Q&A with Ceramic Artist Susan Folwell

/ Interviews - Programs

Susan Folwell in the studio.
Ceramic artist Susan Folwell will deliver the keynote address during the Bunting Biennial Ceramics Symposium on February 17.

The Birmingham Museum of Art is proud to present the third Bunting Biennial Ceramics Symposium this weekend. In conjunction with the 32nd annual Alabama Clay Conference, this free event brings ceramic artists and experts to the Museum.

Acclaimed ceramic artist Susan Folwell will join us as the keynote speaker on Friday. She has received numerous awards for her work, which is represented in well over a dozen permanent museum collections world-wide. Folwell is also an active board member of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA) and is chair of the SWAIA Arts Committee. We caught up with the artist between studio time for a quick Q&A.

Birmingham Museum of Art: As a ceramic artist from Santa Clara Pueblo, you are carrying forward a great legacy. How much does the history of Santa Clara pottery inform your work?

Susan Folwell: It lives at the root of my work to this day. I may experiment with different surface materials and continue exploring my artistic expression, but I believe in upholding the traditional process of gathering and processing the clay. I think it’s important for younger generations to know this, as well. It’s a way to keep connected to your people and your family. I lived in Tucson, Arizona for 15 years before I moved back to New Mexico last year. Coming back to Santa Clara to dig clay all those years with family members and taking it back to Arizona to work with made me feel like I never really left home.

BMA: What can we expect to learn from your keynote talk at the Bunting Symposium?

SF: I will  start the talk with a brief history of the surrounding area (my village) I grew up in and my family and some family history as it all ties into not only a ceramic revolution in the pueblos, but how that has shaped me and my work. I will also show images of my work and the progression of it over the years.

BMA: Do you feel a sense of connection with ceramic artists and traditions from other cultures around the world?
SF: I’ve always been amazed and heartened by how easy it is to connect with other potters from Mexico to New Zealand. We all seem to share the same struggles, hopes, and ideals for our work. Speaking of family, it always feels like a special bond after you sit down and chat with a fellow potter, no matter where they are from. The love of clay is a universal language.