Congratulations to Susanne Lukács-Ringel who at Art in Clay in 2014 was voted the winner of the Valentine Clays Peers Award for best contribution to the festival by fellow exhibitors.  Susanne is a renowned and talented German potter who specialises in wood fired ceramics and salt glazing techniques.

Susanne was presented with her award in July at the 21st Art in Clay by Christine Godfrey in honour of the previous years winner Richard Godfrey, who sadly passed away earlier in the year. Following the presentation we had a quick chat with Susanne:

How does it feel to win the peers award?
Last year I was really surprised and happy to win, I didn’t know what to say when it was announced at the end of last years show. It really encouraged me very much, winning the Peers Award helped and supported me. I love to come to Art in Clay and especially to win this award was an honour. I also appreciate the support and help that Valentine Clays have given me too with my work.

What other awards have you won?
Last year I won a European salt glaze prize. With this prize there are different categories that you can enter depending on your work e.g. sculpture, design or the type of techniques/materials uses e.g. stoneware, porcelain and salt glaze. I used Royale porcelain to create the pieces of work that I entered in for the award and I was very happy to win.

Did you think you would achieve this recognition when you first started?
I started pottery when I was 17 years old but I was also a young mum and had two children so I wasn’t able to spend as much time doing pottery as I would have liked. It wasn’t until 2005 when I started wood firing that it all became a new start for me. During this year I conducted a workshop ‘Building a kiln for wood firing use’ which the German Potter Association helped me to organise. Fred Olson built and design the kiln which then started to become my real teacher.

My aim was to try to make pots for using, to develop this objective I was very lucky to have the opportunity to come to the UK to work together with Nic Collins as his assistant and to help Svend Bayer with his firing. They were my teachers, I learnt a lot from them. Svend has an amazing way of working, everything he does has to be done in a calm way which I liked very much. It is well organised with no stress. And Nic always told me that to take my time with the firing that you have all the time you need, and to put the pressure away from myself. In the beginning I was really nervous to do a firing with all of my little pots inside and afraid that if the firing went wrong I would lose all of my work. Svend & Nic taught me how to deal with these fears.

How would you describe your work?
I put all of my love into my work and I try to make new pieces for everyday use. I hope that people can enjoy their meals eating out of my pots. The last few years I have had a strong connection with a Japanese potter Takashi Nagazato.  He introduced me to the Japanese way of life and the way in which they use little dishes and teapots during meal time. This has really influenced my life and what I produce.

What is your favourite piece?
My favourite is making teapots and I have started to make very small ones that are ideal for green tea. These are my newest product and I love to make them as each one is like a little person to me.

What are your inspirations?
My inspirations come firstly from nature, because if I am calm and by myself then I can also make calm pots. The second is from my visit to museums, many of which are in England, looking at old pots.  I also get inspiration from my heroes such as Lucie Rie and Hans Coper, who I have recently read about his life. So I get a lot of inspirations from the past and from contemporary ceramics too. One day I hope to visit Stoke-on-Trent to see the pottery collections too.

Where have you learnt your techniques and skills?
I began my techniques and skills initially in a pottery in Germany where they make earthenware and slip decorating products, they were really a production company. I started off as an apprentice, there were 9 of us in total with 1 other potter and the owner. I found that I was quite good at throwing from the beginning so when I finished my apprenticeship I received a prize for my skills. It was at this point that I realised how much I liked throwing and that was the plan then for my future, to incorporate this technique and skill that I enjoyed so much.

I use throwing skills initially and then either a wood firing or salt glazed technique depending on what pieces I am creating. I use many types of clay, for example with my new range of pots I use Royale porcelain and salt glazing techniques. For my other ranges I either use Svend Bayer (PF 550) or Germany clay that I mix together myself. I mix both a white and a leather coloured clay together so there is iron present and I am able to create the right finish.

I like working with different types of clay and changing from a stoneware to porcelain as I like to use both. I started initially with stoneware and then I moved into porcelain which I am finding is going very well, I have sold quite a few pots already. I have been working with porcelain for the past 5 years but my latest range (the blue) is about 1yrs old.

What are your future ambitions?
My hopes are not so big, I wish to stay well and that my family stays well too. I would like to make pots for the rest of my life, and can make many dishes and sell them, and that my kiln can hopefully last for my life time because it’s difficult to repair. I hope to be able to take a holiday one day in the future but I can say that I am very happy with my life and how it is now.

I am happy but I am always looking at ways of developing myself through maybe doing things like bigger salad bowls, vinegar & oil bottles etc. I always have new ideas for shapes and pieces that I can introduce in my ranges.