I trained as a sculptor at St Martin’s College of Arts in London, originally working with wood & metal.
I am inspired by tribal art, which has developed an appreciation of the power of simplicity.
I am also interested in the visceral connection between nature, tribal art and fire.
The masks and figures of different cultures have informed and broadened my interest in and understanding of both beauty and craftsmanship, of contrast and opposites, darkness and light.
Recent work is concerned with exploring the figure in the abstract and objects decorated with geometric symbols and rhythmic patterns present in African textiles.
My work is mainly hand built, final firings are either raku or sagger fired.
1981-1982 - Foundation course in Art & Design, Cardiff College of Art
1982-1985 - B.A. Hons. Degree in Fine Art (Sculpture), St. Martins School of Art, London
1997 - Started Ceramic workshop in East London
2001 - Set up current studio in Pembrokeshire
Extracts of a conversation Sue Hanna had with the Contemporary Ceramics Centre.
I trained as a sculptor at St Martin’s School of Art in London, originally working with wood & metal. We used clay to make maquettes to work through ideas, I always loved how spontaneous these small working sculptures were and often they were much more powerful and accomplished than the finished wood or metal pieces that followed.
My journey with fired clay started in the late nineties, a chance encounter with a South African potter proved instrumental in developing my interest in ceramics. Shortly after that I met my husband Ashraf Hanna and together we became enthralled and excited by the material. We read books, went on short courses, visited exhibitions and most importantly experimented.
I often visited the old Contemporary Ceramics Gallery in Marshall Street and was drawn to the burnished smoke fired works of David Roberts, Gabriele Koch, Antonia Salmon and Duncan Ross. I also greatly admired the burnished and smoked African and South American pots that I visited over and over again in the museums in London.
Then in 1997 I came across an advert in the Ceramic Review for a workshop in Kalamoudi, Evia, Greece run by a ceramic artist Alan Bain – it was life changing for both myself and Ashraf.
In Greece working with the very patient, knowledgeable Alan Bain we built pots, worked with terra sigillata slips, acquired burnishing skills and had our first pit firing. We were hooked on those newly discovered techniques!
Living in Hackney, London, smoke firing was a little problematic – we had to work after dark so as not to antagonize anyone, which wasn’t easy. Also, in order to be able to afford London’s very high living expenses and studio rents, we had to work as well as try to make ceramics. So we decided to escape to the country and we moved to Pembrokeshire, West Wales to be able to concentrate entirely on making ceramics.
When I first started out my work was solely connected to the human form. My interest in tribal art helped me to develop an appreciation of the power of simplicity which led to exploring the figure in the abstract.
I then became interested in the geometric symbols and rhythmic designs that I observed in African textiles and I now use the vessel form as a canvas on which to explore pattern, rhythm and texture.
An important part of my practise is to walk, it is a time to consider my work. Often on these walks in the fields and beaches here in Pembrokeshire I discovered clay which I collect and use to make slips to decorate some of my work.
Ashraf and I are both ceramicists, we work together, we constantly discuss clay, forms and ideas.
Our whole year is planned around ceramic exhibitions and fairs. Our children very much enjoy working with clay and whenever the opportunity arises we hold workshops at school to give other children the opportunity to experience this wonderful material!
The advice I would give to others starting with clay would be:
1. Go to events where you can watch demonstrations
2. Read a lot about techniques
3. Experiment, and
4. Don’t become precious about the objects you make when starting out!