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Interview with Gayle Tustin, December 15, 2003 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Gayle Tustin, December 15, 2003
December 15, 2003
In this interview, local ceramics artist Gayle Tustin discusses her craft, her education and training, her preferred techniques, and the individuals and life experiences that have inspired her as an artist.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Tustin, Gayle Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman / Janson, Anthony Date of Interview:  12/15/2003 Series:  Arts Length  2 hours, 58 minutes

(crew talk)

Q: Okay. We are talking today with Gayle Tustin, who is a graduate of UNCW, and also the first studio major to graduate with honors. So she must be an illustrious alum, as well. And she has been kind enough to give many of her papers to the library, which helps to document the Wilmington art scene. I thought we would start out by discussing how Gayle ended up in art. Almost no artist just automatically becomes an artist. I have met very few who started out being artists and knowing for sure that that is what they wanted to do. And in Gayle's case, she had to take a left turn at Albuquerque. Well, you tell us.

Gayle Tustin: Well, I started out in business college just because I was swayed to go in that direction by practical parents. And I knew I wanted to go into art. I was enthralled with clay. That pretty much started very young because my getaway was to go on the neighbor's back hill and make mud pies. And it was just so much fun to take this medium and to really, basically all I made was pies and pancakes and things like that, because the dirt was so crumbly it did not hold much shape or form. And business college, it was just two years, a two-year associate degree in business. And as soon as I finished, I sought out art schools and I was in Pittsburgh and the time, and went to the University of Pittsburgh, and took a sculpture class, because I could not get into- could not find a clay class. And that was my first initiation into the art world, and taking a course and still living with the people in business college. And from there I moved to New York and was living the Catskill Mountains, and I started to make money. I sewed. I used to make all my clothes. So I started sewing shirts and embroidering them, and selling them in a little hippie shop. And I made macramé jewelry and I got by on it. And then I decided that I wanted to take a more serious route. This is after living on Martha's Vineyard Island, and I tried to work with a potter there, and be an apprentice. But he had an apprentice, so that did not work out. And I decided that I would go back to Penn State.

Q: Can we divert for a second here? You are starting to travel quite heavily. Where was this mud pie action at? Where did you grow up, and tell us a little bit about your parents.

Gayle Tustin: Okay.

Q: And upbringing, because that will help us get started on this.

Gayle Tustin: Okay. Alright. Alright. And I am sort of like. Well, there is a lot of information in there. I was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania. And I grew up with a sister four years older, and my mom. And my father had left home when I was nine months old. So I grew up with a single parent. And we lived in an apartment, a three-story house, and so people lived on each floor. And New Castle was kind of a backward town, slow, and they had a lot of heavy industry since it was north of Pittsburgh. And then we moved to Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, when I was just turning seven. And my mom married and I had a new dad. And I had very good parents. And they were extremely practical, and never were that interested in the creative things, although my mother did draw. She drew a lot, and she was very good at drawing, but it was never something that, you know, I was encouraged to do. In fact, the first thing I remember doing was making scrapbooks. I cut and pasted and cut up catalogs and wallpaper, and pulled things from the garbage can, just anything I could find, and just to fill up the manila colored scrapbooks. And I had volumes of them. And I am not sure what happened to them, probably when we moved they did not make the move. And I had a little desk and did a lot of cutting and pasting. And so that creative need, I can always remember it being there. I did not feel like I was necessarily trying to express anything specific. It was just more this need to create, this need to make.

Q: One thing that is interesting, though, is that most children outgrow their art making phase somewhere around the age of 12 to 15, and start hitting the books, and essentially their creative side never comes back. How did you manage to keep it going, especially through business school? And I mean this is just a very hostile combination.

Gayle Tustin: Well, I guess I did other things, like I mentioned sewing, you know. I used to design my own clothes and make my own patterns. And in fact, at one point I really very much wanted to go to fashion design school, after my first semester at Robert Morris, which is now university. It was college at the time, in Coraopolis, PA, just outside of Pittsburgh, by the airport. And I was so excited. I researched this. Looked into the University of Arizona, and I went home and told my parents, and they said, "Well, you're on your own. If you just choose to do this, we're not helping you, you know, pay tuition or anything." And I was fearful. I was just too afraid. I could not do it. And I sort of analyzed the situation and thought, "Okay, I can do this for another year and a half." And just somehow things shifted and I never went to Arizona. I was in Pittsburgh, settled, and there was no fashion design there. So I went back to clay, wanted to go back to those mud pie things.

Q: Alright. So now we can start on the adventures. You are somewhere up in, I think, New England? Did you drift?

Gayle Tustin: Yeah. I was a drifter.

Q: Tell us about that.

Gayle Tustin: Well, I did not think I was a drifter. I just sort of moved with the flow. I was not afraid to move. I had a Plymouth Satellite and, you know, I made sure that everything fit in my car. So a friend of mine, who actually went to Robert Morris, Gay Shepherd, she lived on the Vineyard. Invited me to come visit. So I went and visited, and then I decided that I wanted to live there for awhile. So I ended up...

Q: So what decade was this, or what time period?

Gayle Tustin: This is the mid-'70s. We are about in 1977.

Q: And the Vineyard was acceptable? I mean, nowadays it is.

Gayle Tustin: Very much.

Q: Impossible to.

Gayle Tustin: Very much. I have not been there probably since the late '70s. I have not been back. I would like to go back.

Q: It is impossibly expensive.

Gayle Tustin: Yeah. That is it. Exactly. I knew the Island like the back of my hand. There is a lot of really special little spots, and when I left there and went back to Penn State, that was very inspiring for me, the landscape there. I do not know how much you know about it, but they have clay cliffs out at what is called Gay Head, with colored clay and we used to go out there and just, you know, cover ourselves in the clay. And I took lots of photos, and I did quite a few paintings of the area, too. In fact, the first painting I ever sold was of the Gay Head cliffs to a professional person at University Park, Pennsylvania.

Q: So how many years were you then on the Island then?

Gayle Tustin: Less than a year. I was there for about 10 months.

Q: And then where did you go?

Gayle Tustin: Penn State.

Q: Penn State. Okay.

Gayle Tustin: Um hm. I decided to pursue the art career. And at that time, I was not interested in getting a degree. I was interested in knowledge and absorbing knowledge. And so I just took as many art classes as I could, and my advisor would give me a hard time. "Where is your sciences? Where is your biology," and this and that. And so after I was at Penn State, I left Penn State on the summer of '78, to go mountain climbing in the Andes of South America, just something I could not pass up. My boyfriend, John Nothworthy, was involved with the Pittsburgh Explorers' Club. And so that whole Spring while I was at Penn State, I trained to do glacier climbing.

Q: Oh, my goodness.

Gayle Tustin: And mountain climbing. So I went on an expedition to the Andes Mountains to walk along the second highest peak south of the equator, and I was the only woman. There was seven of us. And the ceramic work I saw in Peru just was mind boggling, just incredible, especially in Lima, there was a museum there that had all this ancient, ancient red earthenware, sculptural vessels and functional. And they even had a little section that you had to be 18 to go into with all erotic art. And that was very moving to me. And I traded a tee shirt when I was on the Inca Trail with the town local potter. And I still have that piece, and it is just a great treasure.

Q: Did you think it actually, in the end, influenced your work many years later? The images you saw at that time, did that help you?

Gayle Tustin: I have to say yes, you know. I am not always sure how things influence me, but I would say definitely. I think part of it is the red earthenware clay. There are different colors of clay and mainly I like to work with red earthenware. There are times when I will use more of a sculpture body that fires white. But there is just something about the smell of the red clay compared to white clay.

Q: Also that is a very different feel in your hands.

Gayle Tustin: It is. And you are dirtier. You get much dirtier.

Q: Most potters that I know prefer the dirtiness, getting their hands dirty with the whole texture, the whole process of shaping the clay, just for its own sake. They find it very sensuous.

Gayle Tustin: Right.

Q: And sensual.

Gayle Tustin: Right.

Q: Actually I do think there is some influence from the pre-Columbian art, and even the continuing tradition, because I think that must have helped to form you into more of a three dimensional relief, and finally social artist, because most ceramists work with very flat shapes. And to the extent that they do work with relief, it tends to be very low relief, where you are a very high relief for a ceramist, high relief standard.

Gayle Tustin: Um hm.

Q: Yeah. So you are in Peru. Do you want to keep going, or is there any part of that experience that you want to share with us?

Gayle Tustin: Well, that.

Q: That is fine.

Gayle Tustin: No. I will be happy to share it with you. It ended up being quite a tragic trip that three people died out of the seven of us. And only one body was found. Two bodies were never even found. So my boyfriend and I had planned on staying and traveling in Peru for that summer, and after we dealt the American Embassy, and shipping the body back, etc., we decided to stay, but there was nothing that we could do.

Q: It was an accident.

Gayle Tustin: This was a climbing accident.

Q: On the ice?

Gayle Tustin: It is kind of, I will try to make a long story short. But three of these guys were Viet Nam army buddies, and two of them. Three people came up later, and two of those were two of the three army buddies. And this was my first experience in real altitude. And we took our time. We were in Lima. Then we went to a town called Juarez, and it was about 10,000 feet. And we acclimated there for three or four days, and provisioned and got porters, and took everything up to base camp which was at the edge of the glacier. And the other crew came in later, because they had good, real jobs in Pittsburgh. Bobby was 44 at the time, and he was the leader. And he came up from Peru, from Lima, so straight from Lima to 15,000 feet. They were sick, very, very sick with altitude sickness. And Bobby made a comment that this is the second time he was there that either he was going to get the mountain or the mountain was going to get him. And that put a red light off to me, and I was not going to let this mountain get me. So I started out, you know, practicing on a glacier and climbing. There was the four of us that had gone up earlier. And then they are ready to go and climb to get to the peak of Huascarán the next day. And I chose not to go. I just really, I had. I learned to follow my intuition, because I felt like I am staying. We are either going to continue to climb, and to get to the top of the mountain was not the end of the world for me. So it ended up I stayed at base camp. Two days later two people came back and another day later, John Nothworthy came back. So the three were left up on the mountain. So we do not know even exactly what happened. There were Swiss and German climbers up there also. And they found Bobby's body. And so we had contact the embassy, and porters came up. And when one of the four from our group went down to contact the embassy, he had said, "Well, there was these people were climbing." And he never mentioned my name. And it hit the newspapers at home, and my parents were just devastated, because it, you know, Pittsburgh Explorers. These were the climbers. And I was not climbing with them so, you know, he just did not think to say there was somebody else up there. So that was part of the story.

