Two years ago I had the pleasure of spending a couple days in a workshop Susan held in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was nothing short of magical! The setting we created in was in an old decaying church, owned by her father’s company. Even more memorable were the people and lessons that filled those few days.
I have taken several mosaic classes with well-known artist-instructors, and have enjoyed every one of them. What stood out to me from Susan’s, is the creative challenges faced and overcome with her guidance.
Susan’s classes are not necessarily about learning her style, form or technical skills, but the emphasis is truly placed on developing your own creative voice through use of the materials you select, why you select them and then how you ultimately choose to use them. Her classes are also very social and communal, lending to the swapping of ideas, alternative views, and great encouragement!
Although her dresses are what Susan has come to be known for, I would say that her positive and encouraging spirit surpasses the whimsy, magic, and joy her dresses bring to their viewers! I will let Susan take over from here…
LMA: How long have you been creating mosaic art?
Susan: I have been an artist all of my life. My creative mind works quicker than my hands do. I always have lots of creative thoughts swimming in my head. I gather my palette first from all of my china and discarded treasures in my studio. And from there I simply let go to the creative process, this is my process.
LMA: How did you get started in mosaics?
Susan: When my grandma passed away, I was sitting with my cousin at my grandma’s dining room table, amongst all of her china. My cousin had no interest in any of it, so it was all mine! When I took the set home, I noticed a few badly chipped pieces. I could not bear to throw them away, so, I made something out of them. That is how I began my mosaic journey.
LMA: Who are 3 influential artists to your work?
Susan: My mom has always been a big influence on my creative life. She is an artist too at a time where she never thought she could make a living being an artist. But she has always encouraged me. I have a MFA from Tisch School of Art at NYU in costume design, so it was my mom’s suggestion that I mosaic dresses. My mom has always been right. They are now my signature pieces.
and Nick Cave, recently I went to his show at the Denver Art Museum and was blown away. He builds these large 3D collages using a lot of the exact same found objects that I have in my collection. But, it is how he uses these discarded treasures to tell a visual story that is so inspiring to me. He also wears his art by performing in his “sound suits” which appeal to my theatre background in costumes.
LMA: Do you support any charitable causes? Which ones and why?
Susan: My mom is a breast cancer survivor and my best friend died of breast cancer, so anything with a “pink ribbon” is dear to my heart and I support. I was asked last year to fly into my home town of Cincinnati to a “Pink Ribbon” luncheon hosted by Cris Collinsworth (Monday night football broadcaster). We auctioned off one of my private mosaic workshops and raised $5,000 for breast cancer research.
LMA: What do you see as the biggest challenge in mosaic art?
Susan: Having people respect mosaics as an art form.
LMA: Tell us about one of your favorite teaching experiences:
Susan: I teach all over the globe because I love sharing my creative process. Everyone knows what they like and what they don’t like visually. I teach mosaics as a process so that I can help everyone be successful in creating a meaningful piece of art for themselves and finding their own creative voice. It is very empowering for me to share what I love to do.
LMA: Tell us a little about your studio and attach a photo or 2 of your studio space:
Susan: I love antiques and discarded treasures. It is recycle art, bringing new meaning to something once cherished now toss aside. I am a very organized person; I have to be to do what I do. So my studio is lined with narrow shelves and drawers full of metal bits and beads, so that I can find everything I need once I begin my process.
If you have an opportunity to attend one of Susan’s classes, seize it! It will upgrade your mode of transportation and transcend your inspiration! Keep moving, keep learning, keep creating!