The Shape of Clay

Charles Tryon molds and maneuvers Georgia clay into beautiful works of art.

Fundamentally, every artist aims to create work that provides aesthetic value. Charles Tyron, however, stretches his artistry beyond what the eye sees. As viewers of his sculptures, we are called and drawn, by some quiet, magnetic force, to connect deeply with ourselves, to our own personal journeys and stories of life’s trials and tribulations - of hope, faith, beauty and brokenness. 

When he’s not mentoring young artists, Tryon spends his evenings and weekends creating female figure sculptures in his garage-studio. He wears a signature black wool beret and laughs that it helps him stand out among other artists. He dons his artist's apron which itself looks like an abstract canvas with its dried clay smears. At one side of the garage, a kiln stands for firing the precious pieces. On a multi-shelved wall, finished works that stir the senses are displayed. Though he may be first inspired by an image, or a certain feeling to create a particular sculpture, Tryon strives to communicate a universal principle to his viewers through the finished piece. He begins the sculpting process by creating the torso of the figure, using a small block of rich Georgia clay. As he works, he engages in a conversation with the piece. Most of the time, his eyes remain shut while his hands move and mold the clay. Finally, details such as the position and angle of the face, hair, hands and fingers bring the sculpture to life. A six-inch sculpture could take almost 30 hours to complete. The nearf-completed piece is left to dry for about two weeks. then it enters the kiln for about twenty-four hours, and brought back out for a glaze (if needed), then back into the kiln again where it reaches a temperature of about 2,200 degrees Celsius. It’s then cooled for about half a day before Tryon reaches in the kiln to take possession of the clay figure. 

The sculptor himself remembers one of his favorite pieces, which he finally named “Shattered.” During the firing process, he had forgotten to compensate for the expansion of the figure in the kiln. Upon opening the door, he was dismayed to find that the figure had shattered into thousands of pieces. Tyron remembers walking away from the kiln, feeling crushed about three weeks of lost work. He soon returned to the kiln to clean up the mess. Instead of throwing away the pieces, he instinctively began to piece the sculpture together. The figure came back to life, but this time, with more personality and heart, in all of her brokenness. Upon taking the sculpture to an art show, the artist remembers, “A young lady came up and stood there, staring at the figure, for a while. Then she said, quietly, 'That’s me'. She started to cry. She ended up buying the piece. As an artist, my desire is to give life to the clay I work with, but it is through your imagination, as you hear the heart of the sculptures speaking to you, that art truly comes alive.”

Like the young woman who took home, “Shattered,” we too, if we take a deep look into ourselves, are all broken on some level. That brokenness -- the failures, broken relationships, abuse, accidents that have happened, injustice, poor choices - are an integral part of who we are. All of these experiences that are part of a woman’s journey ultimately become an essential part of her beauty. As such, art, whether a drawing or a sculpture, goes beyond being an object of aesthetic value. It’s a “directed act in opposition to the darkness one faces,” says Tryon. Subsequently, you will find yourself “reflected in the faces and figures, in the emotions you imagine that they are feeling, in the struggles and victories which molded them into who they are.” 

To learn more about the figure sculptures of Charles Tryon, please contact the sculptor at,, Facebook or Instagram. 


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