Meet a Maker: Troy Bungart

Meet Troy Bungart: our visiting artist from Three Rivers, MI.

Well known for his finely crafted handmade brushes and ceramic tools, Bungart believes there are great possibilities in objects that most see purely for their functional value. He works with both clay and found wood materials to create his pieces and each of his works are one of a kind. Bungart has taught brush making workshops all around the US.

The Studio is excited to have Bungart, who will be teaching a “Brush Making” workshop on March 17, 2018. This is a great way to learn and to create handmade brushes that can be used for creating 3-D or 2-D works or to add to your art collection. Sign up for this beginner friendly visiting artist workshop!

Troy Bungart

CC: What is your artistic background?

TB: I went to a two-year local college, then to a four-year at Northern Kentucky University. I started off in photography, but took clay as an elective. I was awful at it, but it did not matter, all that mattered was how much I enjoyed it.

I didn’t think that clay would become a career path; I was just doing what I loved. I got better, because I just kept making all day long and didn’t stop. One day, a professor cut one of my ceramic cups in half to show me how much clay I was using, which helped me to think about the weight of my work and how it feels.

CC: Your work transforms functional objects into objects that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. What made you want to enhance objects that most people would see as simple?

TB: I want people to see simple objects as something more exquisite. I started out making spoons carved out of wood and look at them as sculptures. People have the tendency to overlook everyday objects as purely utilitarian when they have great aesthetics. I would like to share and show people that we can make the objects ourselves and don?t have to go out and buy them.

CC: Your ceramic work has unique glazes and surfaces. Where does the inspiration for these surfaces come from?

TB: I held a day job up until recently, so I didn’t look at my work as production works, but more like one-of-a-kind pieces. I was always experimenting and constantly seeking out surfaces, glazes, and finding out what works, so each piece is a new exploration and that’s what inspires me.

Troy Bungart handmade brush

CC: How did you get into brush making?

TB: One day, I noticed that some of my brushes were falling apart and wanted to know how to improve them. I took some brushes apart to see how they held up and from there I’ve been creating and improving my handmade brushes. As I continued making my own brushes, people became interested and asked me to teach workshops.

CC: You work with both woodworking and ceramics. Do you find it challenging to switch your process from one medium to another?

TB: No, I enjoy them both equally. The challenge is having the time and I’m always running out of time: not ideas, not materials, just time. It’s easier to do woodwork when it’s cold, so I tend to do more woodworking in the winters. The two mediums are closely related: the curves, shapes, and design. The curve of one piece could inform another. Sometimes I would be working on a ceramic piece and an idea sparks for a rib, I’ll stop working and go make that piece while the idea is fresh. The mediums are interchangeable; one inspires and feeds off of the other.

CC: How has woodworking and ceramics expanded your knowledge or skills as an artist?

TB: They spark new, creative ideas. I’m always exploring and looking at things and trying to stay open to what I’m working on and learn from it.

Troy Bungart cup

CC: In previous interviews you often talk about the experience that the artists have when using your brushes. Why are those experiences so meaningful to you?

TB: A lot of the people who buy my tools are my friends, so I am personally connected to them. I also love knowing that someone is enjoying what I made and hearing how the tool I made was their favorite. It’s really nice to be appreciated.

When someone buys one of my tools and take a picture of it next to their work station, it makes me feel like I am a apart of what the artists are making. That feeling alone is worth a lot more than money.

CC: When creating your pieces, do you think more heavily about the process of making the piece or the end product?

TB: It’s a little bit of both. For example, when I’m working on a rib, I want to make a glorious curve because I know how the tool will be used. When I am making, I am constantly thinking about the fact that it’s going to be used by someone to make their product. So I’m thinking about the end result and the process at the same time.

Troy Bungart handcrafted ceramic toolCC: Do you plan out your pieces before you begin? Or do you allow the material to take on its form and develop the piece as you go?

TB: I have a bunch of patterns and specific shapes that I use. I do a lot of custom work, so sometimes people will send me a drawing of what they want. Sometimes I get a piece of wood and I can see a tool in it right away. Sometimes I’ll take a piece of wood with a good grain and draw a couple patterns on it and cut out to create the best piece. The key is staying open and seeing what’s possible.

CC: What are your future goals as a maker and a teaching artist?

As a teaching artist I would love to do a lot more workshops. I love the interaction of seeing a student feeling like, “I can do this” or “I just made this”. I enjoy being there to help them see the possibilities. In my ceramic works, I am excited about expanding from the objects I made and make larger things. I am known for making small pieces such as cups and bowls, so I would like to work larger. In woodworking, I am expanding into engraved stamps and paddles with decorative designs.

CC: You have taught many brush making workshops, how is each one different?

TB: Each workshop can be different depending on the energy of the students. Each group has its own energy and way of doing things, so I try to deliver the workshop in a way that works for them. I try to play it loosely. Sometimes the students are experienced brush makers, so when I teach them, I also end up learning from them. Other times, I work with beginners who show up with great questions that I never thought of before.

One thing I like to do in each workshop is to stop and have the students try out their brushes to see how they work. I like encouraging students to be open to new ideas and try to make sure I provide the opportunity for learning, experiencing, and exploring processes that the students can continue to apply.

Troy Bungart handmade brush

CC: What do you hope that your students will accomplish in the workshops?

TB: I’d like them to come in with an open mind. Students already know many needed skills for brush making, such as tying knots, gluing, etc. It’s not a test of creativity or skill; all it takes is dexterity and coordination. I will teach the steps to ensure each student has a brush completed. I want them to know that they can do it and that the results are achievable.

CC: What’s the best part about teaching workshops?

TB: I’ve always enjoyed seeing my students share their experience online with others: showing others the work they made and the skills they learned. I get to see that I have made a positive impact, because the students were able to create something and put it to use. Knowing that I helped facilitate growth or impact is really rewarding.

Interviewed by: Doretha Murray

Contemporary Craft’s Visiting Artist Program is supported by the Windgate Charitable Foundation.