Artist Susan Halls says her love of animals has been present since her childhood—a common denominator for many of us. In Halls' case, her childhood wonder of animals has helped her transform clay into feral looking raku-fired animals that border on the spooky. Thankfully for this writer, Halls is not interested in representational cute, fluffy animal interpretations.
“I do believe that part of my drive to make animals is tied up in the primitive need to possess them—like effigies and totems. In my sculpture I’m trying to create an image that traps a kind of animal truth. Direct representation does not interest me,” says Hall.
One look at her creatures will convince you of that. Hall’s animals come in all sizes, most are hollow inside, slab built, and pinched together until she finds that perfect moment which delivers her idea of a life-like look. Whether that is found in the eyes, or the particular pose of the body, it’s hard to tell. Crunched up noses, hollow eyes, or ears straight back—it’s the understanding Halls has for animals that make her work unique. A rabbit, for example, can look wise, skeptical, or uncaring that we humans are present. But whatever their mood, we should be happy that Halls imbues them with the patience to tolerate our intrusion.
Born in 1966 in Kent, England, Susan Halls is the author of Ceramics for Beginners: Animals & Figures (Lark). Her work has been exhibited widely throughout the United Kingdom, the United States, and Europe, including at The Sackler Foundation, New York; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Aberystwyth University, Wales; the Shigaraki Ceramic Center, Japan; and the Contemporary Art Society, London. She lives in Easthampton, Massachusetts. with illustrator Chris Murphy.