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Breaking the Mold

Breaking the Mold
February 2019

Susan Gregory moves from clay to wax, practicality to politics

Susan Gregory in her studio at Cone 10, where she creates ceramic dishware, decorative vessels, and even light fixtures. Get a closer look at

There’s no pigeonholing Susan Gregory. She moves as fluidly among media (clay, paint, wax) as she does among roles (artist, instructor, co-owner of Cone 10 Studios). Trying to define her work is like playing adjective hopscotch: her encaustics are political and historical, her ceramics practical, her paintings reflective. In April, Gregory’s mixed-media work—a four-by-eight-foot piece incorporating encaustic, a wax-based paint—will be exhibited at ArtFields in Lake City. The artist is also branching out into ceramic lighting and furniture design while tackling the conundrum of where to relocate her kiln amidst rising rents.

Freeway Play 7 (spray paint on paper, 7 x 5 inches, 2018) and “Red Clay Waxing Moon” plates and bowls

Playing with media: When I get an idea, I see it in the media that would suit it best. Sharpie and spray paint seem more relevant to street scenes, for example. When I do something with family and photos—something with an ancient quality—wax seems fitting.

Picking favorites: I get to tap into something more in tune with my artistic self when I work in painting and encaustic. It’s much more introverted, and I enjoy being in that place sometimes. But right now, pottery is somehow sexy—we have a crazy amount of demand, for both pieces and classes—so I’ve been doing that most often.

For ArtFields: My grandparents came from Greece, and like so many people immigrating into the States, they had their photo captured. I put out a call to families for those photos and am doing the piece in encaustic so I can transfer them into the wax that I’ll apply to wood panel. The piece will also be layered with mirrors (to pull the viewer in), chain link, and frames, with a riff on the American flag in the middle. The idea is to connect all of our backgrounds.

Getting political: I have a political science degree but haven’t ventured into politics in my artwork before the ArtFields piece. When something new comes to me, I go with it.

In store for 2019: I’m working on more large ceramic pieces for the home: light fixtures, stools, tables, and tableware. I’m also pretty deep in a curatorial proposal for a group painting exhibition focused on urban Charleston.

Cone 10’s future: The kiln and studio require space and financial backing. When we moved to Morrison Drive in 2010, the area was still industrial; now, rents are so high. The 3,000-square-foot building we’ve been renting is up for sale, and we haven’t been able to find anything like it. It’s sad to see this happen in Charleston...I sometimes wonder which way its soul is going.


Image (Freeway Play 7) courtesy of Susan Gregory