When you enter the very back of Susan Gordon’s studio, you meet Buttercup and Bubbles, Lilo and Layla, Elvis and Dolly, and Skeeter and Skooter. The potter’s eight kilns—Buttercup for Christmas ornaments, Bubbles for jewelry, and the rest of the crew for other projects—are introduced, labeled and paired by personality.
Susan pours cheer and whimsy into all corners of the space of Susan Gordon Pottery , from the showroom to the firing room. In November, the founder and owner moved into her new Homewood location, where she and her team create and display her bowls, dishes, décor, jewelry, and other lovely clay pieces.
The bright white storefront pops along 28th Avenue South and matches the lightness of the work inside. Susan’s showroom is lined with shelves that hold her well-known wavy bowls, along with jewelry and other dishes. Behind this public space, she and her team work hard to mold, pour, glaze, or fire handmade and custom items. “This is my piece of heaven,” Susan says.
In fact, Susan is sometimes known as the “wavy bowl girl” around Birmingham for her iconic design. While each bowl is individually made and rimmed with gold, Susan has developed standardized sizes so that multiple bowls can be stacked and collected, even if each one was made by a different artist. The imperfect, flowing shape brings out a fun personality in the products, and the crisp color and gold detail truly elevate the pieces.
When she worked with the Shelby County Arts Council before starting her business, Susan would always teach her students how to make the wavy bowl. “When you put a flat piece of clay into a 3-D form, it wrinkles. You can’t get it into a perfect circle,” she says. “But the natural wrinkles can be beautiful, and you can tweak them.”
The bowls are trickier to shape then they might appear, but Susan still saw the wavy bowl as a perfect first step into pottery. “Clay is a very approachable medium, but some people feel intimidated by it. If they can make something right away, then they feel more confident to take the next step,” she says.
It was in 2013 that she first launched her business on Etsy during her first pregnancy. With it underway, she sold her work wholesale to Chickadee in Cahaba Heights and hired her first employee that October, finding joy making pottery and building a company out of her basement.
As time went on, she hired more employees and kept expanding into bigger spaces and defining her style and products. “When I first started, I took any and every order that came in. I would do exactly what the customer wanted and did things that were really out of my wheelhouse.” Today her space has her first showroom and triple the space of her last studio—and it’s in her own neighborhood, Homewood.
Over the past six and counting years of business, the line has been known for many of its one-of-a- heart ring dishes and charms, which were her first adventure into jewelry making. The intricate gold initials on tiny charms also taught Susan how to use and fire gold with clay, encouraging the timeless class her gold-lined products all share.
Though she is still the heart behind the designs and new concepts, her amazing team and professional studio give her more time (and office space) to focus on her business. However, she can still look around the studio and point out exactly which pieces she’s made herself. She’s always had an instinctive talent with clay, ever since her first pottery class as a sophomore at Auburn University.
It’s the innovative and physical process behind pottery that she fell in love with. “I’ve always been creative. And my parents are engineers, so I did get that creative gene,” she says. In many ways, she too is an engineer behind the new products she imagines, plans out and then brings to life.
As the business continues to grow, Susan hopes to welcome other creatives into her studio space and host workshops led by other artists and designers, many of whom she’s connected with through InSpero, a Birmingham-based arts and education nonprofit. “This is a beautiful space, and we want to invite others in,” she says.
What’s New in the Studio
Though wavy bowls and heart ring dishes are always in stock, Susan Gordon Pottery also works to keep introducing new products. A few of the team’s favorite pieces are their seasonally scented candles, match holders and strikers, and the Origins Collection of unglazed, stained jewelry that showcases the natural beauty of the clay.