Capturing the beauty of the Foothills — one pot at a time

Published 8:00 am Saturday, April 21, 2018

Tryon artist featured at one of the South’s premier art shows

TRYON — Tryon artist Tyson Graham does not have to look very far to find inspiration for his creations.

Graham merely has to pop his head out one of his studio’s windows to find a rush of visual grandeur, ready to be captured on his canvas of choice — carefully-sculpted pottery.

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“For me, it’s best to find inspiration from the little things that surround you, what is close to you at that moment, what captures your eye,” Graham said, while sitting comfortably on a wooden picnic table outside his studio, nestled in Tryon’s countryside.

To his back was a serene forest, a surge of lush green. In front of him was the visage of the Carolina Foothills, a hazy blend of earthen colors. Above him was a crystal-clear sky, flush in a brilliant shade of azure.

This week, these kinds of natural colors that Graham captures with his painted pottery will be on display for countless art enthusiasts from across the South.

The Tryon artist is one of the hundreds who will exhibit their artwork at the 2018 ArtFields competition, which takes place now through next Saturday, April 28, in Lake City, South Carolina. Graham’s piece, a three-piece ceramic set titled “Forest Triptych,” will be on display inside an art gallery in downtown Lake City, located at 122 Sauls St.

Graham, who has gone to ArtFields — one of the largest art festivals in the South — in the past as a visitor, will be one of the many artists in the running for the $120,000 worth of prize money up for grabs in this year’s judged competition.

Each of the ceramic pieces that comprise “Forest Triptych” depict a woodland scene — ones not so different from the one behind his studio at 6148 Peniel Road.

“It’s like you’re looking through the forest, and all you can see are trunks, green trees and the blue sky behind it all,” Graham said about the piece.

The artist, a native of Columbia, South Carolina, has been interested in capturing the beauty of the natural world since he was young — it was quite common for his neighbors to spot Graham out and about, drawing sketches of all the trees on the block, he said.

He would continue his education in the arts after graduating Dreher High School in Columbia in 2002, as he studied graphic design at University of South Carolina, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 2007.

It was his passion for music, though, that would eventually lead him to begin working behind a pottery wheel.

A lifelong musician, Graham had played in a band for years, which would make the occasional trip to Tryon’s Little Mountain Pottery, owned by Claude and Elaine Graves, whose son played with Graham in the group. Around four years ago, Claude, knowing about Graham’s passion for art, asked if the South Carolina man would be interested in becoming his apprentice, in hopes that he could one day take over the studio.

Graham, looking for a change of pace, accepted Claude’s offer. Around three years ago, Graham and his wife, Darby, took over the pottery business.

Today, Graham spends his days working to produce different cups, plates and other pottery items, which are fired onsite inside the studio’s massive kiln, which can hold between 100 to 200 pieces at a time.

“I like to make stuff that people can use and handle every day — not something that sits on a shelf,” Graham said about his work.

Pottery has been a great way for Graham to express his creativity, as it combines working with three-dimensional objects while also giving him a chance to come up with unique designs to decorate the finished pieces with, he said.

“It’s all about coming up with ideas that work with the medium,” he said. “It’s something you are constantly working on, tweaking what kind of patterns you want to use, and how abstract you want to go with your design.”

For more information about Graham and his pottery, people may visit or call 828-817-5741.