Susan Parrish – Sculptor

Earth Inspired Creations

Large windows and doors, skylights, a working porch. Sounds like an ideal home, right? For Susan Parrish, it’s her second home: her studio. “It’s my own perfect space,” she says. Inside, open shelves line walls. She has a large work area for jewelry and another large area for sculpture, a display case for completed projects, and even a sitting area to relax or catch up with a friend.

Parrish has been working as an artist/craftsperson for her entire adult life. She studied design and painting in college and worked in advertising for a time. But the moment her hands touched clay during a pottery class at the Pullen Arts Center, Parrish says her life changed: “I fell in love with clay from my very first exposure to it.”

From there, Parrish started making functional pottery. She focused on the clay, the form, and the colored glazes for several years. By the time she moved into her studio in Artspace in 2000, she began to feel burned out from functional pottery and wanted to recreate herself. She gave herself the freedom to experiment, and her work changed from throwing into hand building. “My ceramic work became more one-of-a-kind art pieces than functional pottery,” Parrish says. Around that same time, she moved into a new house and got heavily involved in gardening, and her art began to reflect that. “Along with this came a growing awareness of the changes that are happening on our planet. I felt the need to do something more than just recycling,” Parrish says. So, she began to incorporate found objects into her artwork. “My work changed drastically,” she says. “I started thinking about using all of the items we, as a society, fill the landscapes with to make my work.” Her first piece made entirely of found objects, entitled “Brainless Coral,” is made of a collection of thrown away items like small toys and old or broken jewelry and watches. Now, many of her pieces are directly about global warming. “My whole body of work is really about the environment, and many have other social issues or even more whimsical ideas,” Parrish says.

To create these ideas, Parrish is always in search of new discarded objects. People regularly bring her their unwanted items. She also visits thrift stores and yard sales often. When she gets an idea, she occasionally makes a rough sketch, but she may just start building. Many of her pieces have a ceramic component that she hand builds out of a stoneware clay and fires it without a glaze. Then she joins her major found object to the ceramic. The pieces are screwed or bolted together. Once that is complete, she starts covering the ceramic part with additional found objects. She imbeds them into a paper pulp-type substance. “As my pieces progress, I work in a very intuitive way. For example, in the teapots, I don’t know from the beginning what will be the handle or spout. It’s this process that provides so much of the joy for me. I love finding just the right object,” Parrish says.

AC Susan Parrish Brainless Coral

People can find Parrish’s jewelry and smaller artwork at Anvil Gallery in Raleigh. Her larger sculptures are at Frank Gallery in Chapel Hill. Beginning in October, a representation of all of her work will be at the Village Art Circle in Cary. In addition, she will be part of Artspace’s First Annual Open Studio Tour on October 5-6.

Her jewelry sells for under $50, her smaller sculptures, the Teabots and the clocks, range from $50 – $100, and her other work varies from $150 – $2,000.


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