Art Inspired by Nature – Raku Masterworks by Artist Richard Foye
~ Large raku vessel with bronze metallic glaze ~
I caught up with my friend, artist Richard Foye, on a beautiful September afternoon while he was busy at work in his South Newfane, Vermont studio. Last month, I featured one of Richard’s beautiful raku vessels in my post,Â “Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors”, and I received a number of emailed questions about his work. Richard’s vases and vessels make stunning centerpieces for the table, where they function as either a solo act or center stage for floral arrangements… and his dramatic urns make intriguing ornaments and focal points for the home or seasonal garden. Many of us are as eager to bring the beauty of nature indoors as we are to enhance it within our gardens, especially at this time of year. In light of the interest, I gave Richard a call and asked him if he might be willing to give us a tour of his studio and share some of his inspiration and creations on The Gardener’s Eden. Richard very generously allowed me to observe and photograph him working in his studio while he turned pieces on his wheel, and later fired several urns, vases and vessels. As he worked, the artist took the time to explain how his beautiful, naturally inspired pieces are created. I have collected Richard’s work for a number of years, and while I thought I understood his technique, after spending the afternoon at his studio I realized there is so much more to this artist’s work than meets the eye. Â I couldn’t wait to share his amazing process with you in this third installment of “Art Inspired by Nature” on The Gardener’s Eden…
(click to enlarge any photo in this essay for a closer view)
Richard Foye began making pottery in 1969, during his senior year at The University of Vermont. A philosophy major, Richard accompanied his friend Ken Pick to pottery class one day, where he discovered his life’s passion. Watching this artist at his wheel in the late afternoon light, it was easy to see why his vessels are so spectacular. Richard is in love with his work. His hands move in a steady yet fluid motion, instinctively molding curvaceous lines and sensual forms from the clay. Throughout the 70’s, Richard worked primarily with stoneware and porcelain when, after nearly a decade, he began to experiment with raku. From that point on, Richard found himself focusing on this Far Eastern technique he has come to favor for both its immediacy and serendipitous results. The word raku loosely translates to ‘unexpected, joyful surprise‘. My conversation with Richard naturally turned to philosophy at this point, discussing the difference between what Westerners might call ‘accidents‘ and what Easterners refer to as ‘incidents‘. Â The raku method was originally developed in Korea, and later adopted by Japanese artisans. In raku, a pot is drawn out from the fire while still hot and then allowed to cool quickly, producing unexpected, often dramatic results. The ‘incidental’ finishes found on raku pieces are inherent to this quick cooling process. Over time Richard developed his own fascinating techniques and signature glazes, (inspired by ancient Near Eastern and Japanese methods), to create the exquisite works of art shown here.
Although he describes himself as impatient, Richard is in fact very methodic in his process. The white stoneware clay he uses is a proprietary mix he creates with rainwater in his studio. After working his pieces into sensual forms, influenced by travels to Southern Spain and Andalusia among other places, he sets them aside to dry-cure before he begins the bisque firing and finishing process. The time to complete a series of pots, from start to finish, is generally six weeks…
After curing, Richard’s vessels and urns are bisque fired to 1,800 degrees fahrenheit and then coated with a hand mixed glaze. His signature metallic finishes are a combination of naturally occurring minerals, (including feldspar and calcium borate), inspired by those used in ancient Near Eastern civilizations. Once they are dry, Richard’s pieces are glaze fired to 1,600 degrees fahrenheit, and quickly removed with tongs while still hot. The process makes for a dramatic show…
From here, Richard’s process becomes positively fascinating to anyone inspired by nature and her beautiful botanical world. While still red hot, Richard places his vessels within a nest of hand harvested straw and wild grasses from his field – he also tosses pine cones into this smoking, combustible mix. When a lid is placed atop his make-shift ‘double boiler’, the resulting heat, smoke and flame put on quite a show. Meanwhile, inside the vibrating pot, the straw fuses with the glaze to form exquisite, unpredictable patterns on Richard’s shapely vessels.
Once the pot cools down from the secondary glazing process, Richard removes the lid, and brushes away the burned botanical remnants to reveal what are always delightfully inexact results. Raku – the art of joyful surprise…
~ A finished piece, still hot, surrounded by the natural, burned remnants ~
The cooling vessel, (note the grass still attached where it has burned in lines)
Richard uses the raku method to create a wide range of extraordinary pieces – from large metallic-glazed urns, (works of art suitable for the indoor display of flowers, branches and grass), to statuesque crackle-glazed vessels, ( I envision them beckoning at the end of a garden path or shady corner), to smaller pieces, including beautiful table-sized vases and ewers. Richard also continues to work with stoneware, creating garden-art such as the all-season lantern pictured below…
~ A large, metallic glazed raku urn ~
~ A large, crackle glazed raku urn ~
Richard Foye shows his work in galleries and craft exhibitions throughout New England, and at home in Vermont. The Rock River Artists group holds an open studio tour every summer, and to many a gardener’s pleasure, Richard’s studio is conveniently located one door down from Olallie Daylily Gardens. The combination is more than tempting to this nature lover on an autumn day. If you would like to make a visit to Richard’s studio, be sure to call ahead, as he participates in a wide variety of craft shows and artisan exhibits throughout the year. But if you tell him you read about his raku process on The Gardener’s Eden, I am sure he will be more than delighted to give you a tour when he is back at his studio home.
Thank you Richard, for generously sharing your time and your work with us, and always for your deep understanding of natural beauty…
*Richard Foye does not have internet access at his studio, but he may be reached by calling 802-348-7927, (Richard’s South Newfane, Vermont studio is open by appointment, please call for directions). He is represented in New England by theÂ Rice/Polak Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
* Richard Foye’s pieces are currently priced at $35 -$410 *
The artist’s work may also be seen at the following craft festivals in New England this October:
October 2, 3 and 4, 2009,Â Hildene Foliage Art and Craft Festival, Â Manchester, Vermont
October 9, 10 and 11, 2009, Stowe Foliage, Art and Craft Festival, Stowe, Vermont
October 17 – 18, 2009, Roseland Cottage Annual Arts and Crafts Festival, Woodstock, CT
~ Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden ~