Govt should set up bodies to buy artworks from artists- Timothy Oke

Oke, Timothy Oluwatomi hails from Okeho, Kajola Local Government, Oyo State, Nigeria. Some of the schools he attended include Victoria Memorial Nursery and Primary School, Gomal Baptist College, Ogbomoso and Victoria Comprehensive College, Okeho for his post-primary education and he has a degree from Adeyemi College of Education, affiliated to Obafemi Awolowo University, where he studied Fine and Applied Arts.

Today, Oluwatomi is a budding artist and ceramist making the best of the both creativity endeavor. He had a chat with our reporter, Kayode Awojobi and here is an excerpt of their discussion:

PDC: Kindly tell us your journey to being Ceramist and an Artist?

Tomi: Anyone who create an artwork is an artist but art is very broad that you cannot explore all in it that is why every artists has his or her own area of specialization. So I specialize in Ceramics. Everyone can be an Artist but not everyone can be a Ceramist because of the principles that guides this form of art, we all know that school can’t give you all you need to be successful in life. That is why I love attending workshops and seminars to learn new things because I see school as just an eye opener.

One of his finished works

PDC: So, how were you able to combine this creative arts with schooling?

Tomi: That is very easy Fine and Applied arts is my course of study so majority of the courses I offered during my schooling are art related courses. Apart from education courses, it is important to balance things up, planning your time wisely is the key to enabling one to practice all that has been learnt.

PDC: Every parents want their children to be professional, what was the reaction of your parents as you keep developing yourself in this creative arts?

Tomi: At first, my Mum was not in support of me studying arts, you know some people felt is a dirty job, her own perception was that ceramics is a low class professions but with time she understand that her perception towards the course was wrong. My parents are giving me their full support.

Another finished work

PDC: You have combined two distinct and tasking forms of Arts, how have you being able to do both and one is not deficient?

Tomi: Being a Ceramics is tasky and so I don’t have more time for other aspect of Arts and most time, interest is what keep you going. Whenever am doing any work of arts that is not ceramics, it either someone has requested for it or the work cannot be carried out in clay which is the major materials used in ceramics. At times, different medium need to be combined to achieve what you desire.

PDC: What are the Major Challenges since you have started this?

Tomi: Challenges are part of live and so we can’t say we do not have challenge. But I do say one thing that the tougher the work, the stronger we becomes. One of the major challenges I have is availability of raw materials. The major material every ceramists make use of is clay, without clay there is nothing like ceramics. Also there are some equipment that enhances this practice but have not gotten the capital to purchase them. Patronage is another thing, some will say my works are too expensive but before I can sell any work of art, I consider the cost (time, money, stress and the likes) invested in the work. Although not all artworks are expensive, it all depend on what you want.

Oluwatomi at work

PDC: Who are the Nigerian Artists and Ceramics on your bucket list that you will like to meet and possibly work with?

Tomi: I will like to work with veterans like Mr. Sanya Owolabi, Levi O’ Ben Yakubu, Mr Ibukunoluwa Ayoola, Kemi Olugbade and obviously, our Okeho born, Abiola Akintola.

PDC: There are a lot of ornaments being imported into Nigeria from all across the world, do you think our Nigerian ornaments can stand out in terms of quality with these ornaments?

Tomi: As you have rightly noticed, most ornaments used in Nigeria are imported, the problem is we do not have industries that produce them here in Nigeria. And if there is I don’t think I know of any. Hopefully, we will get there as a nation one day.

His various artwork over time: painting and ceramics

PDC: What are the ways in which you think the arts and ceramic industry in Nigeria can be enhanced and it can appeal to the global community?

Tomi: In some country when government see people doing things like this, there are organizations that give grants so as to motivate the entrepreneur. I will advise Nigerian government to also adopt this method also. Government can even have a body that will be buying work from upcoming artists and this will also serve as a source of income for the government by exporting those works to other countries and guess what, Westerners love African Artworks, the reason is that our work are mostly abstract and carry conceptual meanings.

PDC: Some of your ornaments, for instance the mugs, are in various colours, how have you been able to do this?

Tomi: It is true that equipment help to improve one’s work but some designs cannot be achieved with machine and that is what distinct my works. Also all my work are functional and they carry one meaning or the other. They are not just art for arts sake. Not that I don’t make use of equipment, for instance some of my works are thrown on potters wheel. In ceramics, we combine two or more technique in achieving a work of art. I may throwl the base of my pot and finish it up with hand building.

At times, I use glaze which is applied on bisque work after which I will fire it to the melting temperature, it then give a glassy look. The method I love using most is Sgraffito a form of decoration made by scratching through a surface to reveal a lower layer of a contrasting colour, typically done in slip on ceramics before firing.

Tomi at work

PDC: Many people believe that African ceramics are usually heavy, how have you been able to ensure that your products are not too heavy?

Tomi: The weight of an artwork depends on how an artists want his work to look like and the medium used in carrying out the work. Most time when my work is heavy I try to reduce the weight by using casting technique. When you cast a ceramic, it make it lighter.

PDC: Where do you see yourself in this your chosen career in the next 5 years?

Tomi: God willing I see myself in my well-equipped studio, training other in this field of art. I so much love teaching and I cannot do without it.

PDC: If you have the opportunity to bring a difference to how Nigerians appreciate your crafts, what will it be?

Tomi: Words of encouragement goes a long way in the life of an Artist, so even if you can afford to buy an artwork, you can appreciate the arts by giving pleasant complements.

PDC: What would you say to any young person who wants to be into arts and crafts?

Tomi: You won’t know you can do it, until you start doing it, so start now to develop yourself, there would be challenges along the line, but the tougher the work, the stronger you become. It wouldn’t be easy but with God on your side and your determination to succeed, you are going places.

5 Comments
  1. My encounter with Tomi was so interesting on his artworks. I was seriously thrilled and touched the day he explained the meaning of some of his artworks.
    Great one.

  2. His works are so beautiful and his dreams inspiring. The problem most of these artists have is fund. They are not actually demanding for donations, they want buyers. The government is just non challant towards all these ‘little’ works that yeild big money. The government can create an agency to buy art works from artists and will export them. It is part of our heritage and culture that cannot be gotten else where other than from we ourselves.

  3. Great job,I am personally impressed. I want to believe Okeho indigene are great people,I want the incoming young ones learn from him and lift the face of the town higher. The popular saying that” ATELE OWO ENI KII TANNI JE”. Go for courses you can establish on your own

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