At Easter, we’re swept up in a whirlwind of Easter rituals―hunts, home-cooked meals, egg-decorating, catching up with family and friends, lots of laughter and sometimes, challenging moments. We at MAKERS GALLERY wish you a safe and joyful week. This Easter-time, we encourage you to dust off special pieces in your home, reach out to those around you and have memorable, yummy meals in the company of people who lift your spirits.
In this busy time, we hope you’ll find a moment to read our interview with the incredibly talented and insightful Troy Bungart. Troy lives in the United States, so there’s no mention of Easter Bilbies in this Easter interview. Instead, we have a captivating group of rabbits.
We’re so excited to bring you this special interview. It’s our first international artist interview of the year!
This interview is best paired with a moment of quiet, your favourite mug and drink, a comfy chair and a special bowl full of your favourite chocolates.
I’ve often used rabbits in my work. Living in the country for most of my life I’ve always been surrounded by wildlife. Even when I lived in the city during college there were squirrels and possums, rabbits, birds and box turtles always hanging around.
My recent rabbit-enhanced vessels seem like a new direction to most of my followers; but, bunnies are a motif I keep circling back to to explore from one direction or another.
Rabbits have a natural, almost childlike appeal. I like to keep them pure―not saintly but emotionally real. There are some animals I do with obvious humour, but I don’t like to let my rabbits get cutesy.
Most importantly, from an artistic standpoint, rabbits remain recognisable when abstracted and they anthropomorphise well.
There’s incredible personality in each of the bunnies. How do you create this?
Rabbits are naturally lithe and active animals. They stretch and bunch, stand and sit, perk up and hunker down. They even sometimes fight or box or dance on their hind legs. Their flexibility allows me to credibly represent them in animal poses that are suggestive of human interaction.
I like the spontaneity of pinching and posing the bunnies quickly. I start with an action or gesture in mind and try to capture a moment with as little effort as possible. I don’t want to overwork them. I make sure the pose conveys movement, and study it from different angles and tweak it while the clay is still wet and impressionable.
Sad to say, my poses sometimes don’t make it through the firing process. Clay takes a beating with the chemical and physical changes it undergoes in a kiln and some of my best rabbits have leaned too far or fallen under adverse conditions. I’ve always been one to push and problem-solve, so I consider it a challenge to see what I can do to help my bunnies survive without having to sacrifice their liveliness.
What will you be gifting this Easter?
Well, my oldest daughter’s favourite animal is the rabbit. She used to keep rabbits for 4-H and just feels a connection. I think she had a Sunday school teacher who used to call my kids her “bunnies.” Lydia will get her pick of the rabbits coming out of this week’s kiln when she visits over the holiday. She will probably choose something she can use for a sauce or as a tray since she cooks and entertains so often.
My wife always has the option to pick and keep anything that comes out of the kiln. She says she wants a shino bowl basket to fill with black jelly beans because it’s our favourite Easter candy flavour and they will look good in a bowl with carbon-trapping.
My mother hosts holiday get-togethers for the family. Her favourite candy is egg-shaped Jordan almonds, so a bunny basket will be going to her for her multi-coloured pastels.
Do you have an interest in showing in Australia?
Absolutely. I had my work shown in a mixed Australian/US show in Portland several years ago. Australian ceramics are exciting: a somewhat different aesthetic―materials from different mines, people with different approaches, but all celebrating what can be done in the wide world of ceramics. Thousands of years of pottery and we still have only scratched the surface of what can be expressed with clay. I work at Schaller Gallery and appreciate being able to experience the perspective that comes from showing international work. If I had such an invitation from within Australia I would consider it an honour to have my work shown Down Under.
There’s a lovely relationship between the bunnies and your other work. How is your work linked and in what ways is it unique to you?
Well, the obvious answer is that I make it all myself. I sleep just long enough to rest, then I wake myself up thinking of the work I get to do today. I tend to work on an idea until I’ve reached a point with it where I don’t feel as if I’m progressing, then I jump off in another direction. Over my lifetime, I don’t think my work has always shown cohesiveness because I have done so many different things. Sometimes I am more reflective, sometimes more technical, sometimes whimsical and often experimental.
You’ve caught me with this question because I am currently in one of my phases where I am working on a continuum. It’s been a while since I blended handbuilding and sculpting with wheelwork and I feel as if my rabbit vessels are only the start of my next great adventure. I think the bunnies are so active because I am in an active phase. I’m combining things I have previously chased down and consequently feel familiar with. I suppose that’s the confidence you detect. But the elements are now speaking to me of directions I haven’t yet explored. That’s the bunny dynamic. My wife wants to get me painting on my pots again, so I will probably figure a fresh way to do so. I used to paint a lot of bunnies on vessels, so the rabbits I’m currently making may be a way to come up with a new perspective I can translate to imagery further down the road.
Troy, thank you so much for your time. We’re long-time admirers of your work.