The simple shapes and hand drawn patterns of Susan Hanft’s ceramics tread an elegant line between amusing and serious. Like cartoon versions of themselves, their chunky contours are outlined and patterned with simple things – checks, dots, stripes and crosses, in a mostly black and white kind of way, often finished with a small detail of gold lustre. She describes her pots as a “celebration of the imperfect, irregular and not quite right.”
‘Irregular’ could also be used to describe her creative journey. Although her parents were great supporters of the arts and creative in their own right, it has taken a long time for Susan to find her way back to ceramics.
“I was always the kid the teachers would ask to letter a sign or do a small illustration. I remember winning a first place ribbon in a local arts contest for a little clay figure I made, a young girl in a turquoise dress and her poorly-proportioned black cat. (I found the piece in my mother’s belongings after her death and still have it to this day.)
“I’ve always had a strong desire to express myself. I’ve picked up numerous musical instruments over the years, but was hopelessly inept at all of them. I initially trained to be a dancer, but an injury put me off that career path. I returned to school to pursue a fine arts degree, ultimately majoring in ceramic sculpture. Once away from the university, I lacked the needed equipment and capital to set up a clay studio, and began investigating other media: performance art, mixed media assemblage, and digital collage, to name a few. (I still make the digital pieces.)”
“Since I’ve never figured out how to live on art sales alone, I’ve always had some sort of ‘straight’ job to pay the bills. I’ve worked in a number of positions in the restaurant industry and have been a market analyst/technical writer for the last decade or so. But, I’ve also worked in art galleries (Houston, Texas), and, more recently, been part-owner of an arts and crafts co-op in the small Texas town (Bastrop) where I live now.”
“I only returned to ceramics about ten years ago when a friend made me the gift of a kiln she was no longer using.”
An eclectic range of influences include (unsurprisingly) comics and cartoons, as well as artists Paul Klee, Kurt Schwitters and Joan Miro. Susan also includes in her list the surface designs of mid-century modern design, and prehistoric and tribal patterns from all over the world, as well as the work of photographers Cindy Sherman and Sally Mann.
I asked her what she would make if I gave her a cardboard box, a marker pen and a sharp knife.
“I wouldn’t make the same thing today as I would make tomorrow. I might cut out templates for my ceramic vases, or do a drawing, make a book, or build a piece of sculpture or furniture if the box is big enough. The possibilities are limitless. Then again, I might need the box to ship ceramics to a buyer.”
Let’s hope so 🙂
You can find more of Susan’s work in her Etsy shop, GoneToPotTexas.