We had the good fortune of connecting with Emily Sudd and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Emily, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
In my ceramic work, I have developed a unique process through which I transform collectible kitsch ceramic objects and functional ware into fine art sculptures. After collecting and arranging various items, I subject them all to the same firing conditions. The process produces the literal and metaphorical melting down of the materiality of domestic and artistic space. In the firing, some objects retain their form, while others melt down into fluid clay and glaze. Materials mix together creating swirls of color and pattern and globs of texture and form. Lowbrow kitsch objects merge into painting and sculpture in compositions that seem to suggest both the opposition and equalization of decoration, materials, and form. I don’t know if I would use the word “risk” exactly, but what I do is closely related to that idea. Words I usually use are “chance” and “failure”. I am a strong believer in embracing failure as a space for discovery. When I am working on something, I generally have hopes and expectations as I make attempts to execute certain outcomes, but those outcomes almost never come to be. I have to let the process contribute what it will to the work. My pieces will usually undergo several firings before they are complete. With each firing, I get what I see as a response from the kiln. I then make new additions to the piece and submit my proposal back. I see the process as a discussion between myself, the firing, and the objects and materials that I select. Acceptance plays a big role, and that emphasis on acceptance stems from my previous experience making more traditional ceramic work as well as my experience as a teacher of students beginning to work with what is a rather unpredictable medium even under normal circumstances.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I have learned along the way that the most interesting art is the most genuine, so I try to stay focused on my own ideas and avoid the influence of the market and trends. I find it difficult to perceive of my art as a commodity, so the fact that anyone has bought it is kind of incredible to me. All I can say is that when I am working on a project, I feel balanced and that I am where I am supposed to be. I keep faith in the idea that if you make something worthy, that people will pay attention. My process is unique, but it is really just an amplification of what every other ceramic artist does. We gather materials, form an object, submit that object to firing, and then accept the result. What may set my work apart is its metacognitive quality. My work is self-reflexive in the sense that the process is on the surface of the conversation. The lineage goes back to Duchamp, the artist’s role as collector, and the shifting of meaning through context; but there are not many ceramic artists that I know of who work with existing ceramic objects. No, it has not been easy to pursue my career. Art is hard work. As an artist, you almost never have any promise that you will sell your work or even that it will ever be seen by anyone. You don’t always know that there will be an exhibition or fair that will show your work. You just have to keep working with the faith that the art will have some kind of life outside of the studio. Many artists put in their studio hours on top of another full-time career. Getting to the point where one can support themselves as an artist can be a steep road and it is not for the faint of heart. I am really excited about a new project that I am about to start, so stay tuned!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
You’ve asked me this question during a global pandemic, so I think we would just hang out in my new backyard park wearing masks, sitting six feet away from one another, and talk about safety protocols and how we miss childcare. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My daughter has changed my life most profoundly, fundamentally altering my experience of the world and inspiring my work. She has also forced me to uncover and constantly renew my fight to continue expressing myself in art. I dedicate this shoutout to her. My series, “Motherhood Secrets”, incorporates a metaphorical relationship with my experience as a new mother. In this series, halved wheel-thrown vessels are filled with ceramic material, fired, and ground and polished; producing a finished surface that resembles a ceramic geode in objects that function as metaphors for my own maternal experience—a metamorphic soup of isolation, insulation, and potentiality.