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Art & Life with David Lloyd Bradley

Today we’d like to introduce you to David Lloyd Bradley.

David Lloyd, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
In college, as a painting student, I took a pottery class and got hooked on the responsiveness of spinning clay on the potter’s wheel. It seemed alive! I made friends with the building’s janitor, who would leave a window into the ceramic studio open so I could work late at night. Upon graduation I got work in a pottery factory in east Texas, it was a dream job for me.

Marshall Pottery Co. was founded in 1890 to make stoneware crockery, and even though the main production changed to machine pressed terra cotta flower pots after World War II they kept the hand turned pottery production going because the owners of the company had a sentimental feeling about it. I worked there two years during which time I had the best education on how to make pots on the wheel from men who could make hundreds of pots a day, and use more than 2000 lbs. of clay in one 8-hour day each. The foreman was my best teacher.

E.J. Humphries was a 3rd generation folk potter. His father and both his grandfathers had been itinerant folk potters in the southern US in the early 20th century, and EJ had been working at Marshall Pottery since 1945. He taught me how to make pots, but also about his own life growing up in a family of potters.

After two years, I went to graduate school at the University of North Texas to get my Masters in Fine Arts degree in ceramics. Even though I knew how to throw pots like a machine, I didn’t know much about glaze chemistry, firing kilns or anything else to do with ceramics. My MFA period was extremely rewarding because not only did I learn those technical things, but I learned how to express my own ideas in clay.

Both those experiences shaped my life ever after. I have worked in clay and in education my whole working life, and feel very fortunate. Both fields are still challenging to me and rewarding, even 44 years since my first college pottery class.

Today I am full time faculty at Paradise Valley Community College, and had the great fortune of starting the ceramics program there in 2000. Today that program has two other part time faculty besides myself, and has over 100 students each semester in ceramics.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My art is an expression of my effort to make sense of the world. The process of conceptualizing a work, finding a way of presenting in physical form an abstract concept, helps me come to a new understanding of that concept.

Currently, my work is inspired by the architecture and culture of the Balkans, specifically Bosnia. I spent two months there in 2017, and am enthralled by evidence of the rich mixture of cultures dating back to the Romans.

I’m making sculptures of bridges, houses, gates, doorways and windows by welding a steel structure, then dipping the metal structure in clay slip and firing in a kiln. This turns the slip into hard ceramic, while the metal provides support to the thin ceramic coating. Then I apply a chemical patina which colors the piece when fired a second time. The second firing imparts the appearance of age, damage, and exposure over time, evoking the architecture I saw in Bosnia.

In Sarajevo you can see buildings from the Ottoman empire next to buildings from the Austrian-Hapsburg empire, next to buildings from the communist-Soviet era. Each style of architecture is a different expression of how people can inhabit a space and a city, and of how those inhabitants view themselves in relation to one another, nature and the environment.

Each of those architectural forms are also symbols for access to another space and way of being. In Bosnia, the people are trying to reconcile the past with the reality of religious, political and cultural conflict, and move forward to a better life.

Using architectural forms in my ceramic sculpture to express ideas of escape, transformation and renewal helps me see where I live in a new way. I recently had a show of these works at Eye Lounge with Tess Mosko Scherer. Viewers seemed to get the idea behind these works and also relate to them on their own terms too, which is very gratifying.

Any advice for aspiring or new artists?
I wanted to become an artist when I was 11 years old after reading the biographies of Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci. In graduate school I realized that an artist is a filter, someone who takes in the world and attempts to break it down to understandable chunks; art. The best ideas come from the questions I have about what makes the world the way it is. An authentic viewpoint is personal, and personal is usually relatable by other people. I tell my students to make lists of the most important things in their lives. That can become the starting point for works of art. Looking at one’s early life for pivotal moments can provide ideas for works too.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My work can be seen on my website: davidbradleyart.com, and on Facebook and Instagram as @davlbradly.

Contact Info:

  • Website: davidbradleyart.com
  • Phone: 602 828 4713
  • Email: davlbradly@gmail.com
  • Instagram: davlbradly
  • Facebook: @davidlbradley

Image Credit:
All photos by David L. Bradley

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