Artist Spotlight: Tina Curry

Ceramic horse sculpture by artist Tina Curry.
Terracotta horse sculpture (raku fired with horsehair) by Tina Curry. Photo: Tim Barnwell.

This October, Grovewood Gallery will host a solo exhibition for Tina Curry. Tina began working with clay over 27 years ago. She holds a BA from the University of Florida and worked for 35 years in Graphic Design. Now retired, she is a full-time ceramic and bronze sculptor living in Knoxville, Tennessee. All of her animal sculptures are hand-built, so each has its own distinctive personality and characteristics.

Tina’s clay work can be found in both national and international collections. Her animal sculptures have been commissioned by Zoo Knoxville in Tennessee and the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada. In 2021, she was selected from among artists across Tennessee to design and create the Governor’s Arts Awards. The biennial awards are Tennessee’s highest honor in the arts, recognizing individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the state’s arts or cultural life.

Artist Tina Curry with an in-progress sculpture.

Tina also serves on the Board of Governors for Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Her professional memberships include the National Sculpture Society, National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, Southern Highlands Craft Guild, Foothills Craft Guild, Oak Ridge Art Center, and the Arts and Culture Alliance of Knoxville.

Recently, we chatted with Tina about her artistic journey, her inspirations, and her upcoming show at Grovewood Gallery. Dive into the highlights of our delightful talk below.

Interview with Artist Tina Curry

Did you grow up in an artistic family?

Tina: I am the only one in my family who has shown an interest in playing in the mud. As long as I can remember, I have been drawing, making jewelry, or doing some kind of creative crafting. My mother loved to make our clothes as we grew up. When she was much older, she enjoyed painting resin figurines, so maybe my artistry came from her.

When were you introduced to clay? Did you have a mentor or teacher who inspired you?

Tina: I dabbled in polymer clay and air dry clay in the early ’90s before I was formally introduced to kiln-fired clay and real instruction. I took a beginner clay class from a phenomenal artist, Bill Capshaw, the clay studio manager at the Oak Ridge Art Center. I began throwing on the wheel, but that just wasn’t my happy place, so I turned my focus to hand-building. This change in direction sparked my interest in crafting realistic human clay portraits, which eventually led me to the art of sculpting animals.

African Wild Dog (raku fired) by Tina Curry. Photo: Carlos Jones.

What inspired you to sculpt animals?

Tina: Animals have always been part of my life. I can’t remember not ever having a dog. I got my first pony when I was six years old and had a horse for most of my life up until a few years after I graduated college. So, it’s no surprise that my first animal sculptures were horses. When I sculpt an animal, I look into the individual personalities of each one, and that’s what I hope the viewer sees. There is a story behind each one I create.

What kind of animals can we expect to see in your upcoming exhibition at Grovewood Gallery?

Tina: There will be a wide variety. I’m attracted to the animals that I don’t get to see in my everyday life. Animals from different continents. Since most of my finishes are achieved by alternative, natural firing techniques, I sometimes select subjects that match that color profile. I’m also fascinated by unique features. It’s like when you’re blindfolded and point to a location on a map. I can do the same and discover a new animal to model.

Meerkat (red iron oxide and underglaze) by Tina Curry. Photo: Carlos Jones.

Is there something about your work or creative process that would surprise people?

Tina: I’m not particularly attracted to glazes for my pieces. I prefer mixing wood chips, banana peels, copper carbonate, coffee, and salt to make a fire that fumes colors into the clay body, forming unique colorations. The fire and smoke dance!

Is there a success you have achieved as an artist that you’re particularly proud of?

Tina: I was featured in Ceramics Monthly magazine in September 2022. To be part of a magazine that features world-class potters and artists is truly an honor.

Milo and Tillie, stoneware, raku fired, smoked with cedar wood chips. Photo: Carlos Jones.

Who is a current ceramic artist you really admire and follow, and why?

Tina: Nick Mackman, a UK artist. I feel that she creates her sculptures as I do to showcase individual personalities, and her finishing techniques complement the natural features of the specific animal.

What local or regional art event are you most excited to attend in 2024?

Tina: I attended NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) this past March in Richmond, Virginia. This event offers the chance to network with artists from all around the country, meet some of the all-stars of the ceramic world, and observe their demonstrations live.

Blue Steele (cold finish with acrylics) by Tina Curry. Photo: Carlos Jones.

When you’re not in the studio making art, what do you enjoy doing?

Tina: I enjoy spending time with my dog Kiki, going thrifting, and trips to the mountains. I’ve also been teaching sculpture workshops for the last three years at various craft schools.

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