Tip Toland

Tip Toland

2022 Fellow
Published on Tuesday, August 23, 2022. This article appears in the Fall 2022 issue of American Craft Magazine.
ceramic artist tip toland posing with the nude sculpture of a man with arms raised

Tip Toland with her sculpture Remembrance, 2017, clay, paint, chalk pastel, 58 x 27 x 18 in. Photo by Jovelle Tamayo.

Tip Toland
Vaughn, Washington

Tip Toland’s fascination with faces—drawing and painting them in art school, plumbing the knowledge and experience she found there—led to painted bas-relief sculptures in wood and clay, then three-dimensional ceramic work reflecting an entire human character. Life-size characters, in fact, resonating with uncompromising realism. Or rather, to some, hyperrealistic characters embodying humanity on the margins, their vulnerability and sensitivities portrayed through an intentionally diverse collection of unconventionally beautiful personalities.

This video includes footage from "Living Treasures: Tip Toland Empathy in Clay" by the Northwest Designer Craftsmen. Watch the full video here.

Toland, 72, divulges that 90 percent of her work is autobiographical. “A lot are direct self-portraits,” she explains. “But I also choose characters through which I can portray an aspect of myself.” Interested in representing the body in liminal physical or psychological states, Toland focuses on the inelegant bodies of the young and aged. Her aim is to “go after vulnerability . . . that’s where we find our humanity.” In this way, her work—as arresting, disturbing, or compelling as we may find it—mirrors our own fragility.

Having taught around the world, Toland has inspired and mentored countless figurative sculptors. Through her acutely honed observations and knowledge of anatomy, Toland trains students to find expressive details. By sharing her experience in building large-scale work, she’s moved the ceramics field forward.

ceramic sculpture of a nude woman lying on her side on the floor
ceramic sculpture of a nude woman seated and writing on her leg with a blue marker

TOP: Milk for the Butter Thief, 2008, stoneware, paint, chalk pastel, sheep wool, 11 x 53 x 20 in. Photo by Richard Nicol. ABOVE: Letter to God, 2011, stoneware, paint, chalk pastel, hair, 22 x 38 x 19 in. Photo courtesy of the artist. RIGHT: Photo by Jovelle Tamayo.

various ceramic sculpture by tip toland

Toland earned a BFA in ceramics from the University of Colorado and an MFA in ceramics from Montana State University. She’s received a Visual Arts Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a fellowship from Washington State’s Artist Trust, and a United States Artist Fellowship. Her work is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Arts and Design, New York; the Yingge Ceramics Museum, Taiwan; and the Haegang Ceramics Museum, Icheon, South Korea, among other institutions.

Using paint, chalk pastels, and hair, Toland embellishes her ceramic figures with “uncanny skin quality, utterly convincing hand gestures, and eerily spontaneous facial expressions,” wrote Ceramics Monthly. Wrinkles, moles, sagging skin, expressions of joy or distress are all present, a testament to an individuality that’s universal.

View more work images | tiptoland.com | @tiptoland

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