meet: susan hanft of gone to pot

i've just recently started loving ceramic dishes, cups, plates -- ceramic everything! when i stumbled across susan's work i was immediately smitten with her simple designs and her commitment to the same shapes. i love her different designs of a product. her work is so pleasing, i had to share - say hi to susan and take a look at her work!

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gone to pot susan hanst interview by everglow handmade 1

what is your background?
i’ve always had a strong desire to express myself. i’ve picked up numerous musical instruments over the years, but was truly terrible at all of them. i initially trained as a ballet dancer, but was forced to change career paths after an injury. when my dance dreams crashed, i went back to school to pursue a fine arts degree, ultimately majoring in ceramic sculpture with a minor in printmaking. following graduation, i lacked the necessary equipment and capital to set up a clay studio and began investigating other media, including performance art, mixed media assemblage, and digital collage. i still make digital pieces, but returned to clay in 2003 when a friend gave me a kiln she was no longer using.

gone to pot susan hanst interview by everglow handmade 2

how did you get started making & selling?
i began selling my ceramics and prints when i was still in college. the university i attended had an annual event where students could sell their pieces and interact with the buying public. i also did a few street fairs during that time and founded a short-lived arts co-op with a group of college friends. when i renewed my interest in ceramics, i also returned to selling at arts fairs and set up a co-op gallery with a group of artist friends. in 2007, i opened an etsy shop. 

gone to pot susan hanst interview by everglow handmade 3

what inspires your products?
i’m very interested in the japanese concept of wabi sabi. this aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. i’m attracted to awkward lines, bold gestures, primitive marks and secret iconographies. favorite artists in this vein include basquiat, tàpies, twombly, and texas artist howard sherman. 

i’m fond of many surrealist artists, including klee, duchamp, miró, magritte and man ray. like them, i’m attracted to the unconscious as a source of inspiration and often use their techniques to bring randomness to my work. i’m also a huge fan of mid-century modern design (particularly fabric patterns from that era), cartoons, comic books, victoriana, and typography. 

ceramicists whose work i admire include: ron nagle, sam hall, peter voulkos, brenda holzke, nancy selvin, mary fischer, roberto lugo, stig lingberg and largardo tackett. many of these approach ceramics in the way i do, making simple forms that serve as surfaces for painting and drawing. 

gone to pot susan hanst interview by everglow handmade 5

tell us about your journey from your day job to being a full-time artist - the big leap!
when i joined etsy in 2007, i had a full-time and very demanding job as a technical writer/market analyst. the artist co-op i’d helped found was also demanding of my time, even though i was fortunate to work from home in bastrop, texas, for a boston-based company. in 2011, it all imploded and i made the decision to leave the co-op. i turned my attention to the etsy store with renewed focus. before long, i was making fairly decent monthly sales. 

the increased presence on etsy led to offers from other online vendors. i signed on with fairgoods, which carries two versions of one of my large handbuilt vases, and scoutmob, which sells my porcelain paintbrushes. brick and mortar outlets also discovered my work online and i added four galleries/gift shops to my list of representatives: art connections gallery in bastrop, paperish mess in chicago, quench in belfast, maine, and queue in kamakura, japan. 

when i paid off my house, a little more than a year ago, i gave notice at my day job. it was simultaneously frightening and freeing. but, i’m happy to say, i have no regrets. 

gone to pot susan hanst interview by everglow handmade 4

what are you most looking forward to this year?
i’m just starting to make some ceramic figures. they combine clay with decals made using some of my digital images. i’ll be introducing them on etsy in the near future. i’d like to add one more gallery in texas, preferably in houston. i’d like to do a few shows outside of my typical travel range and enter some juried shows, too. 

gone to pot susan hanst interview by everglow handmade 6

what advice would you give to makers who are just getting started?
make what you love. stay true to your own vision. don’t try to second guess buyers on what they might find appealing. don’t follow trends. don’t take rejection of your work personally. stay curious. experiment. keep at it. if you are serious about your work you can’t not do it, even if no one ever sees it. local arts fairs are a good place to start selling and to test ideas, so is etsy. 

gone to pot susan hanst interview by everglow handmade 7

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susan is kindly offering everglow handmade readers a 20% coupon to her etsy with the code 'EYESAGLOW'. be sure to make some of her goods your own!

thank you for sharing your journey + influences with us, susan! congrats on making the big leap this year and i'm so happy (and not at all suprised) that it is going so well for you.  keep up with susan at her etsyblog and facebook page.

photos courtesy of susan hanft.