Q: Alright. Great. And you did stay in Peru?

Gayle Tustin: We did. We stayed. Had a three month. We were there for three months. Did the Inca Trail, the Machu Picchu, which, oh, just incredible, just beautiful, beautiful, incredible. It took us three days to do the back trails and we had some quite harrowing experiences on that little journey, too. But I would do it again, I think.

Q: Karen did it, and they had, I would say, the time of their life. But it was filled with adventure, as well. And I must say, they did all the best things, you know, in terms of traveling while I was in the army and in no position to accelerate it.

Gayle Tustin: Okay.

Q: Came to the fact with envy that all of the places they went, like Greece and Petersburg and Machu Picchu. Really that is a great experience to be able to do that, especially when you are young enough to be able to handle it physically.

Gayle Tustin: Exactly. I was in probably the best shape I have ever been in, because I worked hard to carry the backpack and hike, etc. But that was my first experience in a third world country. And there is just something precious about time traveling back to a third world country. And I was happy to have that experience again later in my career, but it just was moving to be around very poor people that were happy with a dirt floor, and the clothes on their backs.

Q: You had already mentioned some of the poverty. Did you find that having made a commitment to pottery that you were always looking? In other words, was that always looking for pots, always looking for ceramics, or was that just not consciously monitored?

Gayle Tustin: No. I think so. I was seeking it out. I do not exactly remember clearly about finding that potter's museum, but I probably sought it out. Yeah.

Q: What happened after Peru?

Gayle Tustin: After Peru, 1978 I was going to meet with my real father, I guess. That is a whole 'nother story, too. I never met my real father. He passed away right before I came back. But I decided then, this is 1978, to travel to Tennessee. How this happened is my boyfriend, who I was climbing with, and I broke up while we were traveling. We remained friends. We knew we were going to travel together. It is just like, okay, we are not good as a couple. And I came back and notified a very close friend of mine, who was moving to Tennessee, and said, "Come with me to Tennessee to help me find a place to live." So I went to Tennessee. This is Jackson, Tennessee, to help them find a place to live, and I walked into a little natural food store and restaurant, and these people said to me, "Do you want a job?" You know, I swear it was 10 minutes I was in there, and this place was very backward and they were just happy to see, you know, somebody that they could relate to come in. And so I ended up staying there, and I worked for them, and I apprenticed with a potter there. So I worked at the Punkin Seed Natural Foods Restaurant from about 9:00 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon. And then I worked with Tally Johnson in Jackson, Tennessee from mid afternoon until 8:00 or 9:00 at night.

Q: So people listening who do not have a sense, where is Jackson, Tennessee, I mean nearby what?

Gayle Tustin: Jackson, Tennessee is on Route 70 about an hour from Memphis, east of Memphis, and a couple hours from Nashville, so closer to Memphis.

Q: And when you said you apprenticed with, what does that involve?

Gayle Tustin: I was able to go into the studio. It was a garage studio. And I would do some things for Tally. Trim pots. He was making these little oil lamps. I would make these beads for the oil lamps. Load the kiln. Load his bisque kiln. Fire that. So I worked for him for a couple of hours, and then I would have free use of the studio. Usually he would be in there while I was doing things for him, and then around 5:00 o'clock he would go be with his family, so I had the studio to myself until later.

Q: Did he teach you some of the basics of how to make a ceramic, or is this something that you basically taught yourself just through experience?

Gayle Tustin: No. I do not think I learned much from Tally actually. Boy. This is a really good story. I cannot believe we are getting into all this. But I just do not know. Okay. Alright. No. Well, there is. Boy, to talk about this, somebody was going to write a book about this. Anyway. I am working with Tally. And we are working on doing a Thanksgiving show. He did these home sales. And so I am going to do it with him this year, and I am working away. I am throwing on the wheel, too. Everything pretty much is thrown, except for maybe some slab forms that I have that are done in a sling. And so I am making those, and casseroles, and the whole production potter thing. And I go into work one day, and Tally's wife was a psychologist. And he had a man there who was seeking- she- he was actually under Cher Robley's, what do I want to say? Supervision.

Q: Supervision.

Gayle Tustin: Because he was a ceramicist and he had sort of gone off the deep end with drugs. And so he- and alcohol. So he was on medication, and he was doing odd chores around Tally's studio. So Harold and I befriended each other, very gentle, wonderful man. Had a six-year-old son, and was married. So one day I went to work after at the Punkin Seed, and I get there. And Tally was stressed out about the show that was coming up and complaining about his back. And he said to me, "Do you see those bottles over there?" And they were bottles of alcohol, heavy duty alcohol. And he said, "I forced Harold to drink those, that bottle and part of that, because he was annoying me and I could not deal with it. He did not get a job, so I let him go buy alcohol to drink." So I said, "Okay. So where is Harold?" And he says, "Out in the car." And I said, "You mean the car that I saw the door propped up in with a crate and a mop?" "Yes." I said, "Well." He said, "I guess I better go check on him." So he goes and he checks on Harold, and he comes back in and takes the phone outside, and he says to me, "I think Harold's dead." So I go outside with him, and pulled, helped him pull Harold's body out of the car, and he was obviously dead, but he gave him mouth-to-mouth, and the ambulance came. And I ended my relationship with Tally shortly after that. So it is weird to put that on film. That sort of just came up, but it is just murder.

(crew talk)

Q: So after you left Jackson, where did you go?

Gayle Tustin: I went to Philadelphia. My old college roommate from Robert Morris and also Penn State, I lived with Denise Cramp Brown. She was living in Philly and I always liked Philadelphia. So I go back to Pennsylvania. I am from western Pennsylvania, so now I am eastern Pennsylvania. And I looked in want ads, trying to figure out what I was going to do. And I answered a want ad that read, "Despotic genius seeking apprentice." So I thought, okay. Let me try that. So he was definitely despotic, and I do believe a genius, too. So I met this Marco Zubar, Z-U-B-A-R, and he was Ukrainian. And he lived on the border of south Philly on Ligg [ph?] Street in an old school house. And just amazing, incredible man. He had on the bottom floor of the studio, he did stained glass. The middle floor he was doing ceramic murals. And the top floor where he also lived, huge open space, he was doing paintings in the old icon style. And he was working on a commission for a church in Chicago, a Ukrainian church. And I ended up moving into a little apartment he had that was off the main floor, and so it was one room. My mattress was on a shelf over the bathroom in the back, and no refrigerator, but it was cold enough in the hall I could keep my food in storage. And so in the morning when I went to work, I would ring his buzzer and he would open up this tilting window on hinges, and throw me down a key on a scarf. I need to do something with that imagery sometime, you know. So the key would come down on the scarf and then I would open the door. And we would go up and plan out the day. And he definitely was so influential in my life, and the turn to this is what I wanted to do. I was dedicated to him, you know. I kind of had no life while I worked with Marco, because we worked all the time. We would, you know, get up, plan what we are going to do, and then we would go to work. And we would eat together. We would cook together. And then we would have dinner together. And then we would work until, you know, 8:00 or 9:00, sometimes, you know, later at night. But he was very secretive with his formulas. For example, I was trying to develop glazes for him for outdoor use in Chicago. And he had these buckets of scrap glazes that were his base glazes. And he did not even know the formula, let alone, you know, be able to tell me what the formula was. And he could not throw anything away. I think it is probably, you know, his background, growing up in the Ukraine, having to leave everything behind, going on a train with his mother. So I would have to take these base formulas, which I had to kind of guess what they were, and add different things to them to make them more transparent, blue, red, grey, etc. So I did a lot of glaze testing for him. And painted on icons, and repaired vacuum cleaners and, you know, helped him put slides together. And he was also an architect by training, and did a lot of stained glass in Philadelphia. And was with an architectural firm on Rittenhouse Square, and was one of the lead designers for, in Colorado I believe it is the Air Force Academy, with the swooping.

Q: Oh really.

Gayle Tustin: Towers. So I lived with Marco for about six months, seven months, and then a woman friend of mine, who I went to school with at Penn State, was living in the Poconos, and we were very good friends, and we had talked about getting a clay studio together sometime. So she found this incredible studio and came to visit me and said, "Let's do a business. Let's go into tile business together, you know, make money, functional tiles, work with designers and architects." So I left Marco. And it was time to leave him anyways. I realized I was sort of getting brainwashed, you know. He led me, you know, to believe a lot of times that this is what I needed to be doing. And he did have quite a little power thing over me, because I just had so much respect for him and his work. And he was so talented. So I moved to the Poconos with Kathy Ryan.

Q: Whatever happened to him? Is he still alive?

Gayle Tustin: He died. Actually when I moved to the Poconos, he was 54 when he passed away. So when I worked with him he was about 53, about a year later he...

Q: Oh, my goodness.

Gayle Tustin: He passed away. Heart attack.

Q: And he had been an artist in his native country before he came here?

Gayle Tustin: Well, he was a child when he left the Ukraine and I am not sure exactly when he left Russia. But there are, I am sure that there are things, plenty of things written about him. I know he had a lot of, you know, press from the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was really so fascinating, such a fascinating, extravagant.

Q: Well, in a sense, you have had several kind of practical but strange internships that really intensely gave you more quality work time. It sounded like you were really, really working in the glaze background.

Gayle Tustin: Well, he was an ecclesiastical artist, too. And that was- just opened so many doors to me, and gave me.

Q: What is that term?

Gayle Tustin: Religious. Religious icons, religious forms. And it just brought a lot of my background together working with him as far as school, art history, and I felt like I was, you know, again doing this time travel thing that was so fascinating. And at that point I had never been to Europe. I had been to South America, but I had never traveled to Europe. And he definitely was inspiring for me that I wanted to go abroad.

Q: I must say when you talk about him, it almost seems like it prefigures going to Macedonia, and the interest that you developed there. I mean I cannot imagine how else you would have been so receptive to Macedonia. I realize we are jumping ahead a bit, but he seems to have prepared the way for you.

Gayle Tustin: See, they are parallel. It helped me understand Macedonia by my experience with Marco, because of the way people think in the Balkans, and I have never been to Russia. So I think a lot of that has similarities.

Q: Good. So now you are heading to the Poconos.

