Ceramicist Susan Beiner has created a whole ecology of her own–in clay. Originally inspired by 18th-century European porcelains (Meissen, Sevres, Capodimonte), her own floral creations, which are extravagant, baroque, and richly hued, are inspired by nature, but she adds a little something extra–synthetic, industrial, manmade–that make it her own.
Below, we spoke with Beiner on her process and what’s inspiring her.
Describe your process.
I individually sculpt separate shapes and then create a mold from each and cast them, using the casts to hand-build pieces in several parts so they are not too heavy. I developed a special glue that helps me attach the wet clay shapes. I then glaze and fire them in a medium-range gas kiln, because I can manipulate the temperature more easily to get the colors I want. In high-fire electric kilns, colors come out less vibrant.
If you could get feedback on your work from anyone, who would it be?
Sculptor Petah Coyne. I have admired her work for years. She has this on-the-edge way of using different materials together.
Tell us about a piece that turned out differently than you expected.
Every piece turns out differently than expected, but I remember installing a show called “Synthetic Reality” in 2008. I intended to surround the viewer completely with forms, but I didn’t get there. It took two years to build those forms, but I really needed more like five.
What’s one destination someone should add to their bucket list?
Machu Picchu. I’m a big hiker, and that is the ultimate hike.
Which three people–dead or alive–would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Petah Coyne, Louise Bourgeois and Louise Nevelson. They’re all strong women artists who influenced me as an artist, even if our work is not at all similar.
Tell us about your favorite piece in your home.
I installed tiles with my incrustations in our shower. It’s calming in some way and somehow symbiotic.
What’s your all-time favorite book?
Divine Excess: Mexican Ultra-Baroque by Ichiro Ono. It’s about Mexican ultra-baroque, which is why I love it.
The best piece of advice I ever received was…
Leave space to breathe. It came from artist Tom Phardel, my mentor and a really great friend with whom I taught in Michigan.