Expect the unexpected when you step inside the studio of ceramicist Sunshine Thacker. A maker of extraordinary clay objects, the San Antonio creative strives to never box herself into a single category or style of art. “Having a background in architecture has allowed me to evaluate the material differently and push technical boundaries I may have not done otherwise,” says the California native, who studied architecture at Texas A&M University. She had a career in commercial real estate before venturing out with her own business in 2019, following her dream of working with clay. “My vision is to be myself and see what happens. It’s an aggressive, breakneck drive to see what I’m capable of doing.”
The ceramicist hasn’t wasted any time on that front. As the mastermind behind her own line of customizable sculptural ceramic furniture and lighting shaped and molded by hand, Thacker strikes the perfect balance between functionality and decorative splendor with her whimsical works. An example is her recent collection of mirrors and lighting, entitled “Birth of Medusa,” which incorporates such fitting design elements as snake-like coils and spheres, and Thacker plans to expand the collection with not only chairs but also a wearable costume bodice. “It is a complete departure from my previous work, which was very smooth and controlled,” she notes. “It has been a way to explore the innate plastic quality of clay and allow that property to be front and center.” True to form, Thacker continues to dream bigger and bolder. “I’d love a kiln that can fit a sofa because I love challenging myself. The larger the piece, the more of a challenge with physics and thermodynamics,” she adds.
That same sense of fearlessness inspired her coveted collection of Timpani planters, which feature a torpedo-like body supported by three legs. “I wanted to create a cool piece and figure out a way to suspend the clay; it was trying to answer a technical question I had for myself,” she explains. As is generally the case with her work, Thacker simply sketched out her ideas on paper and then trusted the process, working out the technical issues during the progression of creating the piece. “And now it’s taken on a life of its own,” she says. “Clay requires me to work more slowly and with purpose. It is a metaphor for solving life’s problems.”