Gayle Tustin: The Poconos. That's right. To up north of Philadelphia, Kathy Ryan and I started a tile business. And we were in an old bowling alley, and we put together a brochure, slides. The thing that I was doing then was trying to work on designs and molds to put together patterns. And in fact, just last week, I am still moving out of my old studio a little bit, and I just moved my molds out of there. And I was just really excited to have a lot of these old molds from when I was doing this tile business, because I felt like it would be interesting now to take them in a new direction, you know, press molds.

Q: That's true. That is actually an interesting idea because once you finished your honors project, you clearly went from being a craftsman to being an artist, and to revisit your craft past like that, and see how to incorporate it into your artistic present is a very novel and daring idea. It will be interesting to see where it goes.

Gayle Tustin: Where it goes. Well, it was, speaking of art and craft, you know, the craft was more important then than the art. It was more working as a designer and a craftsman, rather than an artist. It was more, okay, I needed to make a living and how am I going to take my art background and this experience and use that, as well.

Q: Was your friend an artist, too?

Gayle Tustin: Yes, she was. Um hm. I met her at Penn State.

Q: A ceramic artist as well?

Gayle Tustin: Yes. She worked mainly with clay. But at the time Kathy was working with Binney & Smith, the big Crayola Crayons, and there was a big-- people were getting laid off left and right at that time. It was the early '80s, and she got laid off from Binney & Smith. And said, "Okay, it is time. Let's do this."

Q: That's great. How did it go? Was it a successful business venture? At least not (inaudible).

Gayle Tustin: We were making ends meet, and it was a challenge because I felt more, at that time I was bringing in the business background I had from Robert Morris, and the artistic from Marco, and inspiration from Martha's Vineyard. And, you know, I felt like I had to do a lot of role playing, too, you know. We would have to get dressed up, you know. I went and bought a couple of suits, and go meet with designers and architects. And she was more of an inspiration in that, because she had been a sales person for Binney & Smith Crayola Crayons, and so she knew the route that you had to take to be presentable, and this is what we need to do. So we would get in our little suits and our little briefcases, you know, and pull out the designs and the biggest project we did was a 18-foot-long by 3-foot-high mural of an Italian landscape for an Italian restaurant in Hazelton, Pennsylvania. Worked with signs. We did signs for attorneys. We did a beautiful signage for a bank in downtown Strasburg, with giant logos, and lots of molds for an architectural firm, LTS, a large mural.

Q: You were really trying to bring an artistic element to almost construction and architecture elements. I think that is wonderful, because they could have just hired a commercial firm to print out something in metal or something. And you were doing it in clay because it was always in a tile of some sort.

Gayle Tustin: Usually. There is quite a large number of people that do this now. In fact, there is an organization called Tile Heritage Foundation, out of Healdsburg, California, which I am a member of and have, you know, met with these people in different parts of the country. And they are restoring a lot of the terracotta and old tiles that were, it was actually quite a big industry in the United States in the early part of the 20th century. Ohio was very big. Gainesville.

Q: Right. From about 1880 to about 1920, '25.

Gayle Tustin: Right.

Q: Right in there.

Gayle Tustin: Sort of the American craft movement.

Q: Yeah. It is interesting.

Gayle Tustin: Um hm. It is. It is very fascinating.

Q: Did the three dimensional start to come out more in that? Was that a much, or was it always a flat tile?

Gayle Tustin: No. They were low relief. I did a lot of slip trailing, which I plan on putting some of these pieces in a show at UNCW. So there will be this little time line of how I worked. Nothing.

Q: Explain what that is.

Gayle Tustin: Skip trailing is when you either use a non-colored slip or a colored slip. I was experimenting with adding oxides to liquid clay a slip. And putting it in a syringe, like an ear syringe, and using that as my drawing tool. And drawing on the tiles and then going back and glazing in between. And it was a fun way to work. I liked doing that. And that was more painterly and for those kind of pieces, I was mainly doing one of a kind work. So.

Q: So how long did this adventure last?

Gayle Tustin: That lasted until '87. And then I moved here in January of '88.

Q: You have been here a long time.

Gayle Tustin: I have been here a long time.

Q: Well, I mean, relative.

Gayle Tustin: It is.

Q: You must have your citizenship papers now. What brought you here, though?

Gayle Tustin: A man. I love the water and I love sailing, and my partner was also interested in the same, and we looked up and down the coast, and he got an invitation to join a firm in Wilmington, and so we moved. That is how I got here. And initially I was not sure I wanted to move, because I did love the Poconos. It is a beautiful area, and it was an hour from New York City, little over an hour, so you could hop into New York City, that it seemed like a good place. And they had public radio at the time, so I knew it could not be that backward. Seriously.

Q: You are right. A lot of people say that.

Gayle Tustin: It is really true. If there is public radio here then I think I can thrive.

Q: Even though there was not Starbucks at the time.

Gayle Tustin: Right.

Q: So did you immediately take up your artwork again, or did you lay it on the side for awhile?

Gayle Tustin: Well, what I started doing actually after my daughter was born. My daughter was born in '84, and Kathy and I still had the tile business. And then she had a child, and she was sort of pulling out of the tile business. And I started doing jewelry.

Q: I was wondering how that was going to fit into all of this.

Gayle Tustin: Well, I had a very successful line of jewelry. In fact, they will be in the cases at UNCW, and you have quite a few of my working papers and sketches from my jewelry. And I was doing ceramic jewelry with actual gold and silver lusters on them. And I could not make them fast enough, you know. People really beat down the door for them. There was one problem is that clay breaks and for some reason when people would break their earrings, they would bring it to you and want you to repair it and, you know, feel like I needed to make a match if they dropped it on their porcelain sink, or on the floor. And so it was a little frustrating for me, and I decided that is not what I wanted to do. In fact, when I moved to Wilmington, the first thing I sought out was a jewelry class at UNCW. And there was no metalsmithing jewelry there. The course was with ECU and, with a small four-year-old, it just was not practical for me to commute to ECU. So I started doing photography.

Q: You are a renaissance woman.

Gayle Tustin: I am. I was still doing clay. I was doing jewelry a little bit, not a whole lot. I was doing jewelry and going more back into the tiles and started to use other mediums with my work, which was wood. I worked on a series of these wire boxes with miniature clay figures, and those figures became models for larger pieces. And then I started incorporating the photography with my clay and doing photo transfers with the photography onto clay.

Q: Interesting.

Gayle Tustin: And in the darkroom using emulsions on ceramic, and printing on the ceramic, and that was just a little too involved and time consuming. And also it was unpredictable. A lot of times your emulsion would go bad very quick, and if you did not get it on straight.

Q: It is a very difficult process.

Gayle Tustin: Very difficult process. So I decided in the early '90s that I wanted to go back to school and get my piece of paper.

Q: I think we call it a degree. What madness possessed you to do this?

Gayle Tustin: I guess I was approaching 40, and I went to summer school at Alfred University, and that worked out very good, because my mother lives in the summertime on Lake Canandaigua, so I could take my daughter, Gerry, with me and she could stay at my mom's while I did this summer program at Alfred. And Alfred is the renowned school of ceramics in the country. It really has the best reputation for ceramic artists. So I was.

Q: The best.

Gayle Tustin: It still was.

Q: And what city is it in?

Gayle Tustin: Alfred. Alfred, New York. Um hm. And it is Alfred University. It is called the Alfred Station, and they are quite well known on the scientific end of it, too.

Q: Oh, really.

Gayle Tustin: So they do a lot of technical research. I know that they were big in producing the research for the ceramic tiles on the space shuttles. So Val Cushing, who is now retired. He still is alive. Was teaching the technical end of it, and Marilyn Lysohir was teaching the sculptural end of it. So it was this condensed, condensed, summer, and it was another every waking hour you were in the studio working.

Q: Was it just one summer or more?

Gayle Tustin: Just one summer.

Q: Okay. Good, whole summer.

Gayle Tustin: Good whole summer. And so we had classes with Val in the morning on technical things, and did extensive glaze testing. It really was an unbelievable, phenomenal workshop. I still have my notes. I still use my notes a lot and will go back and refer to them. And that pushed me to get my degree after going there. And when I went to UNCW and wanted to transfer my credit hours, I had quite a few places that I had been to school. And after they agreed, yes, we will take all your hours, and not just your first two years, then I just started pursuing my degree with a young child at home, and going to school almost full time. And finally I was invited to go to Macedonia during my session back at the University by artist friend, Pam Toll, who had been there in '95. I am sorry. She was there in '94. It was '95 that we went. And before I went, I had been in at least one class with Professor Tony Janson, and I just was enthralled with the art history and just connected with him, and asked him if he would be my advisor for the--

Q: We need to interrupt at this point, Tony, and for fair disclosure, indicate that Dr. Tony Janson is one of the interviewers, and the other is Sherman Hayes, University Librarian, and today is December 15th, 2003. Normally I start the tape with that. My staff is going to mention that I failed again to follow proper procedure and protocol. So Tony was your advisor. Was there a ceramics pottery person even at UNCW at that point?

Gayle Tustin: There was. Steve McGuire was there.

Q: That's right.

Gayle Tustin: And the reason that I decided on this honor's project, I did not even know about it, because there was not an honor's program in the Art Department. And a friend of mine in the English Department, Paula Kamenish, who is still there, she said to me, you know, "Your work is just great. Your grades are exceptional. Why don't you do an honors project?" And I said, "Honors project? I do not know anything about this." So I looked into it, and met with Dr. Meyers and laid the groundwork to start the Honors Program in the Art Department. So it was a lot of leg work, and a lot of approval to get the Honors Program going there. And it was a big challenge for me. It really was. It was putting myself, you know, on the line to do a lot of research on my own, and use all these past notes and, of course, what a perfect place to go, Macedonia, for inspiration to come back and do work related to my travels there, and to use surface finishes that have the feel of an ancient Macedonian culture.

Q: So you used a technical term there, surface finishes?

Gayle Tustin: Surface.

Q: Surface.

Gayle Tustin: All my surface finishes, but it is terra sigillata is what I have been experimenting with, and terra sigillata is what the Greeks used on their pottery. And it was discovered, rediscovered around 1922 by some investigation on how the Greeks deflocculated clay with different things. That is separating out the finer particles, so I am deflocculating a white base and red base, and adding oxides to it, the same oxides which you would use in paint, chrome for green, and cobalt for blue, and titanium for white.

Q: Interesting. Now when you were in Macedonia, you were actually at an artists' colony. I think you should tell us a little bit about that, besides the parties, because clearly the art that you saw people making there had an impact on your project.

