Susan Filley Biography
Susan Filley grew up in Chapel Hill, attended the Governor’s School in art and thrived in an environment as a maker of things of all kinds. With a great interest also in the outdoors, Susan chose to go to school at Earlham College as a biology/ecology/geology student. After a chance visit into the pottery studio, she immediately began some classes with Mitsuo Kakutani, a Japanese artist and potter. Mitsuo’s contagious approach to making pots and Susan’s newly discovered fascination with functional pottery led her to continue on, take a variety of national potter’s workshops, work as a studio assistant, and start to make pots for a living. Filley then went back to school and earned a Master’s of Fine Arts degree in ceramics from Louisiana State University with Joe Bova.
Much of Susan’s training and professional experience has come through a belief that opportunities happen when we jump in with ‘both feet’. She fired her first gas kiln solo with an instruction booklet and no other potters to talk her through it. She planned to set up a studio and work as a potter so she learned welding and plumbing to be sure she could design and build her own kilns. Through graduate opportunities and summer jobs, Susan found that she loved teaching and she has had numerous jobs at community colleges and art centers. After a family move to Las Vegas, she worked with Tom Coleman for 3 years to help start his clay school and studio business. Then after a family move to South Carolina, she wrote a grant to start a similar pottery business. She was awarded the grant and built a gallery & studio with classes, studios and an exhibition space, which served to start a growing clay community, which continues to thrive in Charleston.
Susan continues to teach workshops at art centers and craft schools like Penland School of Crafts, Arrowmont, and Baltimore ClayWorks. Her work has been exhibited internationally, including the Yingge Ceramics Museum in Taiwan and the Fletcher Challenge Awards in New Zealand as well as in many national exhibitions - 21st Century American Ceramics, Contemporary Clay National Exhibition, and the Strictly Functional Pottery National.
Recognized for a distinctive gestural grace in form and rich glaze surfaces, Filley’s work has been published in both books and magazines - Ceramic Design Book, 500 Teapots, High Fire Glazes and more.
In 1998, Susan was nominated to serve on the Board of Directors of NCECA, the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. After 4 years with the Board, Filley was elected as the first studio potter to serve as the President of the Board of NCECA. It was a great opportunity to help the organization grow in new directions and work to serve and promote ceramics art education. She represented NCECA at conferences in China, Taiwan, Korea and Norway. In 2009, Filley was recognition as a Fellow of the Council.
In 2005, Susan moved with her family back to Chapel Hill NC and built a private studio, a beautiful workspace with passive solar design, great light, and a wonderful kiln.
Susan Filley Description
Cone: 10-11 (hot)
Material: Grolleg porcelain
Many high fire reduction glazes: most have a micro-crystalline surface, that being a variety of materials that create movement and variations and crystal surfaces that make each piece unique and special. Many of the glazes I use are shiny and the crystal surfaces flow down the pot, wrap around the lower hip and create gorgeous little points of jewel like detail. On the larger pots that often have soft buttery matt glazes, the effect is more organic, like sea foam or lichens, or a fascinating array of rich beautiful color.
I use glazes that are safe for food use on my functional pots. Some of the glazes on my sculptural forms have not been tested for food safety issues.
I use many techniques, probably too many. Throwing, altering, darting, cutting, surforming, paddling, sanding, scraping, & sponging. I also cast parts, make drape and hump molds, use slabs and coils as needed, and make pulled handles and parts.
I have done a lot of colored slip trailing but the work in the gallery is not decorated in that sense of the word. The surfaces are carefully controlled and the forms help enhance the glaze work.
Susan Filley Statement
When I first started working with clay, I was entranced by the allure of functional pots, the beauty of making objects for use, to touch and to hold, wonderful pots that enrich and add delight to our daily lives. I've always been a 'maker', from artwork, sketchbooks, and things handmade, to gardens, building, and design work. As a potter, I'm challenged by many issues - the making of pots engages design, aesthetics, physical skill and a myriad of technical miracles. It also draws on my studies in geology and biology, and I've realized over the years how all of these interests tie in to the making of the pots that I make.
My work is made with porcelain. It is a wonderfully rich clay with beautiful surface qualities offering both depth and brilliance in glazing. It is defined by its extreme durability, distinctive smooth white color, and a unique bell like ring. Slowly over time the clay, its whiteness, and translucent yet enduring quality, have melded with my passion for beautiful form, strong lines, rich color and gestural drama.
My work includes pots to use and pots whose function is more aptly understood as 'aesthetic' function. I'm also drawn to architectural design, animal imagery, and sculptural exaggerations. It can feel like there are too many ideas, perhaps too many themes going on in my studio, but I think that it is not a simple process to learn where your best pots will be made. There is an intimacy to a functional pot, that of knowing how to touch, to approach, and to think about the piece as something to use. There is a different pleasure in work that speaks of elegant forms, of grace and beauty, or of luminous glaze surfaces that are vibrant with color. In most of my work, I try to find a way to catch a touch of the intrigue that may lay between the two.