Founder & Chief-Creator of Susan Gordon Pottery
Inspired by her art-loving engineer parents, Susan Gordon always knew she wanted to be an artist & was just waiting to discover the art medium that called to her. Once her hands touched clay, she knew it is was what she was supposed to do. Susan is dedicated to bringing timeless beauty into everyday life, and her love of clay and commitment to lifelong pieces set the tone for her journey with ceramics. Keeping classic taste at the core of her design, what began as handmade pottery and jewelry has become so much more.
I know you started in handmade pottery & jewelry. Where did you get your creativity from? What inspired you?
My parents are both engineers which might surprise some to hear is a fairly synonymous career to the arts - both employ skills in creative problem solving, (and for ceramics) math, and physics. Also because of my parents, an appreciation for the arts was instilled in me pretty early on. I grew up going to the local theatre regularly and was fortunate enough to travel to multiple major museums in the U.S. and Europe by the age of 15. I think I have always known I was an artist but didn’t really find “my” medium until sophomore year of college when I took my first ceramics class ever. My hands had never touched clay until that time, but I absolutely knew that ceramics was what I was supposed to do.
How would you describe your style? How does this influence your art?
I would say my style is classic with an appreciation for craftsmanship, texture, whimsy, and architectural elements. I absolutely love embellishments, floral elements, and hand-crafted details; but also the simplicity of a striking silhouette with a classic design. I love color, but am also drawn to whites and neutrals. Fashion history fascinates me and the more I learn, the more I see parallels between the worlds of fashion and art: throughout history, I see each one informing the other. Several of my ever-evolving collections have been loosely inspired by the work of major design houses such as Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, and Carolina Herrera.
Where do you turn for inspiration now? What are some current sources of inspiration?
Often I find myself turning to the periods of art history that inspire me the most. Lately, those include Baroque, Rococo, Art Nouveau, and 1920’s Arts and Crafts movements. Fashion history is also a huge source of inspiration. I recently visited The Dior Museum in Paris and was in awe of Christian Dior’s sketches, visions, and dreams that he recorded and were on display there. Like Dior, I see myself as an artist but also as a craftsman; I appreciate how things are made as much as the beauty that results from the making. In fine arts school at Auburn, we were taught that everything had already been done and new ideas were just reinterpretations of the past. However, I still believe in the power of my unique voice as an individual; no one can be me and I can be no one else. I love that thought and find so much artistic freedom in it.
When you get started on a new project, how do you start your design process?
To be honest, I wish I had a better system. Sometimes projects start out by working in clay, sometimes they begin in my sketchbook. Sketching is one thing that has been working for me lately. I’ve always sketched regularly but each one lived on random sheets of artist paper and are currently compiled in a random drawer in my office, ha! I do regularly comb through my old sketchbooks and see if I need to revisit any previous ideas to find out if there more to them worth exploring. Recently, I was inspired by another creative to be more intentional in my design process. Although I kind of love how organic and unforced my process is, I have found her methodology helpful. So I’ll start with a Pinterest board and try to narrow down my ideas from there. Usually a theme will start to appear and I try to listen to focus on what is standing out to me. And then I try to think about who I am creating this for? What kind of person are they? Do they subscribe to the Grand Millennial aesthetic or does an edgier look appeal to them? What might their house look like? Then, I create a mood board based on this made-up person which helps me narrow down the elements of the final design to fit the original vision.
...I still believe in the power of my unique voice as an individual; no one can be me and I can be no one else. I love that thought and find so much artistic freedom in it.
Who has been the most influential woman in your life?
Definitely my mother. She has a very keen eye for detail and has pushed me in all the best ways to look at my own work with fresh eyes. My mom has a way of pointing out details I may have missed and has taught me to see them myself before I ask her. I still feel the need to ask her for her opinion, though, ha! She has always had very traditional taste and has, for the most part, tried to decorate with antiques in lieu of big box stores for as long as I can remember.
What advice do you have for young women starting their careers?
It can be tempting to feel jealous of someone you feel is living their life better than you. Try not to listen to those destructive voices and find beauty and meaning in what makes you feel alive. Believe in your own artistic/entrepreneurial voice and create more of what you like. Only you can be you. One of my favorite quotes is by Martha Graham, a revolutionizer of modern American dance. She says”There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open... No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."
What is most important to you in the process of creating your beautiful pottery?
I think achieving a balance of “showing the artist’s hand” along with excellent craftsmanship, and a thoughtful design are all extremely important to me in anything we create at SGP. I also believe in community in creativity and ask the opinion of my employees every single day. I want their buy in in what we create and deeply desire for them to feel like they are contributing in making something they can also be proud of.
To me, there is nothing more timeless than a beautifully hand-crafted piece, especially when its design elements celebrate its origin. When wearing Mi Golondrina, I regularly get asked where I bought it.
What is your favorite thing about Mi Golondrina? How do you style your pieces?
To me, there is nothing more timeless than a beautifully hand-crafted piece, especially when its design elements celebrate its origin. When wearing Mi Golondrina, I regularly get asked where I bought it. To me, there’s not another clothing line on the market that rivals Mi Golondrina - the hand-embroidered details, festive colors, and unique silhouettes make each piece a closet-staple for me. One of my favorite aspects of my Mi Golondrina pieces is that they can be styled to look dressy or casual. I recently took the top to a two-piece dress outfit and paired it with white jeans and strappy neutral sandals and wore it to a lunch date with some of my girlfriends. It was the perfect amount of casual and dressy without feeling like I was trying too hard.
Describe your ideal weekend. What are you doing? Wearing? Who are you with?
This is the hardest question ever for an Enneagram type 7 to answer because my answer would be EVERYTHING! EVERYONE! Haha! However, we just had a pretty spectacular last minute weekend with some friends at the lake. We rounded up all our kids and all spent the day out on the boat in the beautiful sunshine, drank and ate delicious food, and listened to our favorite music. I love a last minute getaway with dear friends, eating good food, and watching our kids play. I actually wore my Mi Golondrina V-neck dress as a cover up - it was perfectly elevated and felt put together but not overdressed.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
My business coach, Zach Arend, has reminded me of this wonderful nugget of truth time and time again: In any circumstance in life, I have the choice to see a situation as either happening to me or something that is happening for me. This has given me such peace in times of turmoil or stress. I think it has given me the courage to rise above a crippling victim mentality and to see myself as and become the leader/person/artist I desire to be.
My kiddos. No comparison. I pray every day that as they grow up, they would see themselves as creative and as wonderful and as talented as I see them.
What is the best thing you’ve ever eaten?
Oh man, this is tough, because I absolutely love to eat. My friends and I read menus for fun and dream about eating at a long bucket list of amazing restaurants. However, fresh produce from the Farmer’s Market, served up in a delicious home-made recipe, has to be one of my absolute favorite things. For example, a few years ago I fell in love with Cherokee purple tomatoes. They are like the filet mignon of tomatoes. They’re meaty without being mealy, juicy, and richly flavorful. My husband and I love to eat them with some fresh basil from the garden and fresh mozzarella. Pair with a well-crafted Napa red zinfandel and my day has basically been made.