Welcome to my first interview with an artist I truly admire, Susan Nelson.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.  Where are you from?  What’s your background in Art?  “I’m from Kansas, right in the middle of the United States. I have keen memories of the art I made in grade school and I’ve chosen art as my specialty ever since. It was a rather standard progression, including a BFA, MFA, teaching at the University level, and now full time art making.

The desire to make things with my hands/body is just in me, but my teachers and family always encouraged me (and let me be who I am!). Also art inspired me to make art. I fell in love with Chinese calligraphy during my undergraduate years, which inspired a life long passion for all things Asian. I travel so I can see museums, special exhibitions, gardens, cathedrals, you name it. I have so many art favorites I couldn’t begin to list them. Sometimes I think my favorite is whatever I happen to be looking at at the moment!”

Susan, where do you get your inspiration?  My response is usually, ´everywhere` but you seem to be inspired more by nature.  Is there one thing that inspires you more than another?  “It’s much like you describe. I call it the ´sponge technique`. I’m constantly looking analyzing, and absorbing the visual world. However, when I was trying to develop unique textures for my pottery (and by the way, I’m relatively self-taught in ceramics, as my BFA is in Painting and my MFA is in Sculpture), I looked and developed ideas in my mind while taking walks in the local state park. But my most unique breakthrough came when I decided to roll some clay on a wood block printing board that I carved as an undergraduate (yes, I thought I would be a printmaker at one time too!) that I had never thrown away; it moved around with me for years. Now I carve boards specifically for the clay texturing process. Also, I love flower and vegetable gardening, and really, to tell the truth, I am in awe of nature, the best artist, no way to compete with nature, so I just work in harmony with it.
When I began teaching it took me an entire year to complete one large scale sculpture! Difficult to keep the ideas going when the timeframe is so extended. So I decided to concentrate solely on ceramics in 2000. I learned dark room film photography in order to teach it, so it was not an initial interest. However, I really love taking photos and social media is an enjoyable way to share that art form. So making a living by teaching has greatly affected the evolution of my art making. A lot of people don’t realize how much creativity it takes to try to be a good professor. There is often not enough left for your own problem solving with complex media and ideas. Pottery, however, is innately therapeutic, just hold the clay and pinch something into existence. Simple and honest.
I love working with the clay. Making the pinch pot cups, rolling the texture onto the slabs. Glazing stresses me out! But it’s necessary. Firing is exciting, though exhausting. But there is a great reward when opening the kiln door once firing has cooled!”
Do you have a favorite product?  “I have two favorites: flower vases and tea cups. Both of these products are for activities that I personally enjoy. That seems to make a difference. I keep trying but I can’t seem to make a great coffee cup! I don’t drink coffee, so I can’t try them out. The best way to improve your design for products is to use them.
My main studio is in what would normally be the living room and front bedroom in the old house I live in. I mix up glaze recipes and glaze in the basement and soon my gas fired kiln will be in the garage behind the house. So I have everything right here.”
Do you have advice for other artists and crafters who might be thinking of following in your footsteps?
“Don’t give up! My interest in ceramics remains strong because it is not easy! The challenge makes it exciting and fulfilling. Also believe in yourself! You are the best judge of the quality of your work.”
Thank you Susan!  Where can we find you and your beautiful creations online?  “I have an online shop on my website susannelsonpottery.com  And I’m on Instagram, susannelsonpottery, primarily to demonstrate flower arranging ideas in my vases.”