Southern Oregon Magazine, Winter 2012 edition
A Functional and Fanciful Mosaic Artist
Words by Cate Strom
Take everything you know or thought you knew about ceramics and tile and smash it. that's what Sue Springer, a gifted mosaic artist does-and does beautifully. "Functional to Fanciful" is how she likes to describe her space, Illahe Studios and Gallery, a charming and lively art gallery/studio in Ashland.
What makes her gallery stand out from the rest is that it functions not only as a gallery but as a performance space and working studio as well.
Art lovers, on any given dy can stroll into the gallery and witness Springer hard at work on a new ceramic creation or bringing out freshly fired bits of tile for her mosaics. The customer gets to watch the artist in her "flow", which can be a real treat as few people typically see an artist in the midst of his or her creative process.
Very often she sells a piece to the customer who watches her work it. Witnessing the very creation of the product closes the deal right there and then. "People are fascinated by the creative process and feel a connection to the object when they are able to watch it come into being," says Springer.
Art making, which is more typically a solitary process, can in this way take on a social and interactive quality as people pass through and engage springer as she's working. Springer admits it's sometime distracting to have witnesses, but "mostly it's fun and interesting and gives me an excuse to take a break and walk away from the work for a minute then I can come back to it with fresh eyes."
A California native who discovered her love of ceramics when she took her very first pottery class in the early 1970's, Springer went on to earn her masters degree in ceramics from the University of Oregon.
"What interests me is the functionality, permanence and durability of ceramic, as well as the decorative qualities it can bring to enhance your home and life," say Springer. "I like to make things that have beauty and purpose"
Illahe Gallery showcases other very talented artists working in a variety of media in Monthly rotations. The words "clay, glass, wood, metal and paper" are boldly listed on Springer's home page. And the works in the gallery are truly eclectic pieces that playfully challenge the notion of form over function.
Most people think of pots when they think of ceramic art. Illahe Gallery literally shatters that image. Mosaic art is a serious arts and crafts movement that is gaining popularity, fans and collectors nationwide. From a whimsical tiled replica of a trophy elk mounted head, to a life size mosaic surfboard (that would clearly never float) demurely leaning in a corner, patiently waiting for some impossible wave to ride, the concept of fine art is tweaked here.
From delicate slivers of opalescent glimmering glass landscapes to sculptural tactile chunks of porcelain, anything goes. The pieces are enchanting, energetic, inviting and entertaining. Illahe Gallery will have you thinking ceramic and mosaic.
Springer also does large-scale outdoor custom mosaic public art, including the most recent stunning compass rose at the north mountain Park Nature Center in Ashland.
"I love the educational aspect of my work," says springer. "Whether I've been commissioned to do a mosaic walkway of native flowers and plants or the life cycle of Salmon, I always learn something new, too It creates opportunity for learning on both sides"
03 April 2012
At close glance it may look like a random mix of broken tiles...but
pull your focus back just a little and you can see the intricate shape take form...take a step back for a final broad view and then you can see Susan Springers work of art. Springer says. "I've worked with ceramics for about 30 years, i started throwing pots in grad school then worked into mosaics and into public works of art." Sue works out of here shop in downtown Ashland...it's a place to both view the art and see how it all comes together. Springer says "so people can come in and talk to me and I sell right off the table so someone can pick it up when it's ready and it lets them see the work involved. Her projects may start with similar materials, but how they end up varies greatly. This compass in North Mountain Park, is part of her commissioned public work. "This is neat someone can stand on it they can actually see where it points to the different rivers and mountains in the area." Springer can also take an vision you have...or perhaps a photograph and turn it into a ceramic piece that completes a room in your home. "I always wonder who will see it and how it will effect them. I wonder if down the line what they will see and maybe changes their life" At Illahe Studios sue also shares the art work of others...all the sights and sounds come together to make it an artistic home.
Gypsy Caravan and Ukulele Jam!
Saturday afternoon June 25, stop by the gallery to see the Gypsy Caravan and join in with the Ukulele Jam!