(crew talk; tape change)

Q: Okay, this is tape number two of an interview with Gayle Tustin, by Sherman Hayes and Tony Janson on December 15th, around about eleven o'clock in the morning. Okay, well, I think you were going to do the Macedonia. Tell us about the artists' colony that you went to in Macedonia with Pam Toll.

Gayle Tustin: There is a little down called Kriva Palanka in Macedonia. And just for your information, a lot of people don't know where Macedonia is because it used to be part of Yugoslavia. And the formal name is Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. So it's landlocked, it's just north of Greece. And so it borders on Greece, Albania, Kosovo, and Bulgaria. And this colony, I went to the first one, in 1995, is at St. Joachim Osogovski Monastery, and it's in the Osogovski Mountain Range, which is in the northeastern section of Macedonia. About an hour from the capital, which is Skopje, so they do have an airport and a main train station in Skopje. And actually, Skopje is where Mother Teresa was born. She is of Albanian descent, so there are a lot of Albanians in Macedonia. This colony, I believe it was the ninth year that they had been running the colony, which happens for 21 days. The same time of year, September, usually about the fifth to the twenty-first, maybe third to the twenty-first of September, when the weather's still warm, and they have use of this old monastery. So we're staying dormitory style, and there's artists from all over the world. That year, Turkey, Bulgaria, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Egypt and Japan. And so I was thrown in with all these professional artists. It was not a workshop type of situation. And how they run this colony is they would give you canvases, stretched, gessoed, and a bag of paints and a bottle of turpentine and linseed oil. And you had to sort of make do with studio space. A lot of people worked on balconies outside the bedrooms. Some worked up on the hillside. And there was a little building that I was privileged to be able to work in that little building. And I'd go outside just for natural light. But not everybody spoke English, so we communicated through art and sketchbooks. And it was a real celebration of life with these people. Most of the artists, it was their first time also to attend this colony. And people were just exuberant with their passion, which was painting. And I was not a painter at the time. I had a mineral oil painting class, and a watercolor class at Penn State, and some life drawing courses. But my clay work was very painterly at the time. It still is, but you know, flat, and using the clay as a canvas, and approaching the clay like an artist would approach a canvas. So at first I did feel intimidated by being with these incredibly talented painters. But the interesting thing was, it seemed like everybody put their ego down and that we were all equal. And even people made comments about that. I did hear that verbalized, that, you know, "We're all equal here, we all have paints, we all have brushes," you know, "our hands and our experience," and it just was truly magnificent. And again, there was this time travel element, probably actually more so in Macedonia than anywhere I've ever been. I felt like I had gone back 30 or 40 years. You'd go into the local village, which was about a two mile walk down the hill, because we're nestled in the mountains by ourselves. And you'd see the villagers coming in with their goats tied up on, you know, the wooden stick. And you'd see a car go down the street with a wooden coffin strapped to the roof, you know. Cobblestone streets and just stucco, beautiful stucco with exposure because of the elements and time. And there was just this beauty in that. And on the trek down, there were different paths you could take. So you'd go by local villages, and there was just this pure, innocent beauty in the composition of the gates, and the fences, and the ladders where, you know, they did not intend for this stuff to look like sculptural artwork. But it was truly magnificent.

Q: When you came back, it was clear that this experience was a transforming one, both personally and artistically. I mean you certainly were a very different person, with a much broader vision than you had before. And the kind of images that you started to produce were also very different. And that was not simply a matter of the subject matter, which was inspired by Macedonia, but the way you shaped them and the kind of compositions that you were doing. And you began to make your ceramics both more sculptural and more painterly at the same time, which is quite remarkable. And I bring this up because there is always this problem with ceramics, between traditionalists, who see it as a craft in the traditional Japanese sense. And the truly quite small handful of ceramists who see it at least as potentially an art form and who think that, treat it as an art form. You are in a small minority, I must say. And your work, which before I thought had tended to be basically quite decorative, now took on a much more probing quality. And I remember that you and I would often talk about your experiences, and how to translate them into your honors project in a way where the images would express the feelings that you were expressing verbally. And the amazing thing is that you were able to do it. I can't think of too many ceramists who would have been able to do it. Partly it's, I think, a coming together of all of the different things that you've talked about in the previous adventures in life. But then again, there's the element of personal and artistic maturity that suddenly just came together as a result of that experience. And your work has continued to evolve, it hasn't stagnated whatsoever. In fact, you have continued to diversify your mediums, the types of images. And I'd like to talk a little bit about how this artist keeps, in a sense, increasing her scope.

Q: You can talk to each other. I don't think you have to worry about the tape here.

Q: Okay.

Q: So some of the things about where she's heading.

Q: Yeah, I'll repeat that question.

Q: Yeah, yeah.

Q: Now let me just go over what I've said before. It was obvious when you came back from that summer in Macedonia that it had been a transformative experience, both personally and artistically. You were a very different person, very changed, and so was your art. It took on an entirely different quality. Before, I felt that it was nice, decorative material. But now, you started to incorporate not only images that you had seen in Macedonia, but also experiences. And I remember you and I used to talk about the experiences, some of them, sometimes quite difficult. And the goal became to express those experiences, this new person, this new artist, in your honors project. And the amazing thing is that you were able to do it. I can't think of too many ceramists who would have been able to. And this brings up of course the old problem in ceramics, which is the traditional view of it as a craft form in the Japanese tradition, that's the purist point of view. And then there's a small group, a very small group, who see its artistic potential and treat it as an art form. And you have continued to evolve as an artist. You have left, in a sense, the craft side of you behind you, even though you are about to go back and revisit some of those early molds of yours. And it's very interesting to see you try new media and expand the forms that you're using in your ceramics. How is it that you manage to keep on evolving and changing as an artist? Because a lot of people go cold, and you are in fact just beginning to warm up.

Gayle Tustin: Well, I have to go back to Macedonia. And what happened to me there was, I was able to let go of fear. And I had thought about this a lot before I went to Macedonia. For example, when I was in the tile business, and doing more of the craft end of it, I had made a decision at that point sort of with myself personally, that I was not going to be an artist. I was afraid to be an artist. I was extremely afraid to put myself out there for critique and judgment. And I felt that I couldn't take it personally, for criticism. Or if people didn't like things, it was too much because you're putting your soul out there as an artist. So in Macedonia, somehow working with professional people, or working in the same environment with professional people, and people putting down their egos, and saying, "It's okay, you know, if you do this." And, "It's okay if you're not accepted or you are accepted." You know, of course that's better. But for some reason, I can remember getting on that airplane to come back home, and I did feel transformed. I felt like I had just opened up a whole new era in my life. This door, this world had opened up where I finally could be an artist and not just the craft person. And I'm not doing production pottery. And that's where I think there's a difference in craft and being an artist, is usually with craft you're in it for production, and you're charging by the hour. You're making a living by the piece and by the hour, by the bowls, the pots, the tiles, the molds. There's a square footage price on it, and this and that. Whereas yes, I'm using clay, which is definitely in that category of craft, but I'm not using it as craft, I'm using it as an art medium instead of paint.

Q: I remember when you first came back, that you and I had first a series of discussions about becoming an artist. Because before you left, you had expressed great qualms about using the honors project to become an artist. And you admitted that you were afraid of putting your soul out there for people to critique. I lived with artists ever since I was a little boy, and I know that for them it is like putting their child out. And to see how the child will be treated or mistreated, and it can be an excruciatingly painful process. And, yet you did have the courage, and that's really what we worked on during your honors project, was to make sure that you would continue on the path and not revert. I think that's probably the only good I did you, was to insist that you maintain that course that you had set out on.

Gayle Tustin: Well that fear, it can creep in there, you know, there are times when, you know, there is this fear of putting things out there. Or a fear to be aggressive with different things, and I try to put it in the background. And there is still sometimes that fear of rejection, because when you're an artist, the rejection never ends. There's always rejection. And that's initially, you know, why I made that statement earlier that I just didn't want to do it because I couldn't take being rejected. You know, I wanted to be the good kid, and not be yelled at or criticized.

Q: And that's something that goes very far back into childhood.

Gayle Tustin: Absolutely.

Q: And a lot of artists that I've known have talked about exactly that problem. That they were brought up to be the good little boy or the good little girl, and how difficult it was to break that mold and to take chances in life that their parents disapproved of. Just as, I know your mother and father have.

Gayle Tustin: Mm-hm.

Q: And it reminds me of something that we talked about before once, which was Romare Bearden's statement that art is for old people, not because they're old, but because they finally have a full experience of life and an understanding of themselves that comes together and makes their art what it is, makes their art theirs.

Gayle Tustin: That's important to me right now, because I am reaching a midway point in my life in, you know, this coming year, I turn 50. And that's a big, it's a milestone kind of thing to reach the big five-oh. And I feel so much more settled and not needy. I don't need to run to gallery openings or seek approval with juried shows. I'm just using my memories to let it dictate to me what wants to happen in my artwork right now. And fortunately, I have a storehouse of incredible memories, and I hope to continue to add to those by doing some more travel and experimentation.

Q: It's funny, all the artists I've been talking to recently, I'm involved now with several different projects, and they have all talked about their art as memory. And how each part of each image represents a fragment of memory and experience that needs to be expressed, and can only be expressed in that way. And they're all anywhere from their late forties into their early seventies. And they all are struggling with exactly the same issues, how to get this memory out into physical form.

Q: Toby, let me ask you, and you can repeat this.

Q: Mm-hm.

Q: Where does it connect up with the viewer, though, that didn't share the memory? Can they actually feel it, do you think? Do you feel that they put the connection back to their own memory? In other words, if it's so personal, how does the viewer interact with the art?

Q: Well that's a very good question. My feeling is that at some intuitive level, all art is comprehensible to the imagination. Because after all, it comes from the imagination, and it's born of the imagination, and connects up to the viewer's imagination. If the viewer has only a sort of realistic, prosaic view of life, and a relatively narrow experience of life, then there won't be a connection. The richer the experience of life, the richer the imagination of the viewer, the more the viewer is going to connect to the image at some level. And I can say this, for example, with an artist named William T. Williams, whom I'm working on at the moment. He was raised in North Carolina, and I was the first person to point out to him how much his paintings resonated with his upbringing in rural North Carolina. And at first, he denied it. And then a few years later, he accepted it. He said "Yes, that was true." And he said in fact that that's when he began to realize how important memory was to his work, and that he was going to make sure that every image, in one way or another, expressed a memory experience, so to speak. And the success of it is that his work now sells better than ever. His prices are better than ever, even though he doesn't have a dealer. People seek him out, because he is now a fully mature artist, and it shows in his work. In the case of your work, I think there is also that same kind of coming together of an experience of life that's expressed through a visual imagination, and is received through the visual imagination of the viewer, and that's where the connection takes place. And as your art has become bolder, more individual, more diverse, it's actually easier, I think, for most people to understand it, to connect with it. And I notice that you get business, shall we say. People come and seek you out in the same way because as your work gets out there, and as people see it, they relate to it. And that doesn't happen by accident. It happens only because of what you put in it.

