My name is Randall Brady. I am Lakota. I was born on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. I am an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe. I used to reside in Tempe, Arizona and work as a custodian in the ceramics department at Arizona State University. This was convenient as I am both a potter and a student. I have since retired and now live in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Life is good.
The credit (or perhaps the blame?) for my interest in ceramics may primarily be given to Professor Randall Schmidt of ASU and Rosemay Lonewolf of the Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico.
I've known Randy since new year's eve 1976. His son John and my daughter Elbereth Gilthoniel were born that year and graduated together from Tempe High in 1995. Randy has influenced me tremendously as a friend and a mentor.
I met Rosemary while she was attending ASU. After seeing a PBS program about her grandfather (Camillo Tafoya), father (Joseph Lonewolf), and aunt (Grace Medicineflower), and their methods of construction, decoration, and firing, I was led towards the primitive or "traditional" aspects of handbuilding and firing. Rosemary is a wonderful artist and friend, and has been kind (and patient) enough to answer any questions I've had about Santa Clara and even some I'd yet to ask.
I'd been collecting Frankoma and student work for years, but first became involved in ceramics due to an epiphany resulting from my dropping two new cups by Mark Bergman, whose glazes I'd particularly liked, and then it hit me.... you know, if I knew how to throw, and had a glaze book, this wouldn't really be a problem, would it? Thus began my descent into the mud.
Unfortunately for my plan, after seeing the PBS show on Rosemary's family, I wound up going in a completely different direction. (I've since been told that this isn't really unusual in ceramics) The simplicity, asymetrical shapes, and the unique patterns of the smoke and flame, drew me away from high fire ceramics. then, texture pulled me away from the smooth surfaces of the burnished black pots, and now I've fallen in love with the tactile sensations (and visual aspects) of the surface of the clay.
While researching the firing methods of other cultures, I ran onto the Jomon pottery of Japan, (my thanks to Mike Prepsky for his help and advice) and somehow, (here we go again) this led me to the Medieval period tea bowls. Once more, the asymetrical forms and unique surfaces textures (both glaze and clay) took me in yet another direction.
I began to use cone 10 clays and glazes to attempt to duplicate the surfaces and shapes of the winterbowls, as my homage to the chawan of Japanese history that speak to me. I believe I've succeeded, at least to my own satisfaction, and now I soon headed towards Tokoname type ware. Professor Kurt Weiser of ASU has been very helpful (and again, patient) with my queries about Japan. As was Yayoi Senda, and my friends Hitomi Asahi, Yayoi Takeuchi, and Brent Hirak.
I have recently began to experiment with low fire clays and glazes in my work and am having some success with 06 firings. I also intend to begin to smoke fire primitive pottery again.
I make smokefired pots, teabowls, larger bowls, and raku pieces by paddling the clay, then shaping it with wooden ribs, and carving it with metal tools (if necessary). I also smoke fire slabs and sculptural pieces. I have retired from ASU and moved to Hot Springs, in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I now live in the country I used to go on vacation to visit and I do now make pots, hike, backpack, hunt, fish, garden, and just plain enjoy life. Production has become less of a concern and perfecting my next piece is what I aim for.
The asymetrical shapes of handbuilding, random patterns of smokefiring,the basic uniqueness of every piece that I make.... this is what I do.... what I am.... it makes me happy.
It seems that every time I turn around there is something new to try or a discovery to follow up on.... there are so many branches on this tree, that coming late to the game as I have, I can only hope that at least one of my grandchildren can pick up where I leave off when I move on.
In that vein, I'd like to mention Donald Schaumberg, professor emeritus at ASU, who passed on in December 2003. As Randy Schmidt said, "Don was 84 and as excited about ceramics, (and enjoying himself) as when he started". Don had become an inspiration to me and was fun to be around. I miss him. I wasn't done with him yet! That's always the case isn't it?
So that is my goal, to never lose the joy and excitement of the discovery and creation of art and to try to pass it on. Again, my thanks to all my teachers and friends who've helped me along the way.