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Bio | Resume | Process Statement



I have always loved the hustle and bustle of the city with its monumental architecture reaching for the sky and that sense of being in the center of it all. Although invigorating, I never realized that the city lacked a true sense of being in the center of everything. The feeling one can only find in the middle of the ocean or the mountains. Fortunately, I found those rural environments on the island of Martha’s Vineyard and the hill towns of Western Massachusetts.

Since I was born in Chicago and lived the majority of my adult life in urban settings, the impact of nature has been enormous. My kiln is now outdoors in a clearing surrounded by pine and birch trees instead of an indoor warehouse setting. I am no longer sheltered by concrete walls and often find myself at the mercy of Mother Nature.

My art career began with a BFA in graphic design and painting. After working as an art director for many years, I decided to go back to my initial love - painting. I enrolled in the Diploma Program at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. However, a trip to a Barcelona changed my direction, where the work of Gaudi, Juan Artigas, Miro and Picasso inspired me to work in clay. After the Museum School, I studied at Radcliffe College (now Harvard University’s Ceramic Program) with Master Potter Makoto Yabe. It was Makoto who taught me an appreciation for natural occurrences and a reverence for things we cannot control. These elements continue to weigh heavily in my work.

My work is exhibited nationally in galleries, museums and art festivals including The American Craft Council, The State of Clay National, Bruce Museum, and The Field Gallery. It is also held in many private and corporate collections.I have been featured in regional and national publications such as Ceramics Monthly, Crafts Business Magazine, Martha’s Vineyard Magazine and the Boston Globe. My work has won several Sculpture Awards at the Bruce Museum Fine Art Show and I am currently a 2008 Niche Award Semi Finalist.

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Brief Resume


Selected Group Exhibitions:

June 2006 “Solstice Awakening,” Three Person Show,The Leftbank Gallery, Orleans, MABird Series - Mixed media on saggar fired porcelain
May 2004 “The State of Clay 2004,” National Juried Exhibition, Lexington, MA.Juried by Peter Beasecker for the LexingtonArts & Crafts Society.
April 2004 “Relics of the Nest: Illusion and Memory,” Four Person Show, Fort Point Community Gallery, Boston, MA. Juried by Barbara O’Brien, Editor of Art New England. Curated by Susan Elena Esquivel.

Juried Art Festivals:

May 2008 Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival
Reston, VA
2008 Collector’s Award
Buyer’s Market of American Craft,
Philadelphia, PA
2008 Niche Award Semi Finalist
Lakefront Festival of the Arts,
Milwaukee Museum of Art, Milwaukee, WI
Bruce Museum Fine Arts Festival, Greenwich, CT
Awarded 3rd Place for Sculpture 2006 - 2007

Teaching Experience:

1996 - 1998
Office of the Arts at Harvard Ceramics Program (formerly Radcliffe College)

Assistant Teacher. Beginning / Intermediate Ceramics Class.Provided group instruction as well as one on one assistance to 25 undergraduates and adult beginners in the areas of wheel throwing, hand building, glazing techniques and kiln firing.


  • “Susan Elena: bringing her Art to Everyday Living”, Crafts Business Magazine January/February 2005
  • “Art Matters,” School of the Museum of Fine Arts Alumni Magazine
  • Upfront, Ceramics Monthly Magazine, December 2002


  • Office of the Arts at Harvard Ceramics Program
    (formerly Radcliffe College), Cambridge, MA
    Advanced ceramic studies with Master Potter Makoto Yabe 1994-1996
  • School of the Museum of Fine Arts
    Boston, MA, Diploma Program
    Studies in printmaking, painting and ceramics 1989-1993

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Process Statement

The firing process is very integral to the final outcome. I have chosen firing methods that invite the element of chance and let the natural elements, fire, wood, weather, everything that occurred at the time of the firing have an impact.

Saggar firing - A saggar is a box made of bricks housed within a gas kiln. When a piece is bone dry, a fine clay slip called terra sigillata is brushed on to the surface and burnished to create a smooth stone-like surface. It is then bound with copper wire and placed into the saggar with seaweed, hay, banana peels, sawdust, salts, and oxides. The slow firing process allows the combustibles and the fire to leave behind unique marks upon the porcelain, making each piece one of a kind. Lastly, the pieces are finished with a wax coating to enhance and protect the atmospheric surface.

Soda/Wood firing sums up my beliefs about the spiritual nature of art. I fire with 10 other artists in an anagama kiln, which is a traditional Japanese hillside style kiln. The kiln takes 3-4 days to load and is stoked with wood for 7-10 a day, cooling takes another 7-10 days. The surfaces are left bare or glazes used minimally so that the wood ash will create a natural surface of it’s own.

Kiln firing in Japan has always been regarded as a natural process. Their idea of kami, the spirit or spiritual quality infused in inanimate as well as animate objects is well known. The sculpture may have its kami as a result of all the events that shaped it. The collaboration with the process has an organic unity in which the effort of the artist emerges and a part of the person is embodied in the result. Therefore, the power and beauty of saggar and wood fired pieces can be attributed to their emergence as moments in time rather than static objects. The idea that they can never be reproduced has great significance for me and is a very important aspect of my work.
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