Q: Gayle, let me ask you the same question. Are you-- what kind of comments do people make about your work? I mean, it's such a personal to you, but what do people say to you? I mean what strikes them, and various purchasers and so forth? Without bragging, I mean, what are--

Gayle Tustin: No, well my work doesn't speak to everybody, I know that. And sometimes that isn't easy. And I guess I'll backtrack a little bit. Because sometimes when I'm working on things I'll think, "Who is going to want this? What is this about? What is somebody going to do with this?" And I really try to push that out of my thinking when I'm working on it. It sort of goes with that old saying about, you know, making art to, you know, hang with this particular color of couch kind of thing. People who like my work, they love it, they really relate to it. So mainly I hear the good comments, I don't hear when people don't like it, thankfully, they usually don't tell me, you know, that they don't like it. But it's interesting, because some of my work is more abstract. And I was working more abstract, but now there's still abstraction there, but I'm letting more images come out and be a little bit more defined. So the new series is narrative, and I don't know what the story is while I'm working on them. I let the story tell me what it wants to be. For example, this bull keeps appearing in my work. And the first bulls that showed up in my work were after Macedonia. And I'm just-- I'm going with it. I'm letting the bull show up. It's like, "Okay, there's the bull again." I guess, you know, if he wants to be there, and maybe that's part of Macedonia coming up. And I-- the bull always has horns, and I think of the crescent moon, and you know, the Greeks that used that in their clay work, and the Etruscans. And when I had come back and first did these bulls, it made me think of the very masculine side of Macedonia. It's not a pretty, feminine, bright colorful country. You really have to have a strong, you know, bullish side to survive there. And actually, I'm just thinking of this while we talk, it's sort of a no fear thing. The bull doesn't have any fear. So maybe I'm just, you know, working through that no fear--

Q: I might ask both of you to comment on the interesting position you've been as a commissioned artist to do specific work for, say, a large hospital.

Gayle Tustin: Right.

Q: What does that do to kind of the creative challenge? I mean that's a little bit different than the--

Gayle Tustin: It is.

Q: --I paint a picture and hope it's out there. You might tell us about, you did a major work, was it in Durham?

Gayle Tustin: Winston-Salem.

Q: Winston-Salem.

Gayle Tustin: Forsyth Medical Center, Novant Health, three murals. And actually, I have contracts, and usually I'll bring work so that they see my actual work. Or on slides, and then I'll do drawings. But I do have a clause in my contract where, is I can't duplicate exactly from 2-D to 3-D, that it doesn't always work. So I have some freedom to make changes there. Because what I have found, and I tell my clients this when I'm lucky enough to get a commission, that if I try to duplicate something exactly, it just loses it. It loses its soul kind of, it's not original to me anymore. And it loses something.

Q: It goes back to what you were allowing yourself to do with these new series. And that is the old game of seek and find, where you don't know what you're looking for until you've completed the work, and then you've found it. And if you were to go back to having to duplicate a drawing, it would be like going back to being a decorative artist again. And the artistic process would be completely blunted. And it takes guts to stand for your principals, because a lot of people will say, "No, I want it exactly as it's shown."

Gayle Tustin: Right. Well, I know with the hospital, they wanted nothing abstract. They wanted readable images, because they felt that abstract art would be too disturbing for patients. Because they did have some abstract paintings in part of the hospital, and they had to take them down because there were so many complaints.

Q: And I've seen that work. I think it's really a combined abstract and practical. It isn't like a drawing. I mean, it isn't--

Gayle Tustin: No. The entrance mural has figures in it, and then the other two murals, it's a diptych, or landscape. And there was and is a bronze figurative sculpture, a mother and child, in between the landscapes, so I really couldn't fight and compete with more figures that would balance out with that. But that's a challenge. Working on commissions is a challenge. But it's usually good money.

Q: I was going to say, a lucrative challenge.

Q: It's always nice to be asked to dance, you know, better than not to be asked. But it's, I think a measure of your acceptance, that you have received more and more of these, and again, testimony to your growth as an artist.

Q: Well, I see one of the things is you like to work in some large forms. And isn't that always a challenge for artists? How many people can handle, in their living space, large forms? And I always wonder about some of the people who really paint or work very large.

Q: Actually, a lot of people prefer to buy large works. Partly because it does fill the wall.

Gayle Tustin: Right.

Q: But partly because it also exerts a stronger presence on the visual surroundings. And the scale that Gayle is working on now is one that I think would appeal to a lot of collectors, because it is something that is very sculptural, yet very readable, very colorful. And really does define its surroundings in a way that a small sort of tchotchke wouldn't begin to do.

Q: You mentioned earlier the trip to Macedonia. Did you go a second time to Macedonia?

Gayle Tustin: I've been back two other times.

Q: Oh, good.

Gayle Tustin: I was invited to a ceramics colony in '96, which I didn't even know about when I was there. But I left a portfolio, of course with a lot of my ceramic work. And the country is smaller than North Carolina, as a total square miles. And so word gets around pretty quick. So that was quite different. It was on Lake Prespa, in the southwestern corner bordering on Greece and Albania. And I traveled in Greece by myself before I went to Macedonia the second time, and then went over the border, which was quite a challenge, and worked with a smaller group of artists. That was a lot of pressure, because of the nature of clay. This colony was three weeks long, but still, there's the making, drying, bisquing, glazing, firing. But they have an incredible museum there in Resen, the town's name is Resen, a collection of ceramic art in an old Victorian mansion kind of museum. The challenges were just very much different than the painters' colony. And I've been invited back every year to the painters' colony, but as we all know history, there's just been a lot of turmoil in the Balkans, you know, in the late nineties, and the early part of this century. So I finally felt like it was safe to go. And I went back this year. And it had been eight years since I had been to Kriva Palanka. And so much was still the same, so much hadn't changed. It was surprising to me actually that so much hadn't changed. And of course, every experience is different. You're with a different group of artists. But the same people are running it, and the same cook. And they embrace you there, they're very passionate people. And I really felt like I was going back home for a visit.

Q: You both may want to comment on the whole concept of an artists' colony, because I understand you and Pam and Dick Roberts have brought it here. And Toby, I don't think it's really even an American tradition is it?

Q: It is in a way. There are a number of artists' colonies, usually run in the summer time. Usually it's through application, they tend to be very exclusive. The one that you and Pam and Dick have put together on Bald Head Island is very different because the invitation is extended by you in the first place. And it's also much freer in its structure than most American art colonies. One of the interesting differences is that Macedonia is so passionate about its art. And that's one of the big surprises, to discover when Macedonian artists come over here, just how honored they are compared to American artists, who are often treated as outsiders, and who are tolerated because, "Well, we need paintings, and besides, it's a good business for some people." The first colony that you ran, in a way was the most experimental, with the most diverse results, both in terms of quality and range of subjects. But I know that putting this colony together is extremely difficult work.

Q: Tell us about it. Tell us a little bit--

Q: And it would be interesting for people to know how this thing gets done.

Gayle Tustin: It's not so much difficult, it's just a lot of work. Very time consuming. In fact, I'm still working on the catalog from the last international colony. But Pam Toll, Dick Roberts, and myself had all gone to Macedonia to the Kriva Palanka painters' colony. And it really changed all of us, and it was such a gift to us that we modeled our colony after this. Where we get sponsors, and in trade for a sponsorship, you get a painting. So what we ask the artists to do, you get so many canvases, here's your paint. All you have to do is pay your way, and you have to leave us two paintings behind. And that's what we have in our collection, and what we trade with artists. But we have an international colony coming up in 2004, and--

Q: November, you--

Gayle Tustin: November. We trade Kent Mitchell, who's one of the owners of Bald Head Island for the three Captain Charley's houses for two weeks, in trade for paintings. So we barter with Kent and quite a few other businesses in town. And we haven't done the slide-- send in your slides kind of thing because we haven't needed to. And we've talked about it, but we like the idea that we're small, it's intimate, it's almost like a reunion with many old friends. And so there are some artists that we have invited back just about every time. And then we always do invite new artists, too. Because not--

Q: How many would normally come to an international--

Gayle Tustin: We try to get about 10 international artists.

Q: And then some local?

Gayle Tustin: And then about 15 rotating local artists. So they're able to come for about four days or so. It's just easier for them to rotate out. But the international artists are here for two weeks. So it's hard to raise money. It's really a win-win situation. We're still trying to figure out how we get people to realize that it's a win-win situation. There are grants out there, but then again, somebody has to take the time to look for the grants, to write the grants, and Pam and Dick and I all have our own careers. And it's a lot.

Q: If you're looking for grants, you're not doing art.

Gayle Tustin: That's right. That's right. In fact, we've put two catalogs out, the third catalog, I'm working with the designer that is one of my many, many, many jobs. And this will be the last catalog. We've made the decision that we're going to go digital and do a disk.

Q: That's a good idea.

Gayle Tustin: It's too much money. It's going to cost us close to $10,000 to put this catalog out. And it's really-- I love books. It's really nice to have a book on the table, but we need to have other people help us, or money. And digital's the way to go right now.

Q: Actually, it is. And it's in a sense more tradable.

Gayle Tustin: It is. You can put it in your pocket. And it's cheaper to send. And--

Q: All the rest of it. I must say that one of the interesting things about the Bald Head Colony, since I wrote the first catalog, was to discover that even for the local artists, just the few days out there was a transforming experience. So what you've managed to bring to the colony is exactly that same quality that you discovered at Kriva Palanka. And that is sensational.

Gayle Tustin: Well, thank you. I appreciate that because it's a lot of work, and it's our gift to the local arts community. That's the way, you know, we looked at it. It's a gift of time for them to come and work, and here's your canvases, and to make the world a little smaller. Because a lot of the countries that are represented and have been represented in our colony, and especially in the Macedonian colony, these countries are at war. You know, there's turmoil between them. And so, you know, and that's where we came up with our name, No Boundaries, is you know, like cross the border, you know, put down not only your ego, but you know, your fears and what you're--

Q: And I think your setting is wonderful too. That makes a difference, with the kind of an isolation out on an island.

