Images by @clinton_ferrara
I've admired Suzanne Wang's ceramics for years and finally got the chance to connect with her earlier this year. She's an incredible artist who draws her inspiration from nature and the rich Hawaiian culture on this island.
What is so special about Hawaii Island? More specifically, how has living in Hakalau (north of Hilo) inspired or enabled your creativity?
Hawaii Island has this raw energy and expansiveness to it that fuels me. The variety in the landscape changes so dramatically in a short period of time, it never ceases to amaze me and keep me humble. I like that this island feels more "lived in" by locals, particularly on the east side. Being in Hakalau has given me the space and time to slow down, focus, and create a lifestyle that has enabled me to grow as an artist.
You’ve worked with many artistic mediums in the past. Why are you drawn to clay?
I love how tactile this medium is, and how it involves so much of the breath and body to control or shape it. Clay never stops teaching. It's so malleable and simple, yet so complex in the finishing process. To make something functional and well-crafted takes years to master. It boggles my mind sometimes how complicated ceramics can be and it all starts with a lump of earth! I love the ability to shift from sculptural work to functional ware, or combining both art and craft together in a piece. There's a part of me that is interested in just the abstract form, expressing a feeling into something three dimensional. But the other part of me likes making things that people can use and enjoy. It’s the intimate connection with a favorite cup or bowl that makes me so happy.
With ceramics being a very tedious and slow process, how does that correlate to other aspects of your life?
In order to live a full, rich life, I believe we have to experience all the highs, lows, and everything in between. Throwing and hand building is the fun part of ceramics, but getting things trimmed, finalized, then glazed can be tedious. Keeping on time with the production schedule is challenging and requires great discipline. Mixing glazes, firing and loading/unloading the kiln is very labor intensive and slow process that requires tremendous focus. Being a ceramicist is one of the hardest jobs I've ever had, but it's the most rewarding! In order to master my craft and art, I try to embrace as many aspects as I can. I don't mind the hard work and enjoy pushing myself to the limit sometimes.
You’ve recently spent a good amount of time at the Daihonzan Chozen-ji zen temple on Oahu. How has your spiritual practice influenced your work?
Training at Chozen-ji helped me immensely, not only in the craft, but also with my life. Everything is connected. Daily zazen meditation helps keep me grounded and always striving for clarity. As artists, it's easy for the ego to get in the way of the work with too much thinking. Something valuable that I learned was to develop my core strength through breath and posture. When these are in sync, the energy becomes smoother and goes straight into the clay. Less force is used and this helps my body stay resilient. I want to approach my work with a mixture of tenacity and freedom.