Interview with Walker Hum

In the spotlight is local artist, Walker Hum! Walker specializes in ceramics and creates spectacular porcelain lanterns as well as other handcrafted work that represents the world around us. His one-of-a-kind art is sold through Bonny Doon Design, the studio and business he co-operates with his father, Steve Hum, who is an artist as well with 31 years of clay experience. 

Inspired by the ocean, forest, and mountains that surround their Bonny Doon studio, Walker and Steve design ceramic works that play with elemental themes and reflect diverse shapes and intricate details from nature. Their lanterns require a highly involved process to create and form a fantastic blend of art and utility. As well as transforming homes, gardens, and landscapes with their unique beauty and otherworldly quality, the waterproof lanterns function as an efficient and longlasting source of light for indoor/outdoor spaces. They contain circuit boards with six warm light LEDs (made for them by a company in Colorado) that the artists have carefully soldered together. 

Walker brings a fresh perspective to the creative process of hand-built pottery and studio ceramics. He brings his love of the craft to the workshop where he and Steve create their innovative work as well as welcome the public to ceramic technique classes, workshops, and Open Studios art tours. 

Local SC recently caught up with Walker to learn more about his handcrafted designs and what inspires his ceramic work.

Read on for a Q&A with the artist…

Local Santa Cruz: Please share a bit about your journey as an artist — what led you to ceramics?

Walker: My father has been a studio potter for most of my life, and when I was young, I would sit around in the studio while he was working. In middle school, I took my first ceramics class and my dad was the teacher. After that, I didn’t take another class until college when I went through Cabrillo’s program. It was at that time that my dad retired from teaching, and we went into business together creating ceramic forms of art.

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What inspires your creations and why do you enjoy working with the medium of clay?

My work is inspired by forms in nature ranging from the ocean to the mountains; from microscopic diatomaceous forms to insects, jellyfish, and plants. The beauty of clay is that it can be worked by hand without any power tools and you can work additively or subtractively. It’s very forgiving in the raw formation process. 

Tell us about your artistic process in the studio! What excites you about crafting and evolving something from a simple form into a finished lantern or another new piece of art?

The artistic process really starts with creating a new master form. Either taking an object that exists and modifying it such as a squash from the garden or recreating an acorn out of clay that is as big as a grapefruit. Once the master is ready, a plaster mold is created of that form. The plaster mold is then used to slip-cast the porcelain form that is our canvas to work off of. From there, I sketch out a design on the porcelain form, add slip trailer lines to build up parts, scrape down other parts to add texture and depth and use drill bits and an x-acto blade to pierce the form. After all the clay work is finished, the piece is bisque fired, glazed, and high fired. The glazing process is just as complicated as the clay process. We took over a year for just glaze testing to design our own glazes, and then to layer them with dozens of different commercial glazes to create a wide-ranging palate. Some of our lanterns have glazes layered up to 3-4 times and can have multiple sections of different layers of glaze. Then the magic happens in the high-fire and the piece is transformed into its final look. For me, I’m most excited about the next step; I’m always looking forward to pushing a piece through with a new design and pattern.

How does living in SC and being immersed in the local culture, community, and environment influence your creative work?

Santa Cruz is a great community for the arts with so many great artists in every discipline. And it’s very supportive of new artists and learning and growing. Living in an environment with both mountains and the ocean and so much natural diversity really inspires my forms.

How can folks connect with you and experience more of your art?

The best way is to contact me and arrange a time to come up and visit the studio and see our work in person. Following that, we have a Website and an Instagram account that has our current stock of lanterns, succulent planters, and wall art for sale. During the summer we usually participate in DoonArt and in the fall, Santa Cruz County Open Studio Tour.

The Bonny Doon Design ceramic lanterns are now being sold on the Loc Art app!

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