The Good, the Bad and the BEST: 2019 in Review
Not everything goes as planned. But sometimes it does.
The most major thing I accomplished in 2019 was the reintroduction of sculpture in my work. Yes, the bunnies. And the turtles (and skunk and bear and ram and crabs and …).
Did you know that most of my turtles whistle? That goes way back to college when Wayne Ferguson visited my class and I asked him to show me how he makes his whistles. I’ve made whistles ever since but have only now started to regularly attach whistling figures to my vessels.
Soon after I introduced my new character work with a January 2019 exhibition with Anthony Schaller at Schaller Gallery, the Makers Gallery in Queensland, Australia interviewed me for an Easter blogpost about my rabbits.
I am gratified to be expanding my collector base with my figurative work. I have ongoing plans to continue to expand my work, but more on that later in this blog article.
The March NCECA in Minneapolis was a great meet-up. I connected with hundreds of people over 4 days with a brushmaking demo and several room shows. Then it was off to Wooster, Ohio and the Functional Clay Workshop.
Also this past year I was able to fix up and better weatherize my studios for year-round work. And I kept up a pretty full wood-firing schedule.
Another workshop wood-firing was the weeklong Stroke & Stoke class I co-taught with Daniel Tomcik at the Touchstone Center for Crafts in Farmington, Pennsylvania.
The one major goal I wanted to reach last year but couldn’t was a heavy schedule of brushmaking workshops on the west coast and various places to the east of my home in Michigan. My dad went through two major health episodes starting just when we returned from NCECA. We spent months with him as he grew weaker, was hospitalized, recuperated from surgery in a nursing home then slowly grew stronger, only to go through it all again a second time. Twice we didn’t expect to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years with him, but we have, and we’re grateful!
But this meant we weren’t able to schedule, advertise or conduct all the brushmaking workshops we intended to do. We dropped the ball. If we had to disappoint you, we’re very sorry. Thank you for your understanding. Please contact me about scheduling a brushmaking workshop if you’re interested. I won’t try to fill 2020 with the type of long, multi-stop trips away from home I’ve spoken to quite a few of you about, but I can schedule quick in-and-out weekends until I see how things are going with my dad during the year ahead.
Despite downsizing our brushmaking workshop schedule in 2019, we were able to schedule a few group workshops close to home. A few people met me for private workshops. That was heartening. I really like showing people how to make brushes.
2019 also saw me firing my gas kiln, doing local markets and exploring CNC router technology with my good friend Peter Fauvre. My family and I hosted Valerie Walchek (@LittleWolfCeramics) for an amazing 5 weeks again this past summer. She and I shared studio space and my wife and daughters loved her company, too!
The Michiana Pottery Tour in September was great, despite the stormy start to the weekend. I set up, once again, at Mark Goertzen’s stop alongside the beautiful Saint Joseph River. If you haven’t yet attended the Michiana Pottery Tour, mark your calendar for the last weekend in September, Saturday the 26th and Sunday the 27th, 2020. It’s worth the visit.
New Year 2020 marks my second anniversary working part time doing Social Media and Marketing at Schaller Gallery. Anthony Schaller really knows his stuff. I’ve really enjoyed working with him, the other gallery staff, the gallery’s clientele and the ceramic artists the gallery represents.
Show openings are loads of fun as a chance to get to meet significant people in the art world and feast my eyes on quality work. It inspires me. Not everyone gets to come home from work energized. I do. My battery is full and lasts as I do my own studio work the rest of the week. I get to start in on my third year there. Definitely can’t complain.
Janus, the “god” of the calendar’s turn, famously looks both backward and forward. I can’t look backwards without seeing how it’s influencing me to go forward.
I love wood-firing. I love shino. I will continue to work with those surfaces as much as I can. However, there are new directions I also want to pursue.
Two of my best experiences of 2019 were doing ceramic design collaborations with Valerie Walchek and with Justin Rothshank. Valerie asked me to create figurine stories for her that stretched my confidence in creating more complex narratives with my sculpted characters. She decorated the pieces I made for her and carried them to a place I wouldn’t have thought to take them. Working with her fired me up for storytelling and made me ask myself where else my figures might go and what else they might do.
Justin Rothshank has been doing collaborations with other artists. Justin goes through a lot of steps with his work. As we were unloading a kiln together he started tossing ideas out to me about taking my work further in surface decoration. He offered to collaborate with me and showed me how my work is strong enough to balance more surface design and color than I thought it could carry. That opens up possibilities I want to try.
There are transitions going on in my family’s life. Our youngest daughter has reached adulthood. We are all focused on forward thinking and outward energy. My wife has been encouraging me to reincorporate color and brightness in my work. Yeah. It’s time.
So we are looking at a couple series of work I can make in 2020, one with translucent colors on textured white clay and one with bright opaques on brown stoneware. It is exciting to think of where these excursions could take me and my work.
We are also about to launch a “Tool of the Month” every month with videos and discussion about how to use various tools I produce in my toolmaking studios.
Of course, my single most important goal every year is to keep in touch with all of you, collectors and makers in the wonderful world of pottery. Contact me here or send a message by Instagram or Facebook. Let me know what you’re up to. If you’ve got an idea I can maybe help you with, let me know.
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Looking forward with you to that fresh-faced year called 2020. I hope I get to spend a good portion of it with you! The “Best” is yet to be.
About the author(s):
Troy Bungart makes and sells pottery as well as finely crafted wooden pottery tools and handmade paintbrushes. He is interested in design and marketing trends and in encouraging new artists. On his “off” hours, he likes to support his many family members and friends involved in foodie, brewery, distillery and winery microbusinesses in Michigan and Indiana.
Troy’s wife Valerie Bungart helps Troy with ideas, writing, video and event photography. Because she types faster than Troy and is more accurate in her use of apostrophes, she often finds herself collecting his ideas and ghost writing his email responses or blogs and articles for him.
Troy and Valerie have been married since 1983 and have 3 daughters, 1 son-in-law, a dog, three cats and innumerable bamboo patches that are growing out of control on their rural acreage in Southwest Michigan.