Ceramicist and brush maker Troy Bungart isn’t out to compete with $5 mass-market bargain brushes.
“I am not making that brush. Those people have nailed it. There’s no reason to do that,” says Bungart, of Three Rivers, Mich. “Our tools should be beautiful. I want something that feels beautiful when I’m working, otherwise it’s weird if you think about it. Here I am trying to make something beautiful with the cheapest material.”
Bungart admits that at first his interest in brush making leaned toward having saving money on brushes too, until he realized how many nice brushes he could have bought with the time and money he dedicated to figuring out brush making, not to mention his proclivity for dissecting good brushes to examine how they’re made.
Students won’t go to that extreme just yet as part of Bungart’s Introductory Brush Making Workshop 10 AM – 5 PM Sat. Aug. 5 at Pewabic.
Bungart will share with students how he started researching and developing his brush making technique more than 30 years ago. He’ll then demonstrate the process and take students through the basics of making handmade bamboo paintbrushes, showing them a variety of ferrules they can make, before providing the necessary tools and materials — including animal hair, and natural and synthetic fibers for bristles — to make their own in class.
“What we end up learning from this is every type of hair has its unique mark. It’s up to us to find out how we can use it,” says Bungart, who makes a point to pause class midway through so students can see how their brushes perform. Oftentimes students get useful ideas by seeing the range of classmates’ brushes.
“I want to express to people to have an open mind to use different materials; to try something that’s outside of the normal that they’re used to,” says Bungart. “This is a chance to have something that no one else has. It’s just that simple. And then what we’re going to try to do is make something beautiful. So we’re going to talk about proportions and cleaning up details and make a really beautiful bamboo brush.”
From 1-3 PM Sunday, Aug. 6, Bungart’s handcrafted pottery and tools will grace the Pewabic courtyard as the season’s fourth Kiln Pad Pop-Up exhibition. Rain or shine, Bungart’s “whiskey sipper” cups, bowls and flasks will be available for sale.
“My cups don’t have handles on them. These are more whiskey sippers; whiskey tumblers. They’re small yunomis,” he says, referencing a traditional style Japanese ceramic cup. Bungart emphasizes that they’re small, unlike many American translations. “I can’t drink that much bourbon. I like a cup proportioned for what I’m drinking.”
He’ll also have available his handmade brushes and other tools, some of which are collaborative designs with other artists.
“I really enjoy the connectivity of working together with somebody,” explains Bungart, who incorporates other artist’s ceramic ferrules. The finished pieces include both artists’ chop marks. “It’s a way to share and make something that couldn’t be made without working together. I believe very strongly in acknowledging the people who affected us.”