Susan O'Brien

Guest Artist - Past

Residence Time: March & April 2012

Country of Origin: United States

O’Brien is a potter.  Her work is an amalgamation of past and present, informed by the history and evolution of functional wares and dining rituals.  She writes, “My work incorporates decoration, ornamentation, and a playful sense of humor within the context of function. Informed by the history and evolution of dining wares and rituals, my pots expresses nostalgia for both communal celebration and virtuosity in craftsmanship. Sources such as eighteenth-century silver, Faberge’ eggs, architecture, and European ceramics are appropriated and exaggerated with subtle irreverence. Referencing the female form, I combine various layers of textural and decorative information by weaving beautiful and sometimes repulsive elements. Working from the framework of the eighteenth-century corset, for example, I combine textures of lace and/or its inverse, lizard skin. This juxtaposition of surfaces and forms simultaneously evokes the urge to approach, and to recoil. Similarly, I employ a subtle semi-translucent satin matte glaze palette, inviting touch as skin or lingerie would. The very nature of functional ceramics is to be viewed and interacted with through touch and use, and is situated within the realm of domesticity. I find the intimate dialogue- from maker, to form, to viewer- vastly intriguing. The fact that my work is intended for the dining room opens the arena to formal interaction, while elements of “femaleness” are rendered sublime. Paradoxically, I invite the viewer to interact with unorthodox textures and anatomy in a public setting, which may be more “appropriate” for the bedroom. My work is an amalgamation of classical form and the unexpected. Metaphorical interwovenlayers of humor, exaggeration, and subtle sarcasm allow me to be somewhat of “The Bad Girl in the Dining Room” while expressing my vision of contemporary decorative functional ceramics.”

While in Residence, O’Brien will be working on a body of work titled, Ms. Informed: An Homage to Women Who Have Changed History. Within this body of work O’Brien will investigate and produce works based on women in the Americas, both Native American and of European  descent, who have shown great strength and bravery during their lifetimes.




Susan is currently an Associate Professor, of Ceramics at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Department of Art & Design.  She received her BFA is sculpture from the University of Tennessee in 1986 and her MFA from Louisiana State University in 1998.  She also did post baccalaureate work at the University of Colorado, Boulder and as an exchange student at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

Susan's website