Susan O’ByrneFamily Tree

“The animal as metaphor occupies an extraordinary role in the imagination, and has colourfully populated myth, children’s stories and cultural tradition throughout history. Sharing our emotion but not our reason, the animal can be used as a vehicle to distil, reflect and embody aspects of our own humanity”

Susan O’Byrne was born in Cork, Ireland. She graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 1999 with a first class honours degree in Design and Applied Art, and went on to complete a post-graduate diploma there in 2000.

Susan’s is now based as a maker in Glasgow, Scotland, and exhibits her work throughout the U.K and internationally. She has exhibited with Craft Scotland at SOFA Chicago, and at Collect London. Other recent exhibitions of note include solo shows at Galerie Marianne Heller 2016 and at Ruthin Craft Centre 2015, “Masters of their Material” Contemporary Applied Arts, London, 2016 and “Big Ceramics” Wolverhampton Art Gallery, 2016. She is also a regular exhibiter at the Contemporary Ceramics Centre London, and at Galerie du Don, France.

Throughout her career, Susan has received a number of awards and grands for her ceramic work. These include the Andrew Grant Scholarship and Helen A Rose Bequest, awarded through Edinburgh College of Art, the Craft Potters Association Charitable Trust Fund Award, The Harley Gallery Highly Commended Award, and The Inches Carr Trust Award. She has also been awarded generous funding on several occasions from Creative Scotland, most recently for the research and development of her work which resulted in an internationally touring solo show in 2015/16.

While Susan now works primarily as a ceramic artist, she also has extensive teaching experience. She has worked as a tutor at Edinburgh College of Art, as a ceramic teacher in schools and as a community artist. Susan has also delivered various masterclasses and demonstrations throughout the U.K.

Susan’s practice is specialised in the making of narrative animal forms and she has developed a unique set of making processes which aim to articulate human sensitivity. Her ceramic techniques combine a childhood obsession with making in papier-mâché and a continuing interest in domestic craft, line drawing and collage. Larger ceramic works begin with a high-temperature wire armature. This becomes a three-dimensional line drawing onto which sheets of thinly cast paper-clay are applied. The surface of the work is then veneered with a collage of finely printed and patterned pieces of paper-porcelain. Susan exploits the shrinkage of the clay around the wire armature to articulate the angularity of the form.

Susan’s most recent work has seen a development of the surface pattern to reference historic domestic needlepoint. This process involved the digital designing and making of laser cut stencils to print intricate, lace like patterns in very thin sheets of paper-clay.

The inspiration for this body of work comes from Susan’s experience of growing up with her elderly grandmother and her sisters, who were hugely influential on her interest in craft and in making. The work is informed by the written memoirs of her great aunt and stories of this side of her family’s migration to Ireland from the Black Forest in the mid-1800s, through subsequent generations. While referencing this narrative, the work attempts to acknowledge the influential presence of domestic craft in personal heritage and within her own identity.