Developing from the Japanese tea ceremony, the name Raku comes from the family title of its originator, Chojiro, the first generation head of the Raku family. The ideograph of the word raku was engraved on a gold seal and bestowed on the family in memory of Chojiro after his death by shogun Hideyoshi. The Raku family specialized in hand formed teabowls, individually fired in a small, low-temperature kiln. The vessels were extracted at the peak of the melt which created a thermal shock. This, combined with the temperature kept the clay from completely hardening. The teabowls were subdued and unpretentious, thus in harmony with the atmosphere of the tea ceremony. The engraved raku seal translates as enjoyment, contentment, pleasure and happiness, reflecting the revered way of experiencing life.
Out of the Fire, Into the Fire reflects the western variation and contemporary process of Raku developed by Paul Soldner and others in the 1960's. The artist elaborates on the technique of removing red-hot vessels from the kiln by adding another step called post fire reduction. In this process, the piece is rapidly fired to 1800* Fahrenheit, removed from the kiln with metal tongs and placed into a tightly sealed container of combustible materials such as newspaper, sawdust or pine needles. The high temperature of the vessel causes the material to burst into flames, engulfing the entire piece in a fiery inferno. The combustive atmosphere produces a chemical reaction by consuming all oxygen, thus creating a reducing atmosphere that turns oxides into metals. This vessel is allowed to cool slowly in the sealed container then quenched in water upon removal and scrubbed clean of any soot, smoke or remaining debris. The resulting affect of the post fire reduction is dramatic and surprising on the glazes and surface of the vessel.
Some vessels in the exhibition were also created using a primitive process called pit firing. This technique's beginnings lie in the Native American culture. The artist places the pieces in a pit dug in the ground, then surrounds them with combustible materials such as wood, sawdust or dung, as was commonly used by Native Americans. The pit is covered with old pottery shards or other materials to help hold in the heat. Then it is lit on fire and allowed to burn down slowly. After the firing is complete the pit is covered with sand or soil and allowed to cool. Tally pit-fires his pieces with blocks of wood, sawdust, and wood shaving along with salt and copper sulphate to achieve some colour.
These artistic processes hold a spiritual significance for Tally. His vessels portray an air of ancient existence that links to earth's history. In their creation, Tally references the emergence of substance from fire - the formation of matter that cooled and formed through nature. Tally transforms natural material, giving it new form through another fiery birth. Surfaces impressed with shells and fossils conjure nautilus origins of our world. Shapes, textures and design reference ancient civilizations. Mayan, Egyptian, North and South Native American, as inspiration. Tally absorbs visual forms as a connection to human experience, then transforms inspirations into elements of ceramic art.
Trent Tally is an award-winning artist who studied under Den Curtis at the University of Arkansas. Perfecting his skills at Terra Studios, he then built his own studio in 1996 and started the business, Clay Art Works. Most recently, Tally is a Teaching Artist for Walton Arts Center, offering classes for children and adults as well as specialized workshops.
By the way, since Raku is the family name of the originator of this style vessel, anyone using this technique should always write to them for permission to use the name Raku in their pottery name.
The following are several examples of Trent's work. He graciously allowed me to take photos of many of his pots and plates.
My favorite "pot" was sold a year ago and I didn't think to take my camera at that time. If I had had a place for displaying it, I know who would have purchased it before the lucky buyer. Alas, I didn't at that time so I miss out on the most beautiful piece I've ever seen.
That isn't knocking any of this year's pieces, just saying that I fell in love with one particular piece and still drool over it.
P.S. I apologize if any of these photos are a tad blurry. I was in my brace and it isn't any easier to take photographs with it than it is to type So the lighting is a wee bit off, I know but I tried not to be too out of focus.
The center of this piece was a seashell. I didn't ask but I am assuming that Trent dipped it in clay before firing since we know that we can't attach a shell to our china and fire it without it disintegrating. I wish I could have gotten a better shot so y'all could see the center detail.
Well, Phooy! I thought I did a better of job of getting this shot. This vase has two handles and both are seahorses. The photo doesn't do it half justice...and with a missing seahorse I guess I shouldn't even leave it on here.
But you can at least see the beautiful colours that Trent gets with his work. All with just the firing and some chemicals. He doesn't have to use the nasty lusters and stuff we use. Doesn't that make you just as jealous as a cow with a green thumb?
Ah Ha!!!! I KNEW I had a better shot of that vase. See, I'm not as crazy as I seem...although lately I'm not so sure myself ;D ;D
Any way, here is the vase with BOTH handles showing. And in case you are wondering, Trent fashioned these by hand, he uses NO molds. Very talented young man.
You will also notice how he uses different textures in his work, something we do in our china painting.
By the way, please keep Trent in your prayers. His oldest son, Brandt Giggs, is being shipped to Iraq in the next few weeks. (I may have Brandt's last name spelled wrong but just ask the Good Lord to take care of Trent Tally's son and He will do His part for us)
I'd like to thank Trent for allowing me to share his work with y'all. I wish everyone of you could meet him and see his work in person because my photography doesn't show how fabulous it is.