Gayle Tustin: Right, absolutely.

Q: You get a few visitors, but you seem to co-opt them into the process.

Gayle Tustin: Right, right. There's always a writer or a film maker that drops in. And that's fun. I mean we'd like to do that. In fact, I met an Italian composer at an art conference I do in Black Mountain every two years. And I really wanted him to come. His music has been so inspiring to me, but it did end up he couldn't come, but he sent an Italian artist last time. So it would be great if there was room to have composers and writers there also.

Q: Well music seems to be really important to you. You've mentioned it to me as a major source of inspiration. And I know a lot of artists feel that way, and yet there rarely is a direct connection that one can make between a specific piece of music and a particular artwork. But the interesting thing is that you have so many interests, and so many sources of inspiration, that they provide you with an even greater range of potential subject matter and approaches. And the one thing I can say for sure is, I've never met a stupid artist who was good. I've never met a good artist who was ignorant. Every good artist I've ever met is curious about everything. Not only the art of the past and the present, but every other art form that there is. And they listen to music, they go to ballet, they do everything they can to learn about-- what they can from another art form, because in one way or another it will show up in their work. In many respects, when I look at your India ink drawings, I think of them as being the closest to music of anything you do. They have very much the kind of structure, the kind of movement, and the range of feeling that one encounters in pieces of music. And one reason for saying that is that some of your pieces remind me actually of John Cage's artwork, which are really directions for music. And the India ink pieces have this lyrical quality that is quite remarkable.

Gayle Tustin: I'm probably freest when I do that. It's really good for me to have another medium besides clay to work in, just because sometimes I want instant gratification. And I work lyrically, and it is almost like a dance when I'm working on the India ink. And usually the music is very inspiring to me, you know, what I am playing at the time. Which a lot of times, is a bringing back memories when I put music on. Not always, because I'm constantly searching for new things. I think what I'm seeing right now is, it's a very exciting time in music. I think for a long time, there wasn't a lot going on in contemporary classical music and in contemporary young composers. Foreign composers mainly is what I'm seeing.

Q: Yes, there's a lot of movement in Europe and also even in the near East.

Gayle Tustin: Right.

Q: There's a lot of excellent stuff coming out of there. African music has begun to take off in new directions.

Gayle Tustin: Right.

Q: I'm somewhat disappointed in the classical scene in this country. I'm not seeing that many young and exciting composers.

Gayle Tustin: No, well, I'm thinking of Italy, you know, with the contemporary composers there. And something that is available now to us is the internet, that I can get on to these international radio stations. And it's just incredible how it just opens you up.

Q: And on the next tape, we're going to actually go and see some of the work and so forth. But you alluded to the time frame, and the need for sometimes instant gratification might speak to that. I mean, your process is a long one, right?

Gayle Tustin: It is. Clay is a long process. You can't rush it, or it cracks and it breaks, and it's a disaster. So it's not a forgiving medium.

Q: And you do a lot of preparatory drawing and thinking even before you start the clay, correct?

Gayle Tustin: Well, I sketch and I draw a lot. But it's not necessarily in prep for my clay work. I have notebooks that, if I might be seeking some inspiration, if the clay isn't quite speaking to me, which that doesn't really happen that often, just the nature of clay and my communication with it. But I'll use my notebooks for reference. But unless I'm working on a commission, I'm not working from drawings, mm-mm.

Q: Yeah, I've only known a few of your pieces that were inspired by drawings, and that was right after your return from Macedonia. And there were certain motifs that you culled from your notebooks, including the piece that I bought from you, which is now in the Cameron Art Museum. Speaking of that, it's interesting for me to hear the comments of people who've seen it. Because it is actually one of the most popular pieces in that entire ceramics display. Everyone remarks on how different it is, how beautiful it is, and how intense and moving it is. And I remember the drawing from which it was derived was one that was created I think on your way there, and it expressed a great deal of fear of the unknown, and what was about to happen.

Gayle Tustin: That's right. Right.

Q: And you went with that motif and built it up, and didn't shirk from it at all. You really faced not only the subject, but the emotions themselves. And that really comes across to people immediately.

Gayle Tustin: Well.

Q: And it's an entirely abstract piece.

Gayle Tustin: Mm-hm, it is. And it was a pretty gestural sketch. You know, there were no details in that sketch, as I recall. It was more about feelings, in fact. The title of that piece is something about feeling the fear, something like that, and doing it anyways kind of thing. It was an important piece.

Q: Yeah.

(tape change)

Q: We've started now and we're on take #3. It's still December 15. I know it seems like we've gone several days. We're interviewing with Dr. Tony Janson and Sherman Hayes from UNCW. I don't know that we need a practical demonstration but if you could show us some of the work and talk about the process that would be helpful to the listener.

Gayle Tustin: Okay. I am off the wall right now. I'm doing this narrative vessel series and I'm sort of letting these stories come out. As I said, I don't work from sketches. I keep sketches for reference but this piece here-- I think the first thing that appeared was this jester and he's on a circus kind of ball and he's playing a harp and there's a dog that's helping him play the harp and it sort of has become quite ornamental. And here we have a bull as I was talking about these bulls appearing in my work, and I have been having some blindfolded imagery with animals and figures happen in my work too and I'm just going with it. I'm not sure what that blindfold's about but this bull is on stilts with a backwards acrobat with a ladder throwing a ring of fire and jumping over--

Q: What would you call the overall piece? It's not a pot. It's a sculpture. What--

Gayle Tustin: It's a vessel sculpture, uh huh.

Q: Vessel sculpture.

Gayle Tustin: Yes. Yes. That's what I consider these and these are narrative. The stories sort of make themselves. It's sort of like being a writer. A lot of times when a writer starts writing a book or they have an idea they don't know what the ending's going to be. They don't know how the characters are going to develop and so that's how--

Q: What about the vessel itself? That's an awfully large piece to make. Is that slabbed or how do you construct that just to get started?

Gayle Tustin: I'm doing slabs and coils. I-- I'm starting out of course with a disc and I have a template how I was going to make them all slabs but it- I was working too big and they were collapsing on me so now I'm working on coil slabs about this much at a time and I can only go so far in a day and then I'll wrap it in plastic and let the bottom set up. So some of the imagery I'm poking out from behind and other imagery is added on because once you get to a certain point your clay is a lot less flexible so--

Q: When you get done with the sculptural part there's a treatment on the clay that you'll perform?

Gayle Tustin: Yes. I'm using terra sigillata so one thing about clay for me is I'm not buying bottled things because you just can't get the effect that I want to get so testing is an ongoing process. So this is terra sigillata. This is a rud[ph?] base and then I'm putting different oxide patinas on and so for this one color rud you can get all these different effects, titanium, cobalt, titanium and cobalt, a little green, and red iron oxide. So depending on what color your background is there's a lot of different colors you can get.

Q: Many people don't realize the amount of experimentation and chemistry involved in the glaze process. Like you said, you don't just buy it in a bottle and put it on.

Gayle Tustin: Right. Right. Well, the terra sig I love because it shows texture and texture is really important to me, every little line, and when you use a glaze which has silica in it, glass, you think about your functional pottery, drinking out of your coffee cup or eating off of your plate, there's glass in it. So that's why it's vitrified whereas this it's vitrified but because there's no silica to melt the silica would fill in the cracks. For example, these glazes have silica, versus this no silica. So you've got the glassy, shiny finish in there.

Q: I see, I see. It actually changes what you intended.

Gayle Tustin: Well, it does. If you look at this you can see texture here where it's very thin. The thicker you get, you totally lose your line and your texture so for some things you might want that.

Q: The material you first showed us in rud, the technical term-- It's not a glaze?

Gayle Tustin: That's correct. It's a surface finish, terra sigillata, which means earth seal.

Q: Oh, interesting. It does protect--

Gayle Tustin: Yes. Yes. It is depending on what temperature you fire it to. The Greeks used it in their vessels for storage so it does seal the clay. It is a sealant so--

Q: But it doesn't have the glassy--

Gayle Tustin: That's correct. No silica and the silica is what makes the glass in the glaze.

Q: You do eventually have to fire this in a large kiln.

Gayle Tustin: Yes. I'll be happy to show you my kiln.

Q: We're going to see that in a minute. I want to make that clear that in the process that you're still fairly early in the process of creation for these particular vessels. There's still quite a bit more to go.

Gayle Tustin: There is a lot more to go, at least two more firings, sometimes more if I'm not happy with how the patinas turn out. I've been working with them for a while so usually I know- I have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen but sometimes there are good surprises and sometimes there is not so good surprises--

Q: That's the trouble with ceramics is that you're never quite sure--

Gayle Tustin: You're right. You're exactly right.

Q: --that element of doubt as to how it will finally turn out.

Gayle Tustin: Right.

Q: To me it's very interesting to see you working on such a scale in the round because when you were working on your honors project I predicted at one point you would have to begin to become more sculptural because the high relief virtually demanded to become independent of the flat surface and while one can argue that a round surface is still flat in its own way the fact is this is much more sculptural and many of the other pieces that you're beginning to undertake such as the related form of the devil on the bull are entirely sculptural and at the same time you have offset the very laborious and difficult work in process with painting, which is a much faster process and then finally with the India ink drawing so that you manage to in a sense satisfy all of your different creative urges by using these different media. What's behind you, Gail? That must be--

Gayle Tustin: This piece-- Let me grab one of these samples. Now this has terra sigillata on it, not the whole thing, but this here, this color, is a yordin[ph?] and it's going to turn this color after it's fired without- and then this has a patina on it and this is the rud. So this is actually quite a darker blue and this is a white moon so--

Q: One of the challenges is in its raw form you're speculating what's going to come out in its finished form.

Gayle Tustin: Right. Well, that's why I have test tiles. Well, now I can mow out my palette with these two. A lot of times I don't do that and I am spontaneous but because it's just easier sometimes to have in front of you okay, this is going to look like this and that blue is going to look like that.

Q: --like a library of test tiles that--

Gayle Tustin: Uh huh, a library of-- Yes, I do. I have stacks and stacks constantly.

Q: You keep them cataloged and where they're at and do you keep them by colors in a sequence? Is that how you--

Gayle Tustin: Some-- It depends colors or surface finishes, uh huh. I have so many glazes that I might have a file of just red and yellow glazes and blues and greens and then such as here are some files right here so I have these out with terra sig and my- actually you can see my stickers on the front so it's easier for me to pick out what I'm doing.

