Wayne Branum started making pottery in the late 1960's, while attending the University of Minnesota. He studied with Curtis Hoard and Warren MacKenzie and received a BFA. He attended Rhode Island School of Design on a fellowship for one year returning to MN in 1972 to start a pottery in rural central MN. Early American and Asian pottery primarily influenced his work at this time. Most of the work was high-fired salt glazed stoneware and some Raku, which was a carry over from graduate work in Rhode Island. He also worked in a local public school system as an “Artist in Schools”, which was a NEA program across the U.S. during a previously more enlightened time in America.
Wayne visited Japan in 1973 with MacKenzie and four other potters to tour various pottery centers around the country. He returned in 1977 for six weeks to study kiln designs and make pots in the Mashiko Japan studio of Takeo Sudo as well as visiting noted potters like Shoji Hamada and others in Mashiko. Upon returning to MN, he constructed a multi chambered wood fired kiln in the style of the Mashiko kilns used by potters like Shoji Hamada and Tatsuzo Shimaoka. The new kiln and the wood firing process were a primary influence on the work for the next 10 years or more. In 1984 Wayne relocated to the town of Stillwater MN to begin working in an architectural office. During this period he continued making pottery at MacKenzie Studio near Stillwater. The pots during this period, were re-influenced by Warren MacKenzie and the glazed stoneware process utilized at Warren's studio.
In 1990 Wayne joined together with his old friend and potter Mark Pharis to build and operate a new studio, Branum/Pharis Studio, in rural Wisconsin about 20 miles from Stillwater. Pharis was teaching at the U of M and had relocated to this rural property from southern MN. In 2004 Wayne also relocated and built a new home adjacent to the studio. The first kiln at the studio was a wood and oil fired salt kiln, reverting back to the first kilns used at their separate rural MN studios. Both Pharis and Branum worked and fired in a similar way for several years. Over time, the clay bodies and firing process changed for both of them to the current methods, a lower temperature electric fired red clay utilizing slips, stains and glazes to achieve the desired goals for the work.
While the kilns and the firing methods varied over time, elemental aspects of the pots remain to this day. A strong sense of form has always been an important fundamental component to Wayne’s work. The forms have evolved from the earlier Asian pottery forms to gradually include more architectural references and the gradual addition of pattern on surfaces. The architectural forms evolved to more figurative sculptures. Today the work ranges from the more utilitarian pottery forms to the sculptural figures and most of the work employs patterned surfaces with a more colorful palette.
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