Smoke-fire art by Susan Zimmerman.
September 14, 2018
Susan Zimmerman lives in an old farmhouse alongside the train tracks that pass through Kirkwood. When she's not at her day job, you'll find her shaping clay on her dining room table, operating the kiln in her basement, or putting the finishing touches on her porcelain ware in her backyard fire pit.
Zimmerman has played with clay on and off for much of her life. She fell in love with clay early on, like a lot of folks do, from the sheer pleasure of handling and shaping it. Although Zimmerman also makes functional ware – cups and plates – over the past 15 years her work has grown more contemplative.
Her main focus is on how her pieces interact with natural light.
Zimmerman builds her works by "pinching," a process in which the potter shapes clay into a hollow form by squeezing it between thumb and fingers. She likes to work in her dining room because of the light. She is captivated by how her vessels change according to the light's quality, like how intense rays cast shadows that play across the clay's intricate folds and contours. As the sun arcs across the sky, or moves in and out of cloud cover, Zimmerman's vessels reveal their forms and complexities.
After a hardening kiln fire, Zimmerman finishes her pieces with smoke. She coats the vessels with organic kitchen materials like sugar and salt and places them in her specialized outdoor fire pit (aka a metal trashcan). The smoking process alters the surface color of the porcelain and creates patterns that harken landscape and atmosphere.
Zimmerman's work is currently the subject of "Smoke-Fired Vessels and Prints: an Abstract Exploration," an exhibition of porcelain vessels and photographs at the Mildred M. Cox Gallery at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri. Next year she will be exhibiting "Hands and Hearts," a series of representational sculptures at Washington University's Medical Campus. In the interim, she'll be an artist in residence in Taos, New Mexico.
You can catch up with Zimmerman on her facebook page: susanzimmermanart.