Coming to Clay

I came to clay through the back door. I had no schooling for it. I was more outdoor oriented, thanks to my father Admiral Fred E. Bakutis - fishing, hunting, tennis, surfing, riding horse, bicycling and high school / college sports. You could say I was a jock: at least until my third year of college at UC Berkeley, when I got into English literature, graduated and was accepted in Berkeleyʻs Phd program. However, at that time, there was national guard with bayonets and tear gas everywhere on campus, so I pulled out after a year and went to teach at Athenian School at the foot of Mt. Diablo. One summer session I was free and a fellow teacher was offering a course in clay. He gave me a lump, and I went off to a workroom that had a single kick wheel. The rest was history. I took to it, learning from my mistakes and learning that some of my best pieces were mistakes. Some ten years later, I was selling my wares (basic cups, bowls and plates) at the Crater Festival in Diamond Head, featuring Gabby Pahinui and Peter Moon. I then got interested in Raku firing (where the pot is pulled out red hot from the kiln and reduced in flammable substances such as banana leaves.) This process opened up the door to sculptural clay work that reflected the smoky iridescent elements of the Big Island volcanic scenes. About this time in the 80s, I found an interesting link between my work in clay and my past. My grandfather had fled Lithuania in the early 1900s to die five years later from tuberculosis in Brockton Mass. There has been no history passed on of family life in Lithuania. However, according to literature about that country, one of its major natural resources is clay. My hope is to one day return to that country and dig into Bakutis past. Later in the 90s, I started high-fire clay work. Porcelain bowls with wide lips curled over like waves were a natural tribute to what had become my spiritual uplift, the ocean. And currently, the element of surprise ( or again benign mistake) has become evident in my work by mixing different colored clays and then carving through outer layers to reveal swirls and designs that only God can fathom.

Please feel free to visit our studio, if not just to share stories and techniques or watch the sun sink into the ocean turning our studio porch gold.

Me Ke Aloha, bunky