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Ceramist Christiane Sutherland

Author: Susan Regan
Issue: May, 2012, Page 29
Photos by Garrett Cook

Ceramist Christiane Sutherland pulls antique lace off a piece of clay to reveal a detailed pattern. She has converted part of her back patio into a home studio, saying that the views and peaceful surroundings inspire her designs.


Organic Style and Aesthetic Details Define Christiane Sutherland’s Ceramic Wares

As a girl growing up in Brazil, Christiane Sutherland loved collecting “treasures.” She recalls taking walks to look for interesting rocks, sticks and other objects that struck her fancy. She would bring these treasures home to enjoy their unique textures and shapes. Today, Sutherland still delights in searching for unusual items while on walks with her husband and three children in the desert areas around their Scottsdale home. “I am always trying to see the beauty in nature,” she says.

Sutherland reflects these interests in her pottery, much of which centers around tableware and functional items for the home. Designs for such pieces as pasta and serving bowls may be produced by hand-forming clay around shapely pumpkins or watermelons; the artist uses squash to mold spoon rests. “I love organic shapes,” she explains. “I never try to make one plate like another when I make a set. I don’t want them to match.”

The artisan has always had a knack for creating things. Her parents were artistic, and Sutherland recalls that her father—who did woodcarving as a hobby—made furniture for her dolls while she knitted their clothing. She was introduced to ceramics as a teenager—when she “caught the bug”—and dabbled in pottery over the years while earning a master’s degree in business administration and working in the corporate world in South America. Five years ago, a move to Arizona presented Sutherland the opportunity to immerse herself in the craft.

To better merge “function with beauty,” she focuses on the aesthetic details of a design. For example, most of her pieces are decorated both inside and out. Objects such as plant leaves or her grandmother’s antique lace often get pressed into the surface of wet clay to gain intricate textural designs; linen may be pressed into an item’s underside, leaving a subtle geometric pattern. Other techniques include integrating recycled glass for a colorful crazed—or cracked—finish, and incorporating thumb rests on the handles of mugs. Glazes are lead-free and food-safe, and tableware is dishwasher-, microwave- and oven-safe.

It is the unique appearance of each object and how its features create a personalized dining experience that motivate Sutherland. “I wonder who is going to eat off this piece,” she remarks. “I believe that a beautiful handmade plate makes food taste better—it’s a luxury.”
Sutherland's designs include a hand-molded bowl with an antique lace pattern.
a set of organic-shaped nesting bowls
cereal bowls featuring a homemade turquoise glaze

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