Ahmet Ustunel

My fascination with creating forms out of different materials started at a very early age. When I was 3 or 4 I began to pull the caulk from the windows of our house in Turkey, so that I could make animal figures. Eventually, someone noticed the missing caulk, and as a result, I became the only suspect. The mystery was solved when my parents found my artwork, which they thought was cute. To prevent me from stealing more caulk, they bought me a fresh ball of caulk from a window repair shop.

My first figures were mostly of animals. The ones I could touch in my daily life were the easiest to make, such as fish, dogs, ducks, and so on. However, the animals I could only hear about were mysterious and fun to make, because I had to rely on my imagination to create them.

When I started attending a school for the blind in Istanbul, ceramics class became my favorite. There, my work won praise, and my teacher displayed it on shelves. This was the first time I felt that I could create art to please others, not just for myself.

I have never thought that blindness is an obstacle to getting involved with art or in creating something. On the contrary, I believe it helps me to be more creative, especially when I am making masks. Masks are the first sculptural figures I focused on. It is partly because I am fascinated with the variations in the human face. Every face has the same parts—two eyes, a nose, a mouth, a chin, and cheeks, eyebrows and ears. How can it be that there are billions of different faces with such limited components? This is something that still amazes me. I also like to discover the forms of living things in nature, such as animals, flowers, and different plants, and I incorporate them into my masks, such as a fish tail or a bird head. I am inspired by African masks, which I love to touch whenever I am allowed, because they use some of the same forms that I use in my masks.

Working with potter's wheel is my passion. It is something I would love to explore more and get better at it. First, I focused on throwing techniques, and shaping objects. Then, I moved to altering forms, texturing, carving, and glazing. Pottery is an ancient craft and there is still so much to learn and experiment with. I am equally amazed to find out how much you can do with a ball of clay and a wheel.

Currently I am exploring filmmaking, something very new to me. I kayaked from Asia to Europe solo on July 21st and I am working on a documentary film to share my experience.

NADC funded many of my projects during very critical moments of my career as an artist. First NADC grant I received helped me to take wheel-throwing classes from accomplished master potters. Thanks to the time I spent with them, I found my new passion. I mastered throwing techniques, learned about glazing and texturing.

With the help of NADC grant, I also built my website to display my work, reached a wide range of audience, and started selling my work online and at art fairs and galleries.

After I mastered throwing, I started exploring ancient and modern firing and glazing techniques and NADC was there to support me again.

Use of Braille as decorative texture, learning about pit firing, and exploring different coloring techniques became possible through NADC grants.

Now NADC grant will let me to add audio description to my documentary film and make it accessible to blind audience.

When I look back to the last 10 years of my career NADC grants played an important role in my training and growth as an artist.

You can see photos of my work on my website:

You can also read about my current kayaking project on: