In 2010 I worked on a personal, photojournalistic project called Wilmington Artists In Their Studios. It featured portraits of local artists as they actually worked on their craft in the confines of their studios. It was a fun and rewarding project, as I got to meet some wonderful creatives. During that time I was fortunate to meet Gayle Tustin at an impromptu dinner party at the home of a friend. I spoke briefly with her about my project and how I would welcome the opportunity to photograph her at work. She was interested, but was consumed at the time with work, and planning the wedding of her daughter. We became friends on Face Book and time moved on. Recently, she sent me an email and said that she was working on a commission for the NC State Bar Foundation in Raleigh, and if I was still interested, we could get together for a photo session. Of course, I jumped at the chance and we recently spent a morning together at her very cool studio.

Gayle has exhibited locally and internationally for over 20 years. She studied at Alfred University and Penn State and was the first student to graduate with honors in Studio Art from UNC Wilmington. She worked as a studio assistant to renowned artist, Marco Zubar while in Pennsylvania. She has received the Woman of Achievement in the Arts award and in addition to being published in several Ceramic  journals and magazines, has been invited to and attended International Artist Colonies in Germany, Brazil, South Africa, Macedonia and Paris. Locally, Gayle was one of the Co-Founders and Directors of No Boundaries International Art Colony. This is a non-profit group who invites international artists to get together on Bald Head Island every two years for expression and dialogue through their art. Her art has been on exhibit in collections and galleries throughout North Carolina and the United States. Internationally she has been featured in collections in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Turkey, Brazil, Spain, South Africa and Macedonia. At UNCW, the Randall Library has a collection of her working papers and manuscripts which document her career.

While I photographed Gayle during our session she was working on the piece that will eventually hang at the NC State Bar Foundation. It depicts people from all walks of life. She works in several mediums, oil paint, ceramic, mixed media and ink. This particular piece is clay which has a liquid finish applied to it called terra sigilatta. Terra Sigilatta is made through a sedimentation process of clay particles. A deflocculant is used to change the electrical charge of each clay particle, which causes them to repel each other. The finest clay particles that remain on top are terra sigilatta. Coloring oxides are added to the base clay and the terra sigilatta adds a unique gloss, low luster finish, which also acts as a sealant. You will notice in a few of the photographs, small colored ceramic tiles. Gayle uses them as her palette library so she has an idea how the terra sigilatta and colors will portray on the clay. Its a fascinating process and I was in awe of the amount of work and attention to detail that is required to produce such a piece.

Once again I was really honored to have met and spend time with such a talented creative. I had great fun during the shoot and had to force myself to leave so Gayle could continue to work. The scope of her current project seemed a daunting task to me, but you could see the passion the woman has for her art. Enjoy the following photos and if you’d like to know more about Gayle, visit her web site at