Learning More About Harlan Butt


We’re fortunate to have Harlan Butt coming to the studio next month to teach Cloisonné Enameling in the Round. We wanted to share a bit about him with you, so please read on to learn more. 


Harlan will be teaching Cloisonné Enameling in the Round will be on November 8, 9, and 10 from 10am-5pm. We do still have a couple open spaces, so if you’re interested give us a call. 

Now on to Harlan!

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Harlan W. Butt is an artist working in metal and enamel who specializes in vessel making. Many of his vessels feature cloisonné patterns inspired by the natural environment. Harlan is a Regents Professor of Art at the University of North Texas where he has taught since 1976. He is past President of the Enamelist Society, past President of the Society of North American Goldsmiths and a Fellow of the American Crafts Council. His work has been exhibited internationally and is represented in the permanent collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute, the Museum of Art & Design in New York City, the Mint Museum of Art & Craft in Charlotte, NC, the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, the Wichita Center for the Arts in Kansas, the National Gallery of Australia, the Cloisonné Enamelware Fureai Museum in Ama City, Japan, the Glass Furnace in Istanbul, Turkey and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

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What got you into teaching jewelry making/ metals?

As a graduate student I was a Teaching Fellow and taught a beginning class. I liked sharing what I knew with students. After grad school I applied for teaching jobs but didn’t receive an offer for one for about a year and a half, at San Diego State University in 1975. I’ve been teaching since then.


Can you tell us about any memorable teachers from your past who influence what you’re doing today, as an instructor or as an artist?

I have to give credit to my forth grade teacher Ms. Newell, who helped me have confidence in myself and my high school art teacher Mr. Steitzin, who encouraged me to develop what talent he thought I had. Professor Stanley Lechtzin at Tyler School of Art gave me a great foundation in technique and the desire to be the best I could be. Brent Kington at Southern Illinois University was the ideal example of an artist/metalsmith who was passionate about his work and who cared about his students.


Aside from the skills outlined in your class, what do you hope to bring to your students?

I hope to express passion I have for what I do and how I think it can give your life meaning and purpose. I believe technique and craftsmanship are the vehicles we use to express ourselves as artists. You can’t do it without them but they are the means not the ends.


Your artwork often appears rooted in inspiration from the natural world, has it always been this way? When did this passion begin?

I have had an interest in knowing about and understanding nature, both as real phenomena and as metaphor for what and who we are since I was a child. It has been the subject of my work as an artist since the beginning.

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In what kind of environment do you work best?

Until recently I would have said that I work best alone in my studio. But in the past few years I have had students working with me in my studio a few days each week. This has been rewarding for me and I have learned a lot from them.


Many of your pieces employ cloisonné enameling technique, what makes this technique one of your favorites?

I have produced over 450 pieces and many of them do not employ cloisonné, in fact many early pieces had no enamel. Its true that most of my work since about 1985 includes some cloisonné. The technique allows me to draw with lines and to create patterns with hard edges, unlike some of the other enameling processes. But I have also used champlevé, basse taille, stencil, silk screen, ceramic pencils and painting enamels on my work.


If you could only embark one piece of information to your students that they will remember for the rest of their lives, what would that advice be?

Wow! I’m not a sage and I don’t know if anything I could say would be that memorable, especially for someone’s entire life. I’ve found that different information and various knowledge can have a critical impact on someone at the time a person is ready for it and not be so significant at other times. But to believe in yourself, to be disciplined but open, to avoid attachments that are unimportant or unhealthy and to pursue a passion in something and not let anyone or anytime keep you from doing it. That’s about the best I can come up with.


Besides cloisonné, what is your favorite technique to teach?


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Thank you Harlan! 

We’re really looking forward to having him in the studio next month. If you’d like to register for Cloisonné Enameling in the Round give us a call at 206-524-0916. We’re here Tues-Fri 11-6, and Saturday 10-6.


You can see more of Harlan’s work on his website: http://harlanwbutt.com





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