Monday, February 17, 2014

Tom and Nancy Giusti - a delicate combustion

We love seeing signs of the maker's hand in a piece of work - and we are especially mesmerized by art that lets the piece itself have the final say. Raku, for instance.

Tom and Nancy Giusti have been making Raku pottery since 1984, so they have the process about as fine-tuned as you can get something buried in combustible materials.

The nature-inspired vessels and wall pieces you see in the gallery are created by Tom and Nancy Giusti using the ancient Japanese method of Raku. Each piece is removed from the kiln when it reaches a temperature of 1400 degrees Fahrenheit and immediately plunged into a pit of combustible material such as sawdust or shredded paper. The resulting smoke and flames interact with the glaze creating shimmering metallic colors which enhances the gracefully drawn wildlife figures and plant impressions.

Nature Prints are made by pressing plant life into clay. Each piece is as different and unique as nature itself.
A batch of Japanese Maple nature prints, drying in the sun

As a team, with Nancy's drawing ability and Tom's technical ability, the two have created some bright, stunning and refined images to be used on the usually rough and primitive Raku Pottery. The copper base glaze is an ever-changing contrast surface, taking on the environment it's exposed to.

(If you'd like to know more about their studio assistant, Charlie, she has her own blog, here.)

The Raku Fire
Raku dates back to the early 1500s, when it was used in Japan for the tea ceremony. The word Raku in early times signified "enjoyment of freedom." Now, the pottery is more decorative than useful in the long term, as it is quite soft and fragile. Raku fired pottery made by Americans is heated and buried in combustible materials such as sawdust, leaves and newspapers, to give greater contrast and bright vibrant colors to the glazed surfaces.

Nancy spent several years teaching for the Peace Corps in Ghana, where she acquired a greater influence and appreciation for the creation of primitive pottery which led her into this art form.

While a member of the Nature Printing Society, Tom had an opportunity to also study the art of Gyotaku (fish rubbings) from a master Gyotaku artist of Japan, Mr. Takahashi. Tom's background includes many years as a machinist and welder, plus repairing and building many different types of equipment. With this technical background he has been able to design and build much of the equipment in their studio.

We think the early signification of raku applies as much now as it did 500 years ago. There's a freedom in Tom and Nancy's work that simply can't be replicated in manufactured pottery.

We love that.

Please note, all raku is for indoor d├ęcor only. The copper base glaze is an ever changing surface and it will take on the environment to which it is exposed. Please take great care of your art work and avoid excessive handling or cleaning. Exposure to strong sunlight or harsh air pollutants could adversely affect the surface colors. If cleaning becomes necessary, dry dusting with a clean soft cloth is best. Clean soft water may be used if necessary. At no time should cleaning detergents or scouring pads be used.

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