Q: I think the general public doesn't understand the systematic documentation that's necessary. Otherwise every vessel is an experiment?

Gayle Tustin: Right. Well--

Q: And most likely to be doomed to failure because if one doesn't know exactly the chemical properties and the likely results not only of the particular medium but also what happens at different firing temperatures things don't work out at all. You have to be able to predict within a reasonable range what the likely outcome will be the same way that a painter when he picks up a tube of paint has a pretty good idea of how that paint will look like when it's dry, what will happen if you mix it with another color, and artists who don't experiment with color mixing and with different kinds of paints including natural earth tones are pretty limited painters. Sometimes they don't have a choice. For example, the early abstract expressionists had to use whatever they could get their mitts on, which was usually cheap inks, and as a result their early works are falling apart and that's indeed where the craft of painting is being lost and why the craft of ceramics is so important because there, there is no choice. You have to master it. Otherwise you're not a ceramist and you're not even an artist. So you have to have a foundation of the craft at an excellent level. Then you combine that with an artistic vision. Exactly. It's the same thing for a sculptor. A sculptor has to learn all of the different techniques for modeling, how to use wires for example to support clay, has to learn how to carve marble, has to learn wax, has to learn techniques for casting, and if he doesn't learn them he's crippled because he can't do the things that his imagination says he wants to do. Speaking of that, is this one of your works here?

Gayle Tustin: This is. This is in process. My bull has finally come off the form and this is bist.[ph?] It's in a wide sculpture body and--

Q: Let's see if we can get the whole thing in.

Gayle Tustin: So the brusted satyr will be glued on afterwards. It won't be fired together, this piece. I just have some sticks in there now to hold him on there while he's sitting here--

Q: --for you to go to a true full sculptural piece like this or--

Gayle Tustin: It is. It's come off the vessels and I'm not sure where it's going to go. I'm-- Actually, I'm happier working on the vessels right now but it was something I needed to do so that little bull just had to come out and it's--

Q: Which was first? The bull on the vessel or when it came out--

Gayle Tustin: The bull on the wall. The bull on my wall forms and now the vessel and now he's off the vessel so we'll see and he's been in- on ink too.

Q: It's inevitable that there will be more of these--

Gayle Tustin: Right. Right. Right. So this- a lot of different challenges when you're working in 3D design--

Q: Why don't we walk over to the wall ones that you mentioned--

Gayle Tustin: Okay. Okay. Well, I have some of these vessels finished if you want to look at that. Yeah. Okay. Thanks. This is--

Q: Are these finished here or not?

Gayle Tustin: These two are finished. That one will be re-fired again but this one is-- I usually write down a lot of titles or I'll keep note cards while I'm working on things because the story changes so I believe that this one is going to be Raven at the Window and so this has the patina as you can see. When the patina goes into the terra sig every little scratch mark I make shows and that's very appealing to me, the memory of where you've been.

Q: The one who is lighter is going to fire again. Will it materially change in color or is it pretty much--

Gayle Tustin: No. It'll probably be the white background with just a darker patina on there, uh huh, so- and then I'm glazing the interior and this one is The Fiddler in the Night. We have a fiddler here on one side and it's just made me think of the magic in the night when you go to sleep and the moon's out, sort of- animals may talk and dance and then they come to life more than when not- in the daytime.

Q: Although we've talked about production versus art, in the end do you have any sense of how many tens of hours you have in--

Gayle Tustin: I have so many hours in these. It's just so many hours. I--

Q: Just to see the process you've gone through, it's a tremendous number of hours. Do you sometimes lose them completely? I don't think people understand that there's actually damaged ones or that they don't work out or--

Gayle Tustin: I know my clay body now. When I first started making the bigger wall pieces I lost a few pieces because I needed more grog in the body 'cause I was firing so thick and so big so I redeveloped my clay body and that was just another technical thing that took some time to do. Now I don't really lose any. There might be some that I don't like as much as others, I might not be attracted to the palette as others, but one in how many-- It's like, I don't want to show that. I'm not happy with it.

Q: One interesting thing in looking at this particular piece is it reminds me, speaking of memory, of Chagall's process of composition where he would say, "Yes, these are all memories from my growing up in Russia but they're not greens of any sort because the image demands that I need a cow here or I need a pair of lovers and the sky over here." The way this is organized suggests very much that process of on one hand needing a particular form and on the other hand coloring that form, memory and experience.

Gayle Tustin: Yeah. I think there's definitely something to that, what you're saying, because this is memory. Here I've got Greek columns in here and--

Q: How about the pyramid though? That's music.

Gayle Tustin: Well, there we go. It's music again and I love the fiddle very much. I think if I was going to go back and take music lessons again I would go to the fiddle. I do. I play the flute very rarely but I used to play it much more and it's just a really nice sound because it can go from classical to bluegrass to gypsy music and I think that that's probably more about the gypsy music that is so prevalent in Macedonia and that was my first real introduction to that so--

Q: I always keep in mind that the Russian term for violin is skreepka which gives you exactly the sound that a beginner makes, that scratchy sound--

Gayle Tustin: Right. Right. Glaze. Terra sig.

Q: This wall here has-- Are these finished works or practice works? Tell me a little bit about these.

Gayle Tustin: They're finished. They're sketches. I look at them as sketches, just that little freedom of movement when I need some instant kind of stuff and usually when I- I'm doing the inks I'll do them- a hundred of them at one sitting. I just can't stop. I-- I'll get it out and I'll just throw the ink around and a lot of it is inspired by music or works of art. I'd say I probably was listening to a jazz horn, Weller,[ph?] when I play that piece and the woman reading comes up in my pieces a lot.

Q: These are the ones that come closer to the works by John Cates[ph?] that I mentioned earlier. It's really interesting because he used color to also help determine what note would be played and you've done it purely through the movement of the brush using only one color and yet one could with no difficulty construct a piece of music based on any of these three India ink drawings. This one here struck me as almost oriental. I didn't know if you were trying for that but it's very close--

Gayle Tustin: Well, it's because of the brushes I'm using and the inks. I think that's why you think of it as oriental because there is- the Sumi-e brushes were one stroke fast with a lot of spirituality behind it. The titles of a lot of those pieces are asking for another time.

Q: Here is a set. Is this together or is this a--

Gayle Tustin: Well, they're made separate but this is with glaze so it's got the silica in it so things are-- You can still see the texture but a lot of it has been lost in a lot of the pieces and so these were done at the same time, in the same period, in a few months' time working and I just wanted to get away from the terra sig for a while. I wanted brighter colors and I was playing with contrast from matte to shiny to texture and--

Q: Would you sell these separately or are these a suite that has to go together?

Gayle Tustin: No. They're sold separate but I like them as a group and these- actually these three pieces were very much inspired by listening to these contemporary Italian composers and I even named them after the different pieces that I was listening to and that wasn't intentional. I-- A friend sent me this CD of some contemporary composers and his piece was included and I started working and they just sort of came out of what I was feeling and what the music did to me and for me so--

Q: Now we're looking at--

Gayle Tustin: Well, here we have the terra sig and this piece is important to me. Actually, this piece I did for my honors project and I very well might put it in the show that's going to go up but it has so much information in it. There are some pieces I can't sell. There's not that many and sometimes I'll put things out for sale and they don't sell and it's like oh, good, I really didn't want that to sell anyways and I wasn't supposed to because just the colors and everything on here-- It's just full of information and it really is my favorite piece and it's cut--as you can see the lines in it--more like stained glass. They are tiles but it's cut like stained glass and-- Okay. So-- And that was a trip to a monumental site in Macedonia with seven of my friends. It's called Monument to Liberty, which was a site that Gligor Cemerski had done on the hillside outside Eschteep[ph?] so--

Q: Good. How about, on the right here are much more conscious figures.

Gayle Tustin: They are very conscious figures and this is what I was doing before I moved into the vessels and so they- they just sort of happened, a woman riding horse serpents. I was reading some mythology but I wasn't intending on putting it in my work and it just sort of happened. And this is from a Indian legend and I started working on it and there was just Fires and Bones and Woman and Dog and it just popped into my head, oh, my gosh, this is from Women who Run with Wolves and there was a story about a Indian woman who would collect bones, bring them back to her fire and it would turn into a dog so that's what that piece is about, which--

Q: The middle piece seems particularly classical in inspiration as does the top one. Is there a particular subject matter to the middle one?

Gayle Tustin: I'd say that yes, this is probably inspired by The Bathers. I have seen so many versions of Cezanne's Bathers and I love that painting so very much and his sketches and this and that so without intention I think that's probably where that came from because there are different pieces that I've seen in galleries and museums that I'm drawn to and--

Q: I'm trying to give the viewer the other dimension because when we show it from the front it doesn't give you any sense but from the side-- Take a look here as I take a look at the picture.

Gayle Tustin: Okay.

Q: --to see--

Gayle Tustin: Uh huh, that one.

Q: --that they're not flat.

Gayle Tustin: Uh huh, so actually these are a couple of my favorite pieces too that--

Q: These were done pretty soon after your honors project. Your work began to--

Gayle Tustin: They were. These-- The single pieces. This was and- but this is a newer piece. Here we have the bull again too and--

Q: How about the one that you cut apart or recombined or-- I'm not sure--

Gayle Tustin: I-- That is something-- I'm not done probably working that way but the piece here is on wood and I was trying to eliminate the bigger piece that we had talked about, the Monument to Liberty. I have to cut the wood. I have to paint the wood. It's bolted on the back with this whole framing system and I was trying to make bigger pieces and eliminating the wood, a different process, so that's where the series came out with different sections that went together and I like them separated.

Q: So these are solid pieces.

Gayle Tustin: No. They're-- Actually, I can show you. They're-- You think they're solid but it's pushed up and out and carved to eliminate weight and also for firing because you want the pieces to be as even as possible so there's less stress when it's going up in temperature and coming down in temperature.

Q: The little indentations are to reduce the weight and so forth. Is that--

Gayle Tustin: Yes. This piece-- You can see I pushed that, I rolled out a slab and then I took my hands and I pushed up underneath it. Sometimes I need to stick newspaper to hold it depending on the wetness of the clay and then I'll just go back, usually when I'm adding on hanging elements and just carve out some for weight and firing.

Q: Thank you for showing that. That's--

Gayle Tustin: So--

Q: I remember when you were doing your honors project you lost a few pieces because--

Gayle Tustin: I-- That's right. I didn't have my clay body down. What?

