Featured Artist: Harlan W. Butt

In conjunction with the Colorado Metalsmithing Conference (CoMA) in July, we will be hosting a show highlighting metal arts from the members of CoMA and the presenters at the conference. Leading up to that exhibit we asked a few of the conference presenters more about their work and process and will be sharing their responses and images of the work we will be showcasing.

Texas Toad Vessel by Harlan W Butt at Balefire GoodsSecond in this series of posts is Harlan W. Butt. Harlan W. Butt is most known for his incredibly detailed metal vessels that perfectly capture landscapes and nature with enamel and metalsmithing techniques. 

Harlan is considered by many to be one of the most accomplished enamelists working today and his pieces are in collections of many of the best museums across the globe, including the Victoria & Albert Museum in London; the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra; the Shippo Art Museum in Ama-City, Japan; the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC; the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; the Mint Museum of Art & Craft in Charlotte, NC; Museum of Art & Design in New York, NY; and the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, TN. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of North Texas where he taught from 1976 to 2017 and has been involved with the American Craft Council, the Society of Noth American Goldsmiths (SNAG), and the Enamelist Society. 

How do you know when a piece is finished?

This can vary and sometimes I only know when I reach a stage where it appears complete or when it doesn't seem to need further work. I usually have a general goal and an image of what it should look like, but that often changes during the making process.

Spiny Lizard Necklace by Harlan W Butt at Balefire GoodsWhat is the most important tool you work with in your studio?

Assuming my mind and my hands don't count, then the kiln it fundamentally important and I couldn't do my work without it.

What is the best piece of advice you have been given?

Don't listen to anyone else's advice. Of course, I do listen to many people's ideas and suggestions, and have learned from so many people. But I try to stay true to my own vision. Also, I try not to take myself too seriously. 

Is there a type of music, musical artist, or song that inspires you?

Since I grew up in the 60's and 70's, rock from that era is what I listen to most. But I often play jazz, blues and classical music in the studio. A lot of the time I enjoy silence when I'm working.

What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?

That has never been a problem for me. I am consistently motivated to work, sometimes to the exasperation of my wife. It is hard for me to give up a day in the studio unless it is for walking in Nature. I have, at times, questioned why I do it. Sometimes I wonder if anyone else cares. But it is how I define myself and the world around me keeps me inspired.  

The show featuring Harlan Butt's work will be on display at Balefire Goods July 19th - August 20th with an opening reception from 6 - 8pm on July 19th.

RSVP for the opening.

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