For most of my life I've tried to balance my passions between making folk music and creating ceramic sculpture. At 12, I started playing music (banjo). I fell in love with clay that same year while taking a 6th grade ceramics class. There was an ease and a joy in creating whatever I wanted from that sticky mud. I quickly found myself making commissioned work for friends, teachers, even the principal! Throughout my high school years I entered pieces and won various ribbons at the Alameda County Fair art exhibitions. A clay-lined path to my future was forming.
From 1986-1988 I attended Cal State Hayward as a Fine Arts major with every intention of becoming a professional sculptor, until at age 19 I entered and won the national Bluegrass Banjo Championship, signed a recording deal with Rounder Records, and joined a touring folk band. I left college and sculpting to pursue music. Then, 12 solo albums and thousands of gigs later, in 2005 I started exploring my passion for creating visual art. I wanted to learn everything I would have had I stayed in college. So between tours I found myself in my basement learning everything from human anatomy and color theory to ceramic glaze formulation and mold making. When I felt ready, I bought a kiln and moved my little operation to my own studio space at the Falcon Art Community, calling my new studio "Tony Furtado Sculpture". I've been at it ever since, juggling my two passions in the hopes they can coexist from here on out.
The number one inspiration for my art is the natural world and finding expressive and engaging ways to portray what I see and feel. Whether it's an accurate biological rendering or a stylized and surreal statement, my process almost always begins with me imagining a creature, person, or structure (sometimes all at once) somehow differently. I try to capture the duality of what is fierce and fragile in the form as I find myself driven by the tension between survival and surrender, something we all endure as part of this wildly changing planet.
Most everything I make starts with a lump of clay, or a soon to be slip-coated and fired bamboo skewer latice-work form. Some of my work is glazed but most of my pieces are surfaced with a tough, non-fired coating called Forton (a resin based casting material) that I mix with metal powders (copper, iron, and aluminum usually) which is cured and oxidized, giving it a look of bronze or distressed iron. I also frequently find myself utilizing other materials to complete a vision. For example, perhaps lacquer coated paper stretched over a metal coated wooden frame is just what I need to soften the unforgiving weight of the fired clay.
I've been here in Portland since 2002 and have enjoyed being part of the thriving music culture. I've also been inspired witnessing the evolving and expanding art scene, but over the past few years its been exciting to find my own place within the folds and hopefully help to push the envelope.