It doesn’t take long in talking to Susannah Tisue to understand that she is about as cool and calm as they come. There is an obvious tone of harmony when we visit her ceramics studio in Brooklyn, New York, where soft porcelain forms in pale yellow, celadon, and white are neatly arranged on the shelves, each donning a hand-sketched character signature to SKT Ceramics. Though Susannah’s pieces have a sweet simplicity to them, the artist behind them has a sophisticated artistic background and a firm handle on the process that has made SKT Ceramics such a success.
With a mother who teaches art and a father who is a sculptor and builder, Susannah’s journey as an artist began early. “I spent lots of time as a kid painting and drawing,” she tells us. “For career day in first grade, I showed up dressed as an artist.” After high school, she left her native Ohio for New York University, feeling its pulse as the vibrant center of the art world she longed to be a part of. She dove into the arts program voraciously, taking classes in painting, silkscreening, printmaking, drawing, and ultimately, ceramics.
Her passion and commitment to ceramic work grew deeper during a three year residency at Greenwich House Pottery where she became “addicted to the wheel.” She began hand-throwing porcelain forms and painting her own illustrations inspired by the animals of childhood fairy tales. To keep up stock to sell at craft fairs and the Brooklyn Flea, Susannah worked tirelessly. “I would spend all day painting penguins, over and over.”
Today, with nearly 150 retail shops selling her pieces, Susannah still puts in long days at the studio, but there is a smoothness to her process that has been achieved through several years of trial and error. As we watch her gracefully work through the the steps of creating a piece, she tells us how “magical and frustrating” the process of ceramics can be. She starts with a large silkscreen that has been created by transferring her original sketches into finely detailed cutouts. Using a squeegee she carefully pushes black clay through the lines of the screen onto Japanese rice paper, which is placed onto the bare porcelain and peeled off, leaving the clay image on the form. After a cold wax resist is carefully hand painted over the design to protect it from absorbing color, the piece is dipped in to the glaze and fired in their in-house kiln to reveal the final product.
We may be some of the last visitors to this Brooklyn location, as Susannah has plans to pack up both her studio and her family in May to move back to Ohio. There, SKT Ceramics will move into a 1,500 square foot studio with a downstairs and a basement, perfect for this growing business that is currently nestled snugly into a shared studio space. Susannah is looking forward to being near her parents and sister, absorbing the culture of Cincinnati with her husband and three year old son, and setting down a solid foothold for the company she has created. While she admits there was a time after college when she felt pressure to make a "big conceptual artistic statement” with her work, she tells us today that she finds a deep satisfaction in what she does. “I’m thankful for the freedom I get to design images. And I love being able to create little works of art that people can use in their everyday life.”
Shop SKT Ceramics here.
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