Q: --started to hollow them out from behind and--

Gayle Tustin: Well--

Q: --and then you didn't lose them anymore.

Gayle Tustin: Well, I--

Q: I think that the division is very very effective 'cause it forces you to look at the whole thing and then each piece and for a large space I think it works very well and it's very interesting. It's also very coherent as a composition in a way that's more fragmentary units of art. Are the three up and down a piece or that just happens to be--

Gayle Tustin: It was a series. There were four columns after I went to Turkey and had gone in a cistern in Turkey where it's underground water storage and it's held up by all these old, ancient columns from Roman- pre Roman times underneath. They used them and it was just really incredible underwater and these underground columns so that was a series of four and one sold so I didn't have a problem breaking up the series and-- So one's Nike. One was Medusa. This is Medusa and--

Q: Reebok, perhaps--

Gayle Tustin: That could be, and--

Q: Behind you are some-- Are these yours or other works--

Gayle Tustin: These are mine that actually I got off this dinnerware that I designed for UNCW. That's why I pulled this out so this will be in one of the cases there as part of the process because I did- was invited to do a show in Kentucky in '93, '94, for a fundraiser there where they invited eight artists across the country to make dinnerware and I'd never done dinnerware so this was my dinnerware design.

Q: You never got back to dinnerware?

Gayle Tustin: No. I-- Actually, I got one commission out of it and I decided it was just too much work. I did these on slump molds, which maybe I'll put those in the display too, but they were made to stack so here are the five pieces and a charger and so they're made to stack like that.

Q: I remember that commission was very frustrating for you and you never were satisfied with it.

Gayle Tustin: Well, they changed the colors for the commission and they dictated to me what they wanted. It wasn't this. This was what I chose and they took out the green and this ruteal[ph?] color and just wanted purple and gray and black and it just lost it. It was very boring and flat and was not exciting to me at all so it was I had to make something that I didn't want to make so when you have to do that with a commission-- Yes, I made some money but it wasn't- it was tortuous.

Q: It was tortuous.

Gayle Tustin: Just those kind of things are tortuous.

Q: How old are these sculptures--

Gayle Tustin: Well, these are in part of my series. Here is another one that's come out. This is Cinderella actually. She's a contemporary Cinderella and she has a shoe fetish so I haven't made the shoes but she's going to be holding lots of shoes. I think it's my daughter actually but anyways-- So Don Quixote and--

Q: I'm not sure if--

Gayle Tustin: It's your light. Yeah. It's--

Q: That's all right. It'll come out. It give us some sense--

Gayle Tustin: Okay. And this is inspired by Macedonia again, the goats, the ladders and everything, and this one the relief was really coming out and I don't know where this came from but it's a blindfolded chicken which--

Q: Is this Cinderella's stepmother or no?

Gayle Tustin: No. She's got bullhorns on. Here's my-- I'm-- This I guess is kind of me with the bullhorns and my dog so- who's with me all the time usually out here but--

Q: What's your dog's name?

Gayle Tustin: Loki, L-o-k-i, Nordic god of mischief, so--

Q: A very appropriate name for this dog. He's great.

Gayle Tustin: Yeah, so--

Q: This is the ceramic tile-type material you were talking about before, the--

Gayle Tustin: Yes. That's an old press molded piece that's just here to remind me I should make some press molded tiles and that's all--

Q: Good. Let's--

Gayle Tustin: My boxes of jewelry and so I put these together for in your display cases so this is some of my old jewelry, ceramic.

Q: When are we having you come in?

Gayle Tustin: Photographs on clay--

Q: Early January?

Gayle Tustin: Early January so I need to get you images. Actually, this just came out of the kiln and so--

Q: What I'm thinking is we close down the 23rd or something like that and for the listeners we're talking about an upcoming show at William Madison Randall Library that-- You may want to call me in that just after Christmas period. I can open the building up and come in, see what you want to do, that kind of thing. I hate to have you have a sense of a day or two to go and this isn't what I thought.

Gayle Tustin: Well, I know your cases. I guess I just need how many cases you have and the dimensions of them and if Beth could even just e-mail that to me I can e-mail back.

Q: All I'm saying is the fact that we're closed-- Don't feel that it's an inhibition. Just call me. I have a key. You can come in with nobody there and think about what do you think, what do you want to do?

Gayle Tustin: Right. Well, this is sort of fun for me too to go back and pull out this stuff that I haven't looked at for a long time and here is my imagery in my wall pieces so they were--

Q: It was there way back. Isn't--

Gayle Tustin: Yeah, the little reliefs and these sort of remind me of some of the stuff too so--

Q: How about on the wall here? Is this your work here?

Gayle Tustin: That is mine. Those are paintings inspired by a photograph that I was working on a series of self-portraits in- with scarves, self-portraits with scarves, so--

Q: The photographs are fabulous.

Gayle Tustin: I have a couple here if you want to see them. I just went and got more paper. I'm- was experimenting with archival paper from townhouse so this is just Xerox paper but this was all-- These are for the paintings. That's why there's paint all over them, 'cause I have them tacked up, but a one-night inspiration thing where I just got a little carried away and what it turned into was my self-portrait with artists' work in my collection. So here I am with Wayne McDowell. This is with Claude Derven. This is with a Dick Roberts and this is with a Bajer Kuzmanovski[ph?], Marshall Milton sculpture.

Q: I see, so you put another piece next to you and--

Gayle Tustin: I went around my house with my collection and there are some people that tease me about my scarf collection and they're sort of like paintings in fabric to me and so it was- I was- the joke was on me and so it was just-- I was sitting at the table by myself and started doing this so that's what these paintings were from and what I was thinking at the time was I wanted to do the series of paintings, the photographs in limited edition books--I probably have a hundred of these photographs--and with maybe- choose the best 20, something like that, and then sculptures with that kind of--

Q: I see a large one. Is that still in process, the bicycle, or--

Gayle Tustin: No. The bicycle's done. I actually did that at a Bald Head Island colony. That one is the painting that's in the catalog that's almost ready and these little ones on the wall I just did in Macedonia in September. I wanted to--

Q: I see red again--

Gayle Tustin: I like red. I can't deny I really have a hard time not using red when I'm painting. It's a different--

Q: --in your ceramics?

Gayle Tustin: Well, I'm-- The glaze, yes, but there's just something about-- I just have to have a little red. Not everything has red in it but I was into red big time in Macedonia and this one I did in Paris in '90- no, in 2001, March 2001, and I did a lot of Big Red series there too so--

Q: This is actually one of your best paintings that I've ever seen. It's a terrific piece.

Gayle Tustin: Thank you. Thanks. It's--

Q: Let's open the magic door. Why don't you come in and--

Gayle Tustin: Okay. This is my kiln room and I have three kilns, a test kiln that I run regularly, a medium size kiln and a very large kiln. It's 30 by 30 by 50 inches high so I really was not able to make those vessels and fire them. I could make them but I couldn't fire them in my other kiln and they're too big for this kiln. I-- They are just over the top. So I can get about three in at a time.

Q: It's cool in here. Is that purposeful or--

Gayle Tustin: I don't have heat or air conditioning in here because the door is usually closed and it gets warm when the kiln's on so there was no need to have climate control 'cause I'm not storing paintings or artwork in here. It's-- I have climate control--

Q: This whole complex is fairly new. Right? It's--

Gayle Tustin: A year and a half, uh huh, a year and a half. I'm very lucky. I say my little prayers of thanks every day I walk out here. I'm really still in disbelief that I have this place--

Q: It's particularly nice that you have what I call Big Bertha here so that you can work on the scale that your work really for a long time has demanded and finally it's become a reality.

Gayle Tustin: Big Bertha-- I like that. I think I'm going to paint that on there.

Q: Be careful though 'cause Big Bertha was another term used historically that you may not like--

Gayle Tustin: Yeah. Right.

Q: It's the name of one of the bombs--

Gayle Tustin: Yeah. Uh oh. Uh oh. Okay.

Q: Open that--

Gayle Tustin: So I have shelves and here's all my stilts and furniture so I can do different stackings and my shelves for the big kiln also so I'll use lots when I'm working on tiles and less with the bigger forms.

Q: I think in another conversation you said you keep a meticulous computer log of every firing--

Gayle Tustin: I do. I have journals of firing and that way I'll take notes after the firing too. Like, here is a cone pack. I know exactly what temperature it was so I'll put that in my notes, okay, cone O5 is all the way down, cone O4 is at 1 o'clock, and then I'll say how the glaze reacted. More so the glaze I have to worry about because the- it's a little trickier with that. The terra sig is a little more forgiving. I have about a three-cone range I can go in. With glazes there's usually just a one-cone range.

Q: Will you explain quickly what a cone is?

Gayle Tustin: A cone is made out of ceramic material that's close to glaze so it is almost like a clay, glass combination and they're made to melt at different temperatures so when this cone is down I know I've reached 1850 degrees. And so there are spy holes in the kilns where you have your cones visible and you check the temperature by the cones. My new kiln does have a computer on it and I can program it to go up 100 degrees every hour for so many hours but you- still you can't always trust computers. You have to have a visual cone pack in there--

Q: Interesting.

Gayle Tustin: --and so--

Q: How much hotter does this large kiln get than the smaller ones?

Gayle Tustin: They all go to the same temperatures. All my kilns go to cone 10 but I'm really only firing to 1 or 2 but I opted to get a kiln that would go up to a higher temperature. I didn't want to limit myself in case I wanted to fire higher so more for outdoor kind of thing. So I'm firing to-- About 2,000 degrees is my average temperature to fire at. When I do the patinas I'm going to 1940 and soaking them for an hour at 1940 so they don't get shiny. It takes away the sheen.

Q: It's interesting. They figured out that the Greeks got their temperatures as high as 2800 degrees and they're still trying to figure out how they managed to do it, which is wood.

Gayle Tustin: That is amazing, yeah.

Q: Thank you.

Gayle Tustin: My colorful room. I had to put some color in there but it's cold in there.

Q: Thank you very much for the tour. I'm now considering a pan of kind of the whole area-- In part of this space were you-

Gayle Tustin: In my garage but I had a nice garage. Yeah. It was a good garage but I couldn't paint and do clay at the same time and that became very frustrating, that if I was waiting for my clay pieces to dry I had to totally move everything in my studio, which took forever and so I'm very fortunate I don't have to move things around when I'm ready to work on something.

Q: Thank you very much.

Gayle Tustin: Thank you.

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