Artist Spotlight: Susan Bach December 12 2020
When did you first realize you had an interest in ceramics?
In fifth-grade art class, we got to make something out of clay so I made a little, black glazed cat. It was something I never forgot. Then on the last day of my senior year of high school, one of the teachers pulled a potter’s wheel out of the corner of the classroom, sat down, and threw a pot. Magic! I was hooked.
How has your art practice and/or subject matter changed over time?
My father was an illustrator and wildlife artist (Tom Beecham) so I've always drawn or sculpted on pots. In the seventies I primarily worked in Raku, incising shapes and imagery and glazing in color. I had some instructors in college that helped me find the best glazes and color palette for my work. The stress and liabilities involved in working with the raku process led me to switch to terra cotta, but I continued to work with surface design, primarily hand building. With a background in drawing and painting, I liked working on square/rectangular forms as it was similar to working on canvas. Eventually Disney World contacted me about doing some work for one of their shops in what was then Disney Village. They wanted ceramics with bright colors, so I switched to white earthenware. I continued making slab-built forms up to 30" tall until the recession in 2008. At that time, it became difficult to sell large format pottery. I also discovered underglaze and slip trailing bottles with tips small enough to draw fine details. Since I have always been a doodler, I started doodling on small pots and plates. This eventually led to the black and white patterned work I create today.
Who are some other artists that you are influenced by?
I grew up in an artistic family. As I mentioned, my father was a wildlife artist, but my brother and two sisters were artists as well. Growing up in the country in upstate NY, I was also inspired by the flora and fauna of the natural world. Asian art and the Arts and Crafts Movement also influence my work ...patterns and color are how I think.
What does a typical day in the studio look like? Can you briefly explain your process?
I work at McRae Art Studios in Orlando. We have a large building with 22 artists, each working in their own studio space. I've been a member since 1988 and find the energy, enthusiasm, camaraderie, and talent of McRae artists to be a daily blessing and influence.
I get to the studio most mornings by 8 or 9 am. Sometimes earlier if I have to start a kiln. I do all my basic forms there: wheel thrown mugs, tumblers, vases and bowls and slab-built plates, boxes, lamps etc. It’s a wonderful, big, messy process. Clay takes time to move from stage to stage with drying time in between so I always have about four or five different things in process at once. Once the pieces are made, dried, sanded and bisque fired, I glaze the interiors and then pack them up and take them home. I spend most evenings in front of the TV decorating each piece while trying to keep the cats from swishing their tails through wet underglaze. Then everything goes back to the studio where I apply two coats of clear glaze and a second firing. They are then ready to ship off to galleries, gift shops or museum stores all over the country.
What is one of your favorite patterns or designs you use on your ceramics and why?
I think the dogwood is one that I have the closest affection for since we had so many where I grew up. They were a harbinger of spring after a long, dreary winter. They also happen to be easy to draw.
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What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Work! Don't think you'll be an artist when you have time, when you retire, or when there is nothing else pressing to do. It is a long and wonderful growth in your heart, your soul, and your muscle memory. We are all born with some level of talent, it's our job to build the skill set to express that talent. It’s frustrating, terrifying and so much fun I can't imagine doing anything else.
Browse or purchase work by this artist at Arts on Douglas or by